BEIRUT: It is the first day of Arabnet X at the Seaside Arena, and the venue boasts over 4,000 attendees for the innovative, technology-savvy forum, where networking, investment and entrepreneurship are the rule of the day as digerati from Lebanon and MENA-wide all meet up for a capstone event.
The event celebrated the 10th anniversary for Arabnet which has grown to encompass conferences throughout the region.
Over the last decade, Arabnet has organized 25+ events in Beirut, Kuwait, Dubai, and Riyadh, released 20+ in-depth reports on the different sectors of the MENA ecosystem, and has provided up-and-coming startups with a chance to grow and achieve high levels of success through competitions.
This year, Arabnet X Beirut 2019 is bigger than ever, gathering thousands of corporate executives, government leaders, diplomats, entrepreneurs, technology gurus and tech students. The event is also bringing will also bring together 250+ experts and speakers from around the globe, covering a range of topics, including Launchpad for startups and investors; Ad/Edge for digital media and advertising, and Finverse for digital banking and fintech, the company said.
ArabNet Founder and CEO, Omar Christidis launched the ceremony noting: “I'm proud of what Arabnet has been able to achieve in the last 10 years - helping build the tech industry and startup ecosystem from the ground up, and successfully expanding our business from Lebanon to the GCC."
He added: I'm also proud that we've been able to create a real impact for the MENA economy, with our alumni - the startups that pitched at Arabnet across the years - collectively employing more than 3,500 today."
Kicking off this year was a special session: Building an Innovation Nation, featuring a number of key Ministers.
Organized in collaboration with the Office of the President of the Council of Ministers, “The Roadmap to a Digital Economy in Lebanon” panel showcased the government's vision and strategy for digitization - across both the public sector (e-government) and private (fostering a digital economy). The session covered the government’s plan to develop the different enablers for digitization - from infrastructure and digital identity, to regulations and business incentives.
The Ministerial Panel featured Ghassan Hasbani, Deputy Prime Minister; Ms. Raya El Hassan, Minister of Interior and Municipalities; May Chidiac, Minister of State For Administrative Development; and Saroj Jha, Regional Director of the Mashreq at the World Bank. Also during the opening, the PM Saad Harriri and the Central Bank governor, Riad Salameh, were respectively given honorary awards.
In his opening speech, Prime Minister Hariri said: “It is a priority for myself and for my Government to do all that is in our power to support and further enable the Digital Economy in Lebanon.’’
Expected this year: Thursday is the always-anticipated Startup Battle, which will select the top three startups from Beirut to compete against the best in the region at the Startup Championship for a shot at winning $20K, an acceleration scholarship in Silicon Valley, along with in-kind prizes; the popular Ideathon, which brings together aspiring entrepreneurs to showcase their innovative ideas; and the Creative Combat showcasing budding marketing talents’ ability to develop unique online campaigns.
Arabnet announced for the first time this year, the event will feature a Startup Showcase, bringing together 100 startups from Lebanon and beyond to exhibit and connect with industry experts and more than 100 investors.
The program is “also decked out with satellite events, happenings, activations, and parties linking together friends, colleagues, stakeholders, business attendees, and students to celebrate a decade of Arabnet events, paving the way to more growth and innovation,” the company said.
With the Central Bank’s circular 331, promulgated in 2014, acting to leverage investment of over $600 million in seed capital, along with active VC funding in Lebanon, and the increasing local cohort of incubators and accelerators, things have been happening to the tech and startup ecosystem in Beirut.
It has been described as a game changer.
There are challenges, but given the right alignment of stars, along with the local talent level and the new concepts arriving to market, Beirut has the potential to become a strong regional tech-hub.
Arabnet has been a key part of the ecosystem.
According to Arabnet Business Intelligence, more than $950M was invested in MENA tech startups in 2018. For that reason, Launchpad gathered key regional investors, senior government leaders, and successful startups to highlight the changing tech landscape as well as emerging trends and opportunities. It also features investors from around the world tackling the latest trends in the global technology sector.
Technology in marketing has become critical in targeting, reaching and engaging consumers – and driving sales. Advertising campaigns are increasingly powered by data: brand-collected, agency and third-party. Additionally, Influencers continue to play a key role in the marketing value chain, with 94 percent of the brands, agencies, and retailers finding influencer marketing beneficial, according to Liniqia.
Ad/Edge tackles how brands, agencies, and publishers are adapting their strategies to keep up with cutting-edge technologies and consumer behaviors, and structural changes that are reshaping the industry as a result.
According to Arabnet Business Intelligence, regional funding to fintech companies hit over $250M from 2012 until 2018. As the impact of technology on financial services deepens, banks are adopting new strategies to stay innovative, and partnering with fintech startups to develop and deliver new service offerings. Finverse explored the latest trends and opportunities in fintech and banking innovation, diving into chatbots and Roboadvisors, big data, blockchain, and the practical opportunities available for banks and financial services providers.
The Academy was dedicated to entrepreneurs and innovators who are looking to hone their skills and develop their products. A series of hands-on workshops tackled a wide range of skill sets around entrepreneurship, marketing and fintech including funding, HR, legal tips, Blockchain and cryptocurrency, AI, marketing and advertising, and basics of 3D printing.
Arabnet Alumni Booth
Reaching entrepreneurial success is no easy task. Arabnet has gathered some of its most successful alumni entrepreneurs from the MENA region to share their inspirational journey and the impact of Arabnet on building their business, as well as deliver tips on how to overcome failures.
Maybe someday you will be one of those founders!
Throughout the show, The Investor lounge is hosting one-on-one interactions and meetings between the most active investors and entrepreneurs that are disrupting traditional business models.
“Do not miss your pass to the Investor lounge for a chance to build powerful synergies and get advice on how to take your business to the next level,” the company said.
It was a busy section Wednesday for VIP attendees.
First founded in Beirut and since grown to be a profitable and popular MENA-wide yearly conference, the 10th local edition of Arabnet has gathered a markedly increased number of key regional and Lebanese digital players since its start a decade ago. Entrepreneurs from all walks of life, digital leaders, senior government officials and maestros of the IT sector are all here at the Arabnet 2019 show.
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