BEIRUT: ArabNet Beirut X wrapped up a successful two-day run Thursday, with the anniversary 10th edition bringing together over 4,000 attendees and 250 speakers from across Lebanon, MENA and the world, over the course of the event at Seaside Arena.
The conference held a total of 22 panels, keynote speeches, and interview sessions across the two forums taking place simultaneously. Additionally, startups, entrepreneurs, and marketers took the stage for our competitions: Startup Championship powered by Touch, Ideathon, and Creative Combat, sponsored by Ogero.
Thousands of digerati descended on Arabnet Beirut X for two days of information downloads and frenetic networking – it’s was not so much all business as a gathering of a technical tribe. From coding students and startup entrepreneurs to serious investment bankers and company owners, there was a common theme of belief in technology and its ability to change to the world.
At the closing ceremony, the winners for the Startup Championship were announced and Searchie took home the Championship cash prize of $20K, acceleration scholarship to Silicon Valley, along with in-kind prizes, while 2nd and 3rd places were awarded to Bakala and Seez respectively.
The UAE-based Searchie, founded by entrepreneur Harvey Bennett, is a talent acquisition platform that helps employers source, screen, and shortlists candidates by augmenting the skills of the flexible recruiter network with psychometric AI.
At the Launchpad forum, Arabnet Research and Data Director, Azza Yehya, took to the stage to officially launch the 4th edition of “State of Digital Investments in MENA 2013-2018” report developed by Arabnet, in partnership with The Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development (Dubai SME).
The report is a holistic analysis of MENA technology investors and investments. The report investigates the technology investment landscape in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region by analyzing investments made by MENA-based investors into regional-based startups.
The reveal was followed up by a panel titled International Perspective: Global Trends Shaping the Tech Sector in which international investors gathered on stage to share their insights on what’s hype and what’s here to stay, the hottest startups they’re investing in today, and the trends they expect to see in the near future.
They also gave tips for startups in emerging markets on how to attract the interests of global investors and capture global opportunities. The speakers included James Tan, Managing Partner, Quest Ventures; Richard Harris, Partner and Head of EMEA, G Squared; Tugce Ergul, Partner, Angel Labs; Ihor Ovcharenko, Founder & CEO, Scal8R; and Kartik Varma, Managing Director, Techstars.
“Healthcare, banking and the entertainment needs of underprivileged people living in China, India, Africa... represents a big field of opportunities for entrepreneurs” noted Varma.
While Ergul called for more inclusivity to encompass woman-founded startups.
All the investors, however, noted that the global entrepreneurial ecosystems and startups are subject the laws of capitalist gravity and beyond a large infusion of outside capital to kick off operations, they ultimately need a viable product and evolving customer base. A number of the panelists noted that it is an ultra-competitive environment that often leaves “the last company standing” after a shakeout of the less competent startups.
On a less serious note, several of the popular sights at the show were the giant Dunkin Donuts who was strolling around and the man'oushe vending machine by Lebanese start-up Akeltech. Also, the Barista coffee stand, handing out complimentary expresso, American and Cafe Libanaise by the Anghami music exhibit was a popular stop by.
The Launchpad Forum was packed with keynote speeches and panel discussions including : “The Evolution of the Music Industry” led by Scott Cohen, Chief Innovation Officer at Warner Music Group; the “Innovation in Family Businesses” panel which brought together some of Lebanon’s key family businesses like A.N.Boukather, Ghia Holding, and Grand Cinemas, to discuss how they are responding to the entrepreneurial culture, what are their objectives and strategies to beat competition, and the challenges they’re facing diving into new innovative opportunities.
In a separate appearance, Bank of Beirut Head of Digital Media & CSR Hilda Melki spoke about the bank’s in-house digital agency which conducts all digital and social media activities from A to Z.
The Ad/Edge forum brought together some of the brightest minds in Adtech and Digital Media who took part in in-depth sessions such as “Content that Connects - Why Understanding Culture Is the Key to Growth” by Codec, “It’s a MADtech World Out there” which examined the publisher’s readiness in the digital age by MMPWW and MOAT. Attendees were also able to be part of debates on advertising content “Data vs. Creativity”, witnessed panel discussions on Artificial Intelligence, Content Marketing, and e-commerce.
At the closing ceremony, not only were the winners for the Startup Championship but also the Ideathon, and Creative Combat were announced.
As for the Ideathon, 10 aspirants took the stage and pitched their innovative ideas in front of a panel of judges. After careful deliberation, Hadiyati came out on top for their "disruptive" idea.
YNG secured the top spot in the Creative Combat receiving a cash prize of $5000.
“What a grand finale to Arabnet X! Congrats to winners Searchie, Bakala and Seez App and all the other finalist finalists - Enjoyed being on the judging panel! And of course well done (event founder) Omar Christidis and the Arabnet team for a great show,” said Ned Jaroudi, entrepreneur, Startup advisor and one of the judges for the Startup Championship.
Dunking Donuts mascot, "Hugs for Free." By freelance photographer and writer Lauren Holtmeier.
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