5 innovative start-ups set to revolutionize marketing in the Arabian Gulf

By Elías Jabbe

The start-up ecosystem in the MENA region has continued to grow in 2017, seeing several major developments including increased investment, successful exits of home-grown companies and the development of new start-up initiatives both created locally and imported from countries such as the US (Intelak and Techstars Dubai, respectively).

Dubai is considered the hub of start-up activity in the GCC and, often, the MENA region as a whole.

This is clear to those who have attended major events in the city, such as STEP Conference, ArabNet Digital Summit and the past two versions of Dubai Lynx, where start-ups have increasingly been in the spotlight.

GMR presents five start-ups in the GCC that are helping marketers with their functional or technological offerings.

NABBESH

Launched in June 2012, the platform has played an active role in the development of the gig economy in the Arab world, especially for women freelancers.

Nabbesh, which means “to look for” in Lebanese Arabic, helps companies find the talent they are looking for to handle freelance work of all types.

Nearly half of the freelancers on Nabbesh are women, including mothers who want to utilise their talents to earn money but through a flexible schedule.

Founder Loulou Khazen Baz took a leap of faith and left her traditional job to embark on the entrepreneurial journey to launch Nabbesh com.

After all of the ups and downs experi- enced on this journey, she has been rewarded with success, joining Dubai Silicon Oasis and receiving honours, such as Nabbesh.com being named this summer by the World Economic Forum and the International Finance Corporation as one of 100 Arab start-ups shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

She recently shared more with GMR about her start-up and how the platform helps the marketing industry.

“Welcome to the gig-economy. With more than 100,000 registered freelance experts on Nabbesh.com spanning the MENA region, we are proud to have created an ecosystem for creative and independent individuals, whose work continues to power this region’s start-ups, SMEs and multinational organisations,” says Khazen Baz.

“Through Nabbesh.com, companies can access more than 27,000 designers, marketers and media specialists, as well as 13,000 writers and translation experts and more than 20,000 software and IT experts. Our team works tirelessly to support our community of clients and freelancers in order to ensure that, together, we can build a sustainable shift into the future of work,” she notes.

Pixelbug

Launched in September 2012 in Dubai, the start-up has been a pioneer in augmented reality (AR) ever since.

After successfully blending the physical and digital spheres for clients over the years, it has been accepted into Innovation 360 (The Cribb), Dubai Future Accelerators and Boost VC.

The latter is based in Silicon Valley and is considered the world’s top AR and VR (virtual reality) start-up accelerator.

Pixelbug was among the four percent of accepted applicants that received up to $100,000 in funding and had a chance to find customers and partners in California.

Speaking on the sidelines of a breakfast panel about the impact of AR and VR on marketing, held by The Media Network, Pixelbug CTO Hazem Rushdi Mohamed had an optimistic view of how AR will continue to develop.

“With the release of ARKit and ARCore, Apple and Google have democratised augmented reality on iOS and Android in an unprecedented way. This technology is now in the hands of the masses. I expect the landscape of AR to evolve and transform substantially over the next 12 months as creative technologists ex- periment with the endless possibilities,” said Rushdi Mohamed.

EVENTTUS

This start-up was launched in March 2012 in Cairo by Mai Medhat and Nihal Fares, friends who studied engineering together at Ain Shams University.

They had the idea to create this an-all-in-one platform for events ticketing, event management and apps for events after noticing there was no existing solution for organising events.

Eventtus was the team behind the apps used by many events that are popular among the marketing community in Dubai, including STEP Conference and ArabNet Dubai.

The company has helped 9,000 events in 15 countries and manages clients such as Dubai Expo 2020.

After appearing onstage as a panellist next to President Barack Obama at the Global Innovation Summit at Stanford University, Eventtus CEO Mai Medhat continues to grow her start-up, while being based in Dubai at AstroLabs, Google’s first Tech Hub Partner in the MENA region.

Speaking to GMR recently about Eventtus and its goals, this is what Medhat had to say: “Our vision is to change how people experience events and make events more interactive,” she explains.

“We believe that events are a great place for networking and collaboration. We help organisers maximise these opportunities for their audience and help them make the most of events,” says Medhat.

Botler

The start-up was founded in Dubai in March 2016 by Serag Meneassy and Taymour Sabry, two young Egyptian entrepreneurs who have been friends since their childhood days growing up in the Maadi neighbourhood of Cairo.

They have also grown as members of the In5 Innovation Centre, a start-up accelerator launched by Dubai Internet City.

Combining the services of a butler with a digital aspect (bot), Botler uses artificial intelligence (AI) for products such as a Facebook Messenger chatbot, helping brands be more reactive to fans on social media.

The COO of Botler, Meneassy, tells GMR: “The Botler Bot Platform was built to enable anyone to build and deploy bots on Facebook Messenger to automate sales, capture leads and handle customer service.”

He adds: “It is a drag-and-drop solution built for brands and agencies to quickly build and deploy intelligent bots that can handle a wide variety of domains.”

After the company recently closed a fund-raising round led by TA Telecom, one of the largest telecom technology providers in Middle East and Africa, Meneassy announced the launch of Botler’s newest product exclusively to GMR.

“We are currently building SwitchBot, which is a Sales Digital Assistant. This new sentiment analysis tool gives brands a whole new way to “listen” to their competitors’ customers on social media and enables them to target those disgruntled customers with hyper-targeted campaigns,” Meneassy elaborates.

He explains that Botler’s social media monitoring tool can help a brand poach customers who complain on social media about the mediocre service provided by that brand’s competitors.

360VUZ

The company was launched in January 2016 in Dubai by Khaled Zaatarah, an experienced marketing professional who grew up in Gulf countries and is of Palestinian origin. 360VUZ provides 360-degree views, sharing content with fans in ways they have not experienced before.

Virtual reality (VR) is increasingly popular nowadays and is an area that 360VUZ specialises in.

Speaking to GMR, Zaatarah explains that his start-up helps brands engage with people in new ways. “360VUZ is the number one app in its category, eliminating FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). It is the pioneer platform of exclusive pre-recorded and live 360o videos in the region. We bring users to front-row seats of exclusive master classes, events, experiences, behind the scenes and sport games happening in the region, all in 360o Live Video,” says Zaatarah.

“We have access to most of the top events and happenings in the region. We teleport users via our platform and technology into an immersive experience with the world’s biggest artists, events, celebrities, influencers,” he adds.

As VR headsets and 360 videos continue to become more mainstream on platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and people look for more exciting experiences on their smart- phones, it appears that 360VUZ will stay busy in the near future. Zaatarah also notes his start-up has provided tangible ROI for his clients.

“360VUZ helps brands reward their current and future customers with exclusive virtual access to top events and experiences. Furthermore, we help brands in creating their own 360o videos and VR content to increase reach and engagement by at least 200 per cent,” he says.

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