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D1G.com draws venture capital from around the world

Region The D1G.com web portal has doubled its user base to more than three million in the first half of the year

One of the Middle East's fastest-growing internet portals closed its first round of venture capital financing Monday, announcing a number of new local and international investors. The D1G.com web portal has doubled its user base to more than three million in the first half of the year, and said its members now viewed 20 million web pages and 15 million streaming videos on the site each month.

The company gave no information on the amount of funding it had received, or the size of the stakes in the company that were sold to investors. It said a second round of funding, aimed at larger funds and institutional investors, was already in progress. Founded by the Jordanian entrepreneur Majied Qasem, D1G has attracted a number of prominent backers. Earlier in the year Usama Fayad, the former chief data officer of Yahoo, joined the company's board as the executive chairman.

Joining him on the company's board is Karim Kawar, a former Jordanian ambassador to the US who is now working as an investor in regional start-up companies. "The region is ready for a new generation of internet portals and social networking, and D1G.com was able to meet the many needs of Arab users," Mr Kawar said. "The company has grown from an idea and became a vital community of more than three million people in record time."

The site is the second major internet portal focusing on the Arab world to receive venture funding this year. In May, Intel Capital, the venture investment wing of the world's largest microchip maker, invested in Jeeran, another online community for uploading and sharing Arabic content. Maktoob, the largest and longest-running web portal in the region, has completed a number of funding rounds in the past decade, and is the subject of continuing rumours of a full or partial acquisition by a US internet business. Yahoo and Google have been listed as possible suitors.

All three companies, like many of the Middle East's most promising internet businesses, are based in Jordan, home to a close-knit community of technology entrepreneurs and start-ups. But each has a significant focus on Gulf, home to the region's wealthiest consumers and largest online advertising market. Maktoob's general manager is based in Dubai, and D1G has paid special attention to the Saudi Arabian market, buying two websites that succeeded in building loyal audiences in the kingdom.

Traffic from the Gulf makes up more than a third of D1G's total viewership, and is the most lucrative demographic to sell to online advertisers. In a push to grow its GCC user base, Jeeran recently launched a website names Seejal, an Arabic word describing the traditional improvised poetry sessions that form an important part of Arabian culture. tgara@thenational.ae

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