A new website, ArabCrunch.net, an online social network platform, aims to support tech-savvy talent in the Middle East.
ArabCrunch launches website
About two years ago, Gaith Saqer spent US$2 (Dh7.34) to set up the website ArabCrunch.com to highlight the news in the burgeoning Arabic internet start-up world. Now Mr Saqer, along with the help and investment of a former Yahoo executive based in the US, hopes to inspire new internet businesses with the launch of ArabCrunch.net, an online social network platform aimed at supporting tech-savvy talent in the Middle East.
The website, launched on Tuesday and available by invitation only, will help support Arab technology entrepreneurs with links to available funds, lawyers and service providers that help incubate businesses. It will also create a mentorship programme to link new companies with Arab online veterans of Yahoo, Maktoob and Microsoft. "Our goal is to create a technology revolution in the Arab world," said Mr Saqer, who is based in Jordan. "We have a very high level of unemployment and a high youth population, so we want to create start-ups to help create progress.
"We want to help bridge the gap between East and West." Working with him is Bassel Ojjeh, the former senior vice president at Yahoo who recently left the online giant to spend more time working with start-up businesses. Financial terms of the Arabcrunch investment were not disclosed, although Mr Ojjeh called the investment "sustainable" for the venture. "I'm a strong believer in taking something, creating intrinsic value and then getting more funding," said Mr Ojjeh. "I believe something like this can easily take a business to the next level."
Small regional technology companies have seen their prospects brighten following several announcements that could expand the regional internet industry, including a fund established by the Dubai Silicon Oasis last month and the acquisition of the online portal Maktoob by Yahoo in August. But there is still a dearth of investors willing to provide funding for early start-ups due to the large risk associated with such ventures and shaky credit markets.
"There's definitely innovation coming out of the Arab world, but it's extremely difficult to get anything going," Mr Ojjeh said. Arabcrunch.com was launched in 2007 and is now getting more than 30,000 unique hits a month, Mr Saqer said. Another website, YallaStartup, was founded by three successful web entrepreneurs last month as another area where Middle Eastern entrepreneurs can connect. Mentorship is often cited by young, inexperienced technology graduates as being in short supply in the Arab business community.