x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Website brings events to women

A group of Emirati women has created a web portal that allows for virtual attendance at conferences.

From left, MindTalk's Satheesh Kumar, Christiane Schloderer, Azza AlNuaimi, Meerah Ketait and Sarah Al Qassimi during a meeting at their office in Deira last week.
From left, MindTalk's Satheesh Kumar, Christiane Schloderer, Azza AlNuaimi, Meerah Ketait and Sarah Al Qassimi during a meeting at their office in Deira last week.

DUBAI // Meerah Ketait missed out on a chance to represent Zayed University at a conference honouring college students in the US because she had other obligations.

She was so disappointed that she and two other Emirati women decided to create a web portal allowing for the live streaming of conferences - including the ability to make presentations online.

"We wanted to not only see the conference, but also be able to participate, ask questions and be present. That's how the idea of live-streaming conferences came to life," said Ms Ketait, 22.

Their web-based platform, MindTalk, provides an interactive experience at conferences in the UAE as they are happening. The website offers networking options for online users to discuss the events, connecting directly to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn applications.

"This idea was inspired when we missed a lot of events and conferences in the UAE and abroad," said Ms Ketait. "[We were] not able to attend [due to] different responsibilities and restrictions such as time, place and work. Our target audience is mainly women. The idea of MindTalk is to make attending and participating in events more convenient for women and people with obligations that cannot physically be at the event."

The concept was thought up by Ms Ketait, Azza Al Nuaimi and Sarah Al Qassimi, all UAE nationals.

It was co-founded with the expatriates Christiane Schloderer and Satheesh Kumar last October during StartUp Weekend, a 54-hour event where developers, designers and entrepreneurs shared their ideas to find out whether projects were sustainable.

The web portal has won praise from the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, which last year named it "Most Innovative Idea".

The group has since registered with the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Establishment for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME).

"MindTalk is a newly introduced idea to the UAE and GCC by locals," said Ms Al Nuaimi, 22. "We are looking to stream events that are interesting and grab people's attention that are not well advertised."

Last weekend, the website streamed the second edition of StartUp Weekend in Al Meydan, Dubai. The portal captured the pitches, interviews and working environment among the participants from a booth that the women had set up.

"We started streaming pitches when they started. We interviewed some of the participants on the spot and showed who were the winners until the programme ended. We were also able to stream when Sheikh Mansoor [bin Mohammed bin Rashid] attended the conference," Ms Ketait said.

A member of the group monitored the website and responded to questions from the viewers. She acted as a mediator between the viewers and the events. "For example, when people asked us about who is pitching, we would answer them," Ms Ketait said. "Others pointed out we had a technical issue with the sound, so we immediately fixed that."

Sarah Falaknaz, a partner at Innovative Machine, the company that organised Start Up weekend, praised the web portal.

"They are involving a big demographic in the region with their initiative," she said. "The idea is new to the region, and I haven't heard of such an initiative anywhere else. The idea can not only encourage, but also support and raise awareness, especially among females, to interact and be part of conferences."

Ms Schloderer, who has 10 years' experience as an executive and a mentor to entrepreneurs, said: "I am very much looking forward to developing MindTalk into the regional live broadcasting company.

"The initial responses from potential customers were very encouraging. Compared to many other regional ideas, MindTalk is working on a unique portfolio that we are striving to extend."

The next events MindTalk plans to stream live are StartUp Weekend Abu Dhabi this Thursday and Startup Weekend Qatar on June 16.

To watch, visit www.mindtalk.ae.

aalhaddad@thenational.ae