KUWAIT: Kuwait is looking to bolster investment in cognitive development on issues related to technology and digital creativity, Minister of Information and Minister of State for Youth Affairs Sheikh Salman Sabah Salem Al-Humoud Al-Sabah said yesterday.
Inaugurating the two-day the ArabNet Kuwait 2016 forum, Sheikh Salman said that such events reflect the painstaking efforts taken by the country to transform Kuwait into a financial and commercial hub.
Speaking on the formation of a national fund dealing with development projects, he said it is part of the government’s strategy to ratchet up support for Kuwait’s youth and provide that segment of society with an environment conducive to doing business. On Kuwait’s commercial development, he said that the country is one of the Arab world’s most prosperous nations, thanks to the contributions from the youth sector.
ArabNet kicked off its annual conference yesterday for the first time in Kuwait, focusing on the Kuwaiti and GCC market, while emphasizing on startups, opportunities, local trends and local rising stars. The two-day conference at the Courtyard Hotel’s Arraya Ballroom includes TechFair, an exhibition area for leading digital companies and rising startups to connect, as well as a number of keynote speeches and panels discussing digital media trends in technology and digital marketing; while eBusiness topics will cover mobile enterprise, digital banking, and the state of ecommerce and entrepreneurship in Kuwait.
Kuwait Times spoke with decision-makers, innovators and top leaders in the MENA region in the Backstage Pass Booth. The Backstage Pass is an interview booth that hosts some of the conference speakers after their onstage sessions for interviews about their market, industry and expertise.
Abdulaziz Al-Loughani, Vice Chairman and Executive Director of the $7 billion Kuwait National Fund for SME Development, shared his experiences and insights about the evolution of MENA entrepreneurship. He said that the region is investing in the startup ecosystem. “The role of the state is to serve as a catalyst for growth until enough depth is created in private markets.” He pointed out that the private sector needs to drive implementation. The design of programs and strategy will need to be delivered by the private sector to be most efficient and time-sensitive. “The role of government should be to invest and fund these initiatives. We should have a forward-looking vision when building an entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Loughani.
Loughani noted that the government of Kuwait allows for and provides technical and strategic guidance for entrepreneurs throughout the lifecycle of a company. They make a contribution to the top line by finding ways to design preferred procurement policies to benefit all the entrepreneurs supported by Kuwait, thereby giving access to both capital and markets.
Loughani was a Managing Partner of Talabat.com and Director at Global Capital Management, the alternative investments arm of Global Investment House “Global”, where he established a venture capital practice. He has served as an executive and board member of many MENA companies and is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers Community – Kuwait chapter.
Kuwait Times also spoke with Tarek Amin, CEO – Digital, Adline Media Network and Founder, Dubai Angel Investors, about how the times have changed since the agricultural age and the industrial revolution. “Market conditions are also fueling the need for alternatives, and Arab startups, VCs, corporates and governments are all responding.” Amin noted that there is an ever-growing interest from advertisers, agencies and media owners in digital media and ad tech startups as well.
About his participation, Amin said ArabNet has the largest footprint at regional events. “Digital marketing has the capability to transform products and processes through technology and in a more cost-effective manner. This capability gives them the edge over other marketing channels and is exactly what a startup needs to grow and sustain in this highly competitive market.”
Amin is a successful serial entrepreneur and angel investor who founded CareerMidEast.com before the turn of the millennium. Following his passion for startups, in 2016 Amin founded and is a permanent member of the Investment Committee of Dubai Angel Investors (DAI). His experience includes establishing Connect Ads, serving as managing partner and executive producer at Alkarma Edutainment, founding Zanad.tv, and currently CEO – Digital at Adline Media Network. He also serves as an advisor, strategist and mentor to startups and entrepreneurs around the world.
Ousama Itani is a Senior Innovation Strategist at Aljazeera Media Network, where he researches and experiments with the use of new and alternative technologies in the media industry, including digital-first content and future audio formats. He explained to Kuwait Times how digital media outlets need to be aware of what’s happening within social networks and understand their policies before diving in.
“Reaching audiences on the platforms they already use is a focal point of many news organizations’ digital strategies. AJ+, Al Jazeera’s distributed news arm, was a success with Facebook video, and has made it one of the organizations other media outlets name as an inspiration for their own strategies and social video formats, which puts pressure on AJ+ to constantly innovate,” Itani said.
Itani said AJ+ is constantly adapting changes to the social platform to ensure it maintains a presence and continues to draw a significant readership. Within its strategy, AJ+ is exploring new types of content. He also outlined some of the challenges facing AJ+ and other digital media companies that have their content live on third-party platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. “I explore the intersection of people and technology, minds and media, while creating and managing the innovative solutions that bind them together.”
Founder and CEO of ArabNet Omar Christidis said that the government’s support of business is evident in the endeavors and projects it has undertaken, adding that the conference helps to create a link between the Kuwaiti market and the rest of the world. The two-day conference features discussions over issues that run the gamut from e-commerce to social media and the internet, as well as interviews with some of the most standout companies in the world of e-commerce.
ArabNet is a yearly conference held in a Middle Eastern city to celebrate startups, founders, technology and share knowledge. It was founded in 2009, and the vision of ArabNet is to help grow the Web and mobile sectors in the Arab world through its activities. It also aims to build business bridges across the MENA, stimulate the growth of the Arab digital knowledge economy and support the creation of new businesses and job opportunities for aspiring youth.
ArabNet Kuwait will hold a full-day of workshops and discussions today on parallel tracks dedicated to entrepreneurs and marketers. The workshops focus on building skills and expertise in addition to delving into the latest and hottest topics in media and entrepreneurship with market leaders.
By Faten Omar