Friday, March 12, 2010

DemoCamp Dubai 2010

Held at DKV this year, DemoCamp Dubai (#DemoCampDubai) is a periodic forum for select Dubai-based entrepreneurs to, well, demo their nascent tech business forays to industry experts, venture capitalists and the interested public. DemoCamps have apparently been held in Canada, Saudi Arabia and Egypt as well, and this one was the fifth in the Dubai series. Led by a brief on entrepreneurial tactics by a VC guest speaker, the six presenters were then given 10 minutes each to describe their businesses. As this was my first DemoCamp, I cannot confirm the gripes, but the previous ones seem to have been more casual and geek-oriented than this one, which was accused of being too corporate. Well, there were plenty of suits not to mention a VIP sofa row. Anyway, my observations on each presentation:

    A service-provider for "advergaming" - the insertion of paid-for advertisement sprites into web games built on their compatibility platform. One of the most interesting, original and globally-envisioned, they made a good business decision to only provide the service. Thus, they leave the game-making to the relevant professionals, but can capture the business by providing and encouraging adoption of the platform standard and building up a network effect.
  • FurnishMarketplace
    An exclusively B2B platform for furniture designers, furniture suppliers, hoteliers and real estate developers to post, buy and sell furniture in bulk. It's got a very well-designed search tool and a highly navigation-friendly site with cross-linking everywhere.
    An aspiring Amazon for the Middle East. While facing significant barriers of cross-border discontinuity in delivery and payment, it has some good points with linguistic and regional customization, as well as aiming for a real-time approach to pricing and logistic decision-making. I wish them the best, as the region could do with a good online shopping economy.
    A MENA-specific version of LinkedIn. An employee of a MENA-focused SME myself, I can say that, despite the naysayers, there is nothing particularly disadvantageous in targeting a geographical niche with an existing global business model, as long as the business seeks depth, nuance and engagement in regional coverage, rather than merely following a generic business model while selling to a regional market. It has some teething issues, and took the most flak during the Q&A.
    A service that charges customers to assemble albums of images that are stored in different places on the web. Its selling points appear to be simplicity and various temporal and geographic customization filters that can be applied to visitors. However, this is a service that could easily be replicated by existing social networking sites or photo-hosting sites for free. It could do with a more community-oriented approach, perhaps, and think of other value-added services that would justify whipping out a credit card.
    Information and advertising site for Arab weddings. Targeting a very lucrative market with detailed, relevant information and a highly niche-specific approach. Seeking scalability, but faces barriers in outreach to an otherwise very offline business community. Still, they can count on their current depth and breadth of coverage, and try to hold onto their first-mover advantage.
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