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A chat with ArabNet founder

Founder of ArabNet, Omar Christidis

Omar Christidis talks to Kipp Report about, among other things, his five most compelling reasons to attend ArabNet's Digital Summit in Dubai.

June 23, 2013 5:45 by

The ArabNet Digital Summit, a prominent forum for entrepreneurs, high-tech startups and digital businesses, is expected to welcome over 800 attendees over a three-day program that begins tomorrow.

To be held at the Atlantis Hotel, Dubai, June 24-26, the summit will tap into the latest trends and opportunities in digital business, and encourage digital professionals, entrepreneurs and investors to connect and learn.

Since its establishment in 2010, ArabNet has grown to become a regional reference for digital businesses and entrepreneurship. For the last few years, the Digital Summit has been held in Beirut, but this year, a shift in the Arab world’s digital landscape has encouraged ArabNet to move its largest international conference to Dubai.

Kipp Report chats with Omar Christidis, founder and chief executive officer of ArabNet about social media, crowd investing and industry transparency.

Why Dubai?

Dubai is the hub for digital business in the region – be it global companies establishing offices here like LinkedIn, PayPal and Facebook, who have all set up offices here in the past year or so – or regional companies that have business development branches here. Production activities might be happening somewhere else, but business development is certainly focused here.

As start-ups grow in their home market, Dubai is normally the first place they look towards when they want to expand. That’s where the big clients are; media buyers, brands, retailers and operators. This is where it’s all focused, so it was only natural to pick Dubai.

Does it help to get more attendees?

People are interested in Dubai because it is a business capital, I’ll put it that way. The summit in Beirut has its own benefits and ‘underground vibe’ to it, but for a business conference, we decided it would be beneficial on a broad scale to be here.

What, in your opinion, are the five most compelling reasons to attend ArabNet?

1) For one, there will be tonnes of interesting and cutting edge topics to talk about. For instance, a really hot topic today is crowd sourcing. There’s the future of work and the future of recruiting, or how the web allows firms to outsource their work to freelancers and changes the way that firms operate.

We’ve also got a lot of emphasis on the digital media and advertising sector, given that it is a big market in Dubai. We’ll be having conversations from everything on the future of video; young content creators distributing and monetizing content over YouTube and creating massively successful shows in Saudi Arabia, to individual sessions for social, mobile and performance advertising.

Generally speaking, the content is very exciting, relevant and delivered by 130 top-notch speakers.

2) We’ve got over 30 fast-growing digital SMEs from around the Arab region coming to showcase in the event and leveraging Dubai to grow their business and connect with clients. We have companies from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan, all here for a common purpose. It’ll be a great opportunity to get a sense of what’s really ‘hot’ in the region right now, where we stand and what young, innovative companies are doing.

3) We have the championship round of the developer tournament, of course. We’re flying in 16 of the best developers from the Middle East competing for the title of ‘top coder’. Companies interested in hiring hot technical talent can come and have a look at these guys.

4) Networking is probably the number one reason why people come to the event – and we’re talking about between 800 to 1000 attendees, from around 25 countries, coming in to build business relationships. There’s a big opportunity for entrepreneurs and companies to build relationships with firms either within the region or other places like Turkey, Russia, India, China or Pakistan.

5) Personally, the unique bit of ArabNet is the spirit of the event. It’s a really dynamic, fresh, exciting and casual event. It’s not full of people wearing suits, but young people who want to be there, and stick around later to network. There’s a definite ‘buzz’ and a certain type of energy that’s reflected in the live stream viewers (14,000 last year) and number of tweets (27,000).

It becomes a conversation that happens outside the hall and across the industry.

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