DemoCamp Dubai

DIC hosted this year's second DemoCamp to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation

Tags: DemoCampDubai Internet CityEntrepreneurInvestmentUnited Arab Emirates
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By  Vineetha Menon Published  June 24, 2010

Having attended my first DemoCamp Dubai, I now understand what the fuss is about.

The spin is that it's a platform for anyone in the region to demo their bright idea to an audience that has the power to make it happen (or take it further). Think of it as speed dating, but for techy business.

Contestants have eight minutes to talk about all their assets and needs, before engaging in a rapid-fire Q&A round from anyone in the audience. You don't have very long to make a great impression but, if you get it right, dreams can be made.

DemoCamp Dubai held last night at the Knowledge Village Auditorium had an obvious corporate feel to it, though other DemoCamp events around the world take a more relaxed and informal approach. But hey, this is Dubai - we're known to do things our way.

A judging team involving experts from Microsoft, Du, Qualcomm and others selected six finalists to present last night.

First up was Ashrah Amayreh from O-minds, a web development firm involved with open source technologies on the Firefox OS as well as ‘Unity' for 3D modelling and game development . He demoed a ‘Maze of Death' 3D world within the browser, which I thought was impressive and had good potential since any 3D experience could be generated, whether for entertainment, business or education purposes.

Enterprising American University of Dubai students Jamal Al Bloushi and Alexander Fuchs followed with their Book-Trader online book trading service. It only went live within the AUD campus recently but feedback has been encouraging with many students keen to buy and sell educational books. The process is simple and quite old-school - students advertise the books available online and interested buyers get in touch to do the cash/book exchange in person. Bloushi and Fuchs want to licence the service to various universities, targeting only the students that are currently enrolled in higher education. They do hope to extend the service to include other products in the future.

Next up was Saleh Ali from Saudi Arabia with AdGoing - an online advertising service to helps clients reach a targeted audience. And while comparisons with Google AdWords inevitably comes to mind, Ali says there is a difference: AdGoing is much cheaper than AdWords and is more focused on the region.

Ali was followed by James Oliver and Andrew Meikle who took to the stage with polished ease and talked about their business The Question Company, a service that answers any question via SMS. It is trendy, informative and all the answers are written by a real person, which gives the service a more personal touch. Below the answer is an advertisement related to the question asked.

Founder Meikle says the company is seeing 100% growth week on week and receives around 150 texts to their 4644 number everyday, which is very encouraging. If they keep growing, expanding to other GCC countries is on the cards. But what do they do with all those texts? Well, according to Meikle, everything is stored in-house, with nothing outsourced or sold to anyone. The data is only used to tailor more personal responses and deliver more relevant ads to the customer.

The next presentation was refreshing. Kedar Iyer and Rami Kayyali demoed Twtr Tales - a collaborative storytelling platform using Twitter - which they believe is the future of creativity. Twitter users can together write a story, 140 characters at a time, with members of the community having a say on how the story develops; voting to ‘like' an update or waiting for a better contribution.  It's an interesting, timely and engaging concept that's already got fans like Paulo Coelho and Stephen Fry on Twitter. And as Iyer said, who wouldn't want to collaborate on a story that Coelho's contributed to?

But DemoCamp Dubai saved the best for last with Nagi Salloum and his Loomni; a website that connects expert instructors with students that are looking for more affordable professional development courses. I love this. It has exactly the right level of online convenience and real-world human connections. And we never stop learning...

Are these ideas and businesses going to change the world? Is DemoCamp going to be a turning point in these entrepreneurs' lives? Maybe. Maybe not.  But the comments, advice and genuine interest in the demos being presented last night from the audience was very encouraging. If nothing else, the finalists can take away this from the experience - when they spoke, everyone listened.

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