7 Startup Ideas from 5 Thought Leaders

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Wamda asked five investors and startup mentors in the region for an idea that they would like to see turned into a company. Here are their thoughts on market opportunities and what the region needs:

Saed Nashef, Founding Partner at Sadara Ventures:

One business I would like to see created is a ticketmaster-like company for the Middle East and North Africa. Currently, I’m not aware of a ticket sales company that has built a brand and operates regionally.

Another possibility is a service that integrates with your TV through a set-top box and offers related ads and information about current programming from regional satellite and/or TV stations, for example, where you can buy a dress worn by a star in the movie you're watching, or a vacation package to filming location. The service could be interactive, and operated through a regular TV remote.

Fadi Ghandour, Founder and CEO of Aramex:

I would love to see someone establish an entrepreneurship learning and innovation center for the Arab World.

This could look like a network of cafés for entrepreneurs across the region that would facilitate connecting business owners to different markets. They would have a network of angels, a network of facilitators to help with legal issues, and physical space equipped with all that an entrepreneur needs to plug and play his or her business. The locations could even be relatively small spaces that entrepreneurs could book in person or virtually. Ideally this network would help entrepreneurs get their businesses started while bypassing bureaucracy and red tape.

Rashad Bibars, Senior Director of the Business Development Center

As you know, one of the impediments to international expansion for small and medium enterprises is a general lack of knowledge about international markets. Larger companies who can afford market research can recruit specialized consultants to assist with the process, but it’s quite costly.

One of the ideas that I have is for a service that uses social networks to extract information about international markets. The accumulated data would include country specific information, as well as information on "who’s who" in that market or sector, and would be made available to startups for low costs.

Ahmed El Alfi, Chairman of Sawari Ventures:

There's a great void in social gaming in Arabic. Specifically, there’s a void in Arabic social gaming that takes into account the unique character of people in this region. Many people have created Arabic copies of Western games or overlaid Arabic themes on Western plots. But I've been convinced for the past two years that the social aspect of digital interactions resonates with the MENA region because of the inherent social nature of people here, and it will continue to grow due to the massive uptake of social networks in MENA lately. Wixel Studio’s recent game (Masr 3ayza Min) is topical and timely, but I think once someone creates a game that deeply connects with the psyche of the region in an ongoing way, it’ll catch on like a brushfire.

Habib Haddad, CEO of Wamda and Founder of Yamli:

Mobile payment is a space that hasn't yet been disrupted. I'd love to see a startup from the Middle East innovating there. There have been several attempts but none of the options are easy to use.

I would also love to see startups using the power of crowdsourcing in the education space. Qordoba in Dubai is a startup crowdsourcing quality translation, Quirky in the US is crowdsourcing ideas for physical products. It would be cool to similarly leverage the power of crowds to somehow create high quality educational material for the region that will be then shared online.

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