Aspiring digital media entrepreneurs in the region have a new reason fire up projects this year. Yahoo! and ictQATAR announced a strategic partnership this week, aimed at developing the digital media and content ecosystem in Qatar.
The partnership, which is designed to cultivate innovation, stimulate online growth, and nurture entrepreneurship in Qatar and the broader MENA region, comes on the heels of a tough year for Yahoo!. Anemic sales and shrinking profits caused the company to dismiss CEO Carol Bartz in mid-2011, beginning an overhaul that included the resignation of founder Jerry Yang last month.
Yet in 2012, Yahoo! is firing up the year with a renewed focus on emerging markets, especially the MENA region, one of the fastest growing regions in the world in terms of internet use. "We have around 70 million people online in the MENA region today, with another 50 million coming on board in the next few years," says Christos Mastoras, Director of Business Development for Yahoo! Middle East. With offices in Dubai, Amman, Cairo, Riyadh and Casablanca, "the MENA region is a high-priority region for Yahoo!," he says.
As Yahoo! and ictQATAR work together to bolster the digital media ecosystem, Yahoo! will work with local entrepreneurs on projects and initiatives, through ictQATAR's local incubator, and will partner with ictQATAR's Digital Content Cluster (DCC) to boost digital media companies.
The initiative will (appropriately) focus on Arabic content. It's no secret that while a lack of online content in Arabic in no longer a central issue, and digital content creation is exploding across MENA, the region is hungry for original, timely, culturally-native content, as Hosam Sokkari of Yahoo! Middle East and Najeeb Jarrar of Google discussed at our digital media-focused event CoE Animate 11 this fall.
For ictQATAR, it's a chance to foster entrepreneurial spirit among local talent, Ali Al-Khulaifi, the ICT Market Development Manager of ictQATAR said in a statement.
Yet a physical presence in Qatar will not be necessary for startups looking to get involved, says Mastoras; it's open to entrepreneurs and startups throughout the region.
The partnership itself is also model that Yahoo! will look to replicate across the region. "We see this as the beginning of several initiatives," says Mastoras. "Entrepreneurs should look out for projects that we are announcing soon."