Startup news ticker: MIT connecting Arab startups to Silicon Valley; Bitcoin launches its first ATM

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Welcome to Wamda's weekly startup news ticker, which will offer quick announcements and stories relevant to the region. If you have a quick news release to share about your startup, let us know at editor@wamda.com.

Thursday October 31, 2013 

First Bitcoin ATM set up in Vancouver, Canada 

On October 29, 2013, the world’s first Bitcoin ATM opened in Vancouver, Canada, according to a recent post on Mashable.

The machine is located near Waves Coffee House in Vancouver’s downtown area, and identifies users by scanning their palms. Those who don’t have an account, according to the post, can exchange cash for the currency - Bitcoin - and create an account on the spot.

After many speculated that this digital currency may see a swift end after the closure of the black market “Silk Road”, the exact opposite happened and Bitcoin’s value climbed to surpass US $200.


Edulab releases Kitabi Reader Application 

With the support of the Ministry of Education Center for Research and Development (CERD), Edulab, a Lebanese software and publishing company, released a new reader application called Kitabi, which means ‘my book’ in Arabic.

The new application will allow “students to access their school books using tablets, with the option to highlight texts, add notes, search for keywords as well as other features,” according to the press release.

Several partners, including the Berytech Fund, have supported the launch. “We are happy to support the Kitabi project, a technological  innovation that empowers the educational system in Lebanon,” said Maroun N. Chammas, Chairman and CEO of Berytech, in the press release.


MIT Entreprise Forum connects more than 21 Arab cities to entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley

In partnership with Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives and Google for Entrepreneurs, the MIT Entreprise Forum Pan-Arab launched the 7th MITEF Arab Startup Competition.

The competition connected more than 21 Arab cities with entrepreneurs from the Silicon Valley, through a Google Hangout session on October 28, 2013. Guest speakers included Mike Cassidy, the project leader for Google’s Project Loon, Lebanese entrepreneur Ford Tamer and Sandy Hertz, Director at Strategic Alliances at The Skoll Foundation.

“It has been a privilege in the last three years to play a mentorship role remotely from Silicon Valley to help finalists from the MITEF Arab Startup Competition and realize their dreams of building successful startup companies,” said Ossama Hassanein, Chairman of Techwadi.

- RF


Wednesday October 30, 2013

Lenovo unveils its first multimode Yoga tablet 

During a livestream launch event Lenovo held with Ashton Kutcher, who is Lenovo’s newest product engineer, the company just unveiled its first multimodal Yoga Tablet.

The new tablet has three modes: hold, tilt and stand, making it easier to adapt to the several ways people use it. According to the press release, the “hold mode is designed to fit an individual’s hand”, the stand mode allows the tablet to stand by itself on a table or a desk or on any fixed object, and the tilt mode help users type directly onto the tablet and play while “using a better viewing angle”.

The tablet also has a battery life of 18 hours, a 5MP rear camera, and a 64 GB storage among other features. It will be available in the UAE by the end of November 2013.


Online payment gateway PayFort launches in Egypt 

After launching in Dubai in June 2013, online payment gateway PayFort has officially launched in Egypt.

In Egypt, which, according to the press release, has 40 million internet users and over 3 million online buyers, PayFort will offer a secure online payment service to entice e-commerce customers to pay online instead of relying on COD.

“PayFort is pleased to announce its operations in Egypt as the country demonstrates its resolve to address its economic challenges while taking positive steps towards broader e-payment adoption,” says Omar Soudodi, Managing Director of PayFort in the press release.

- RF


Tuesday October 29, 2013 

Cook-a-Box, a cooking alternative for UAE residents

This week, Cook-a-Box, a new home cooking solution, was launched in Dubai.

According to the press release, the average person in the UAE spends around AED841 (around 229$) a month on restaurant meals. This new cooking alternative is trying to solve that problem by allowing customers to choose from international recipes chosen by the chefs who work at Cook-a-Box and featured on the site. Once the order is completed, the recipes and all the pre-ingredients will be shipped to the customers and all they have to do is cook them. Recipes are varied and healthy and boxes “come with a summary of nutritional information that you can check before placing your order,” as stated in the press release.

“You save time with no meal planning, no grocery shopping and zero hassle,” says Rana Ismail, Executive Director, Cook-a-Box, “most importantly of all, our recipes can be prepared in as little as 35 minutes; less than the time you need to wait for your fast food delivery.”


Tamkeen and Manama Municipality sign agreement to establish ‘Al Leewan’ Cultural Village Project  

In cooperation with the Manama Municipality, Tamkeen, a Bahraini initiative supporting the private sector, signed an agreement to support the establishment of ‘Al Leewan’ Cultural Village Project.

The construction project will be “built on a total area of 4,766 square meters south of the eastern coast (Al Fateh Corniche),” according to the press release, and will include 26 shops, areas for antique collections, a museum, workshops for handicrafts and traditional crafts, family guesthouses, restrooms, and commercial areas dedicated for selling spices, perfumes, furniture, textiles, and jewelry.

The "‘Al Leewan’ Cultural Village project provides entrepreneurs who have business ideas related to Bahrain's culture and heritage with the opportunity to turn these ideas into reality and contribute to the Bahraini economy,” says Tamkeen’s Chairman and Acting Chief Executive HE Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalif. “Tamkeen's support for this project therefore comes as part of its ongoing efforts to encourage and help entrepreneurs establish and develop their commercial activities."


 Three Jordanian startups launch crowdinvesting campaigns on Eureeca 

For the first time in Jordan, three startups will be launching campaigns on global crowdingvesting platform Eureeca.

The three startups are: Abjjad.com, a social network for readers, writers and bloggers supported by Oasis500; FoodIve.com, a social discovery platform for food lovers; and Harir.com, an online shopping club in the Middle East. “With such a diverse population and innovative spirit, Jordan is a core market for our business,” says Chris Thomas, the CEO and cofounder of Eureeca. “Organizations like Oasis500 continue to contribute and nurture the development of Jordanian entrepreneurship.”

Harir’s campaign on Eureeca will be launching soon and the three campaigns will each be live on Eureeca for 90 days. For those interested in contributing to either campaign, visit the Eureeca website here.

-RF


 Monday October 28, 2013

WebTeb launches diet and fitness planner TebDiet

Online healthcare portal WebTeb launched diet and fitness planner TebDiet just last week. The new web app helps those who are trying to manage their weight to follow a specific personal diet regimen. Users insert their personal details including height, weight, age, gender, activity level and medical background and TebDiet will suggest weekly meals and offer a detailed plan that includes what kind of exercises users should do and how many calories they should consume each day to maintain a certain weight.

“The  Arabic population is facing a huge obesity epidemic which is resulting in cardiac problems, diabetes and loss of well-being,” says Dr. Mahmoud Kaiyal, Founder and CEO of WebTeb in a press release. “Through ‘TebDiet’ we want to give people the information and science that will help them make more informed health decisions.” The app is available in Arabic and users can sign up here.


ShelfMonitor offers a product availability tracker for retailers, powered by Google Cloud

Tech Mahindra Ltd, a global company that seeks to better connect digital enterprises and IT companies around the world, recently announced the launch of ShelfMonitor, a new solution for retailers. 

The new product works as a digital monitor that notifies retailers about product availability on their shelves. The solution can be provided is powered by Google Cloud, a platform that lets users create their own apps and websites on the Google platform. By ensuring that all products requested by customers are available, ShelfMonitor tries to guarantee customer satisfaction and decrease walk-out rates.

“The solution is live and tangible and has the potential to significantly reduce the out-of-stock situation in retail stores,” said Brandon Jung from Cloud Platform Partners, Google in the press release.

- RF

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