Six Middle East internet start-up companies have demonstrated their wares to a large audience of Web enthusiasts and investors in Dubai. This week's event was the 7th DemoCamp Dubai, the UAE's longest-running industry show for internet entrepreneurs. Hosted by Dubai Internet City, the night took on a more corporate feel than the previous events, with theatre-style seating, a front-row VIP area and internet companies demonstrating highly commercial new products.
At previous events, casual dress ruled the day and shrugged shoulders were a common reply to questions about business models or revenue sources. But on Monday, presenters showed off sites aimed at well-defined markets. Their pitches may have lacked the experimental optimism or raw technical ambition of previous events but they made up for it with serious commercial focus. "People complained that it felt more corporate. I agree that there was a more professional crowd and a different environment," said Tariq al Asiri, the general manager of the Arabic financial news website Argaam and an organiser of the event.
"But I think it is partly that there is a different type of person interested in this type of event today. We still have the geeks but there is also a wider audience." Hyzonia, an online gaming company, allows advertisers to build "adver-games" customised for their brands and marketing campaigns. The simple, Web-based games can be embedded in outside websites, or added to the company's games network. Since its launch late last year, the site has attracted more than 20,000 regular gamers and is growing by 16 per cent a week, said Hyzonia's co-founder, Reza Ayati.
Its games have found particular popularity among female users in Saudi Arabia, a valuable group for marketers and advertisers. Murshed Ahmed, an Emirati serial entrepreneur, demonstrated his new Web service, Yebab. The site is an electronic wedding planner, helping brides to arrange their weddings and connecting suppliers of wedding services with customers. Mr Ahmed, who pitched Darrb, a Web-based market for delivery services, at a previous DemoCamp Dubai, said Yebab aimed to disrupt the lucrative weddings market in the UAE, which is worth an estimated Dh2 billion (US$544.5 million) a year. The GCC market, fives times larger, is the next step.