Strong chances for entrepreneurs at Startup Weekend

The Life: For 54 hours this weekend in Abu Dhabi entrepreneurs will be allowed just one minute to pitch ideas for a mobile or Web application.

SeedStartup, founded by Rony El Nashar, in blue shirt, centre, is a business accelerator and early-stage venture capital fund. Antonie Robertson / The National
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For 54 hours this weekend in Abu Dhabi entrepreneurs will be allowed just one minute to pitch ideas for a mobile or Web application.

A worldwide programme, called Startup Weekend, is coming to the capital giving technical and ideas-driven entrepreneurs a meeting place to form the basis of a business.

Over the course of the weekend, the entrepreneurs then have to encourage others to join their team, build a prototype and present it to judges on Saturday evening.

The event in Abu Dhabi is being sponsored by the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, which is offering Dh36,500 (US$9,936) in prize money.

"This is where someone without technical knowledge can find the right partner to team up and put an idea into implementation," says Ziad Matar, the head of Middle East and central Asia for Qualcomm, a telecommunications company from the United States that is one of the event's major sponsors. "The weekend brings together tech heads with the business heads to join forces to start a company."

Mr Matar believes augmented reality, which is a form of virtual technology, will be one of the hot mobile applications areas that entrepreneurs will be pitching ideas.

This is just one area of mobile applications that will prompt a flurry of new ideas this weekend.

With it, in the not too distant future, you might be reading this in the newspaper before swiping your smartphone over it to be shown a video of the interviews that made up the article.

"This is where we see the trend going. How we use a lot more of the phone's functionalities to make lives easier for the consumer and more entertaining," says Mr Matar.

Mobile and web applications are one of the most active scenes for entrepreneurs at the moment in the UAE, with a number of programmes in place to encourage start ups.

This month, Startup Weekend in Dubai was attended by 300 people and 39 teams who worked on ideas. A local competition called The Big Start, created by Al Tamimi Investments, will announce its third annual winner next month.

Moreover, SeedStartup, a business accelerator and early-stage venture capital fund in Dubai, is in the process of taking applications for the second round of its three-month programme, which focuses on mobile and internet ideas.

The company picks entrepreneurs to invest in and then helps their ideas grow into commercially viable products over a three-month period, with the help of a team of mentors from industry. It has received more than 150 applications so far, more than double the previous programme, which started last year.

Metwit, a social networking website where people discuss the weather at their location, launched its new website with the help of Seedstartup. Users can now post pictures of the weather and add comments. The website and mobile app even feeds in posts about the weather from Twitter and Instagram.

"When we came to Dubai, we were working part time. We began to focus on our task and our job. This was the main achievement we got from Dubai," says Michele Ruini, the chief executive of Metwit, which was founded by five Italians.

Mentors on the programme include: Dan Stuart, the founder and chief executive of GoNabit; Sim Whatley and JC Butler, the founders of Dubizzle; and Paul Kenny, the chief executive at Cobone.com.

"The mentorship programme was good to start up," says Mr Ruini.

"We learnt stuff we were not familiar with because, for all of us, this was our first experience."

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