Testing times for startups

A new competition will provide one lucky local business owner with the equivalent of US$20,000 in public relations support. But to win the prize entrepreneurs must know how to properly pitch their wares.
Louay Al Samarrai, the co-founder of Active PR, wants the Entrepreneur's LoudSpeaker competition to become an annual event.
Louay Al Samarrai, the co-founder of Active PR, wants the Entrepreneur's LoudSpeaker competition to become an annual event.

It could be compared to Arab Idol, except it is a competition for small businesses in the region.

And it offers a chance to win more than US$20,000 (Dh73,460) in marketing support.

In a unique move to stimulate the growth of startups in the GCC, the inaugural Entrepreneur's LoudSpeaker competition has been created to help fledgling companies make it big.

Set up by Active PR, a marketing consultancy based in Dubai, the competition requires businesses to submit short videos about their products and services. Online visitors who come across Active PR's Facebook page will notice a wide range of pitches from businesses throughout the region.

One clip showcases a company's hubcap covers, while another focuses on a blueprint to improve the UAE's confusing address system. A third enables teachers to plan their classes with help from the web.

Delivered in Arabic or English, each of these videos has a different message but is vying for the same goal: three months of free public relations services valued at more than $20,000.

Today marks the deadline for video entries before the next phase of the contest begins. That is when video clips selected by a popular vote on Facebook will be judged by a three-man panel of industry experts.

For Amad Almsaodi, the chief executive of AqarMap, an online property company, the competition has offered his team a chance to tap into an area they haven't spent much effort on yet: marketing. "We thought the prize is even more interesting because it's related to PR, which we're in a very big need for," says Mr Almsaodi.

Mr Almsaodi says his company was created last year to help property buyers and sellers navigate the UAE's "weak" address system. Winning the PR competition could help raise that awareness among potential customers, he says.

"There's always a curiosity about interacting with PR agents, but any opportunity for a press release is very important for startups because you know you can't afford big campaigns," says Mr Almsaodi.

The need to raise the company's marketing profile prompted Mazen Yousef Salah, the founder of StatiCap, to submit his own two-minute video pitch. Previously, he had never spent money marketing the company's products, which include personalised hubcaps. "I never advertised for my product," says Mr Salah, a Jordanian businessman.

"I only used the social platforms, and it was enough for me up until now. I researched and I found out that PR is more successful, and that I have more chances of getting my concept across with professional help."

The competition has also been a unique opportunity for the organiser. While interest picked up only towards the deadline, Louay Al Samarrai, the co-founder of Active PR, hopes the competition will become an annual event.

"We wanted to make it for startups, and for entrepreneurs, because we believe in the Arab world there are quite a few of them," says Mr Al Samarrai. "We were that 10 years ago, and we didn't want to forget our roots. We wanted to give these people an opportunity."

 

zalhassani@thenational.ae

Published: August 1, 2011 04:00 AM

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