Widening the Web of Arabic content

The Life: Danat e-ventures is a business incubator that invests in new startups, which have a focus on growing Arabic content online. Hisham Baker, the company's general manager, discusses how it works.

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There is a company that focuses exclusively on growing the amount of Arabic content on the internet. Known as Danat e-ventures, this business incubator started in 2006 and invests in new online startups. Here, Hisham Baker, the company's general manager, discusses how it works.


q Danat oversees five sites, including an Arabic classifieds portal called Bezaat.com and Tedry.com, which features photos from regional events. How do you build these up?

a We created them from scratch. Danat is an incubator. You come to us with your idea, and we analyse the business plan and have our own designing department for usability and how to build the best code for the interface. We add value to you as entrepreneurs by partnering with Microsoft to have the best [tools] to build these websites.

q Then what happens?

a After that we have a team for online marketing ... to create traffic for it. We have a digital network that guarantees selling adds to your website, because we're connected to the largest advertising websites. It's original content, not aggregators. We try to have solid quality.

q But do entrepreneurs have to give up a stake in their business?

a Yes, of course.

q How much is that stake?

a It varies [based on] the risk amount. Let's say somebody asks for Dh4 million [US$1m], we take [the vast majority] because it's high-risk. If it's low risk - for Dh100,000 - sometimes it might reach to 50 per cent.

q In either case, that is still a lot.

a The difference between Danat and other VCs [venture capitalists is] we have our team specialising in different areas - designing, development and sales to support his business. The other VCs, they just give him the money.

q What is the biggest challenge in vetting a new business idea?

a Finding the entrepreneur. He's the executioner. If someone brought you an idea, and he left, you cannot simply find someone else to run it. You need the entrepreneur to start it and then commercialise the idea.

q What kinds of sites do you look to invest in?

a We invest in all websites targeting the region - it has to be GCC and Mena [Middle East and North Africa] region. Each website has to fulfil a certain need. Argaam.com is a financial portal. [On Logta.com] there's online shopping where you can buy from any country and deliver to any country [in Mena]. Evearabia.com doesn't talk just about Saudi and UAE but women across the region.

q Which are the fastest-growing portals?

a The classifieds and e-commerce [sites]. At Tedry, in less than three months, we had more than 100,000 downloads on iPhone; you can browse events and images, and find links to the venue.

q And the smallest portal in terms of visitors?

a The smallest is Argaam, because it's related to financial audiences only.

q Which sector have you not covered yet?

a We are missing the games. Augmented reality [a kind of virtual reality experience on smartphones and] games on mobile.