We’re back from Arabnet in Beirut and I think it’s safe to say that the event was a success. There were a number of interesting talks, presentations and most importantly startups from the region. I got the chance to speak to some of them. And we will write more about them in the coming days.
First up I had the chance to speak with Dr. Adel Youssef who has been working on location based services for more than 10 years as a senior mobile architect at Silicon Valley with Google. He is now the CEO of Wireless stars the holding company that developed the Intafeen location based app based in Alexandria, Egypt.
For those of you who haven’t heard of intafeen, it’s a location aware mobile social network, “Think of it as extending Facebook to real life” Stated Dr. Youssef. The application was released approximately a year ago and already has over 110K downloads. Dr. Youssef attributes the success of the app down a couple of points which are:
- The app is localized to the region, especially Egypt, where most of the users are from
- UX and design, the intafeen team have spent extensive numbers of hours on producing a very easy and memorable user experience, which is a must for a mobile application, according to Dr. Youssef
- Available across major platforms
I find 110K downloads to be impressive especially since the majority of their marketing was attending events such Arabnet, targeting universities, clubs and getting on the different application stores/marketplaces to get more exposure by developing the app across all platforms.
Here’s a breakdown of some interesting numbers for the app:
- 85% of the checkins are made by male users
- The top 3 categories of checkins are: 40% to food outlets, 20% businesses, 19% shopping
- Top countries: 60% Egypt, 17% KSA, 3% Libya
- Points of interest: 362K in Egypt, 42K in KSA, 22K in Morocco, 20K in Jordan, 20K in UAE
Intafeen, also just introduced a new pilot in Egypt “the intafeen offers” with a number of selected retailers throughout the country, where users get a discount or a reward for people who check in to the same location repeatedly.
For now the main focus for Intafeen is “increasing the number of downloads” and if it proves to be a success they are planning to expand to other markets across the MENA with partners from different countries. The reason being “Localization” Intafeen cannot enter another market with different cultural values, the reason they’re doing so well is because they’re all Egyptians based in Egypt they have a good understanding of the market and its needs. That’s why they are looking for local people to localize the experience.
All of this sounds well, similar to foursquare, but here’s where it gets interesting. Wireless stars are planning on opening up their intafeen platform. Which is a collaborative user based application building platform. The platform will provide API’s and relevant SDKs for everyone to leverage the powerful capabilities that should allow app developers in the MENA region to benefit from Intafeen’s experience in:
- Technology: Provide support in building apps on different platforms
- Monetization: App developers can collaborate together to generate revenue. For example it’s easier to sell advertisements when you have 1Million users across 10 apps then to sell advertisements for 100K users on one app
- Marketing: Again, collaboration. When the user profiles are added together a breakdown of their information can be viewed such as location, age, what they like, etc…
When I asked Dr. Youssef, why they were doing this, he replied “Because VC’s in the MENA region are not real VC’s, they don’t want to take risks” (I just love that especially after hearing a number of stories from different people complaining about the VC situation in the MENA region) he continued “we need the app market in the MENA to take off, if we don’t do it, then the big international players will come in and do it and we’ll all lose a golden opportunity”.
As we continued our conversation I asked whether or not intafeen was worried about the platform being used to create apps competing with intafeen, to which Dr. Youssef simply answered “No, we would welcome it” that’s when he explained that the goal from the beginning was to launch the intafeen platform however they needed an application to market and raise awareness about it in order for developers to see what the platform is capable of.
Stay tuned for more news and reviews from Arabnet 2012 in the coming days, in the meantime why don’t you signup to receive our newsletter.