DemoCamp 2010 Dubai – Our thoughts

By on June 24, 2010
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We voice our opinions on the six contestants at DemoCamp Dubai 2010


Last night Knowledge Village hosted the second edition of Dubai Internet City DemoCamp where six start-ups had 8 minutes each to present their ideas to a panel of venture capitalists. The DemoCamp panel included CIOs from DEWA, du and TECOM Investments as well as the Dean of ICT Department at the American University of Dubai. Although this was the second time DemoCamp was hosted by DIC, it was the first time team t-break visited the event.

DemoCamp 2010 Dubai was introduced by Mr. Al Suwaidi from DIC and was followed by a presentation by DEWA showcasing their latest app for Blackberry and the iPhone. Following that, the six contestants presented their ideas and while we don’t know who will walk away with any investment, we thought we’d give our opinion on them. Each of the presentations was followed by a 7 minutes Q&A session.

Demo 1: Flash Firebug – Ashraf Amayreh
An extension to the popular Firebug debugging tool that allows you to debug flash code. The presentation also included a demo of a project based on Unity, a popular multi-platform 3D gaming engine.

Abbas: I’m not a developer so I’m not necessarily the best person to comment on this application but from what I could tell, this is the only one that lets you debug your flash files within the browser which could certainly make it interesting for a particular market segment. The Unity Engine for creating worlds at the end of the presentation was not necessarily something I would have shown as it only served as a “me too”.

Hitesh: It was interesting that they put forth two products. The first, Flash Firebug was quite impressive. As a web developer, I can see the advantages of using a flash debug tool. If you’ve developed flash-based scripts, you’ll know that they can be painful to code and a debug tool is exactly what a lot of developers are looking for. Flash Firebug is a clear winner for Ashraf — he should either look to get backing from the likes of Adobe or sell the product to developers for a small fee — with millions of flash developers around the world, he could pocket a small fortune. The second product was a demo of a dungeon modeled to run on Unity. I’ve never been a big fan of Unity and quite frankly, the graphics nor the application of the demo seemed impressive to me. Plus the fact that I’ll have to download a plug-in just to use Unity means I’ll probably never use it.

Demo 2: Book-Trader – Jamal Al Bloushi & Alexander Fuchs
The idea behind Book-Trader is to let college students buy and sell their text books through a campus based intranet.

Abbas: This was probably the second best idea at DemoCamp. I used to go through the same dilemma at the start and end of every semester in my college years and allowing me to easily post the books I want to sell or buy online is a great idea- especially to college kids that love to use technology in different ways. I can see this idea expanding from just books to many other things like internships and iPods. All they need to do is make sure that they leave the illegal clutter out which will be their biggest challenge considering they’re dealing with college kids.

Hitesh: An excellent idea. Considering I had to pay over Dhs500 for a few brand new textbooks during my university days, I’d be happy to have such an application which could help me find the same titles for a cheaper price. Question is, how does this application make money? It could probably be sold to Universities at a price or perhaps put a small charge per listing paid by SMS.

Demo 3: Ad Going – Saleh Ali
Working with Content Creators (Website owners) and Advertisers, Ad Going tries to bridge the gap between spenders and the earners in a very GoogleAds kind of format.

Abbas: Trying to recreate GoogleAds is going to be an impossible feat. Unless these guys quickly differentiate themselves from Google, which I don’t think they did with their presentation or the Q&A session, they will have a hard time staying in business. I think that they lack focus.

Hitesh: I was probably one of the most vocal critics of Ad Going during DemoCamp. The biggest argument being, how do you expect Ad Going to take on the likes of a giant like Google Adwords. But that’s probably what they told Google when they tried to take on Yahoo. Good luck, Saleh. In my opinion, your Ace of Spades will be the fact that you have so many Arabic sites on-board your network. Keep focusing on that market segment and make it easy for Arabic publishers to implement Ad Going on their websites.

Demo 4: The Question Company – James Improta Oliver & Andrew Meikle
The basic idea behind the Question company is that you SMS a question- any question to 4644 and they will come back with an answer within ten minutes. Questions can be about anything such as flight timings, football scores or the dress code to a particular restaurant.

Abbas: This was probably the most professional presentation of the six. Though me being the geek who uses Google instead of 181 to find telephone numbers would probably never use something like this. What I think is wrong about their model is that they want to be “quirky” along with being informative yet the target group that will use their service will probably be the older less tech savvy people that don’t necessarily appreciate quirkiness. Plus, was it really important to mention that these guys were captains of their football teams?

Hitesh: Things to do to prepare for a presentation to venture capitalists — Dress to impress: check. Fancy presentation: check. Great idea behind it all: check. Demographics and statistics to backup your ideas: check. Make sure your staff are on alert for an impromptu test of the product: Dang! Knew we forgot something. If it wasn’t for the one guy in the audience who tried the product and couldn’t get an answer for ten minutes leading James and Andrew to offer his money back, this was a winner all the way. Having said that, even Steve Jobs had hiccups during his presentation for the new iPhone. Much like for the iPhone 4G, the presentation might have had an embarrassing moment but the product speaks volumes for itself. Easily one of the best ideas at DemoCamp.

Demo 5: Twitr Tales – Kedar Iyer & Rami Kayyali
Start a story on twitter and let others add to your story. Since twitter is micro-blogging, entries to the story are restricted to limited characters and people can vote on what they like to be the next part of the story.

Abbas: A nicely done presentation that was probably the most fun to watch. The idea is interesting but like Twitter, a bit hard to monetize upon. I really don’t know if it will work or wont as I’m not a twitter freak myself.

Hitesh: Witty presentation and a big favourite with the tweeps (twitter users for those uninitiated with Twitter). Creative idea, lovable product but very hard to sell.

Demo 6: Loomni – Nagi Salloum
The idea behind Loomni is to offer 90 minute offline courses delivered by experts for a pretty reasonable price that ranges around 200 Dirhams. Topics for courses vary from Stress relief techniques to boost your energy at work to 5 crucial steps in media and advertising in a sales meeting.

Abbas: Although the presentation wasn’t very polished and extremely rushed through, this is probably the most profitable idea out of the six in last night’s DemoCamp. It will take time for Loomni to increase their number and quality of tutors as well as the target audience but I feel that they have the right product at the right price. In fact, I can see myself signing up for some of their courses. If I was an investor, this would be my first choice.

Hitesh: Loved the idea. A cost-effective way to get practical education to the masses. Getting the right courses and instructors are going to be the key to Loomni’s success.

Those were the six contestants and our opinions on each. Overall, we think the event was quite impressive and cant wait for the third edition of DemoCamp later this year. Did you attend DemoCamp last night? Which of these six start-ups do you think deserves a stack of cash?


Abbas Jaffar Ali is the founder of and a blogger, geek and self-declared tech pundit who can't stop talking about technology. Find him on twitter as @ajaffarali

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