MENA startups inject tech savvy into Saudi Arabia’s entertainment scene

Events and entertainment tourism are expected to play a key role in the Kingdom’s economic reform, with more than 5,000 events on the calendar for 2019. (Supplied)
Updated 08 November 2019

MENA startups inject tech savvy into Saudi Arabia’s entertainment scene

  • Event organizers are delivering an experience that lives up to the expectations of attendees
  • Up-and-coming event organizers will be able to provide professional and seamless digital experiences

CAIRO: While the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has always been a popular destination for business and entertainment events, a host of startups are taking the industry to the next level through the power of technology.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority announced a new strategic plan to revamp the local entertainment sector. There are more than 5,000 events on the calendar for 2019, with investments projected to exceed $64 billion over the next decade.

The plan is part of a broader push to diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from oil by 2030. 

Events and entertainment tourism are expected to play a key role in this ambitious economic reform.

However, this sector boom is nothing new to the region. The UAE has established itself as a leading destination for business events and entertainment tourism, while more of MENA’s major economies are implementing economic plans that incorporate the thriving events industry in one way or another.

Startups in the region are capitalizing on the evolution of this space by developing a digital ecosystem which allows event organizers to deliver an experience living up to the expectations of their attendees.

Whether it is making ticket purchases easier, streamlining event check-in, or addressing a whole host of other challenges regional events organizers have historically faced, these startups are leveraging technology to raise the standards of event management.




A new generation of startups are leveraging technology and tourist entertainment. (Supplied)

“After all, it is not enough to have great performers when the rest of the experience that comes with attending events is below par,” says Farrukh Bandey, a user experience research manager at UXBERT Labs, the digital experience design company behind event planning and discovery app HalaYalla.

Launched in early 2014 by Bandey and Nadeem Bakhsh, the Saudi-based venture came to dominate the country’s entertainment scene after becoming the official ticketing app for the Jeddah Season series of events.

HalaYalla provides a full suite of event-management features together with live event analytics and reporting for organizers. It also worked with local authorities to let international event attendees apply for a tourist visa while buying their tickets through the platform.

While gaining the trust of the government was a huge milestone for the company, it was also a challenge. The team’s abilities were first put to the test when they handled the registration for Saudi Arabia’s first-ever Baloot Championship, a card game popular in Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

Held in October 2018, the event saw more than 85,000 players register to compete.

Considered by many as one of the earliest disruptors in MENA’s event space, Eventus was founded in 2012 by Egyptian duo Mai Medhat and Nihal Fares. The company was backed by multimillion-dollar investment rounds from prominent local and international venture capitals.

The market Eventus excelled at addressing was providing event organizers with a customized app. The execution was a great hit for forums such as the Startup Grind’s Global Conference, an annual gathering for a community that supports 2 million entrepreneurs in more than 125 countries.

 

 This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.

 


Egypt footaller gets harassed for sharing photo with his 3-year-old girl

Updated 45 min 32 sec ago

Egypt footaller gets harassed for sharing photo with his 3-year-old girl

CAIRO: An Egyptian footballer has threatened to sue Instagram users who sent abusive messages this week over photos of himself and his three-year-old daughter.
The incident involving Amre Soulia, a player at Al-Ahly football club, has caused a storm on social media in Egypt after comments on his photos triggered widespread anger over harassment.  
The player publicly called out a number of people who had harassed him and his daughter by sharing screenshots of their comments that mainly targeted what the young girl was wearing - a black T-shirt and jeans.
The player is seen holding his daughter’s hand while she smiles back at him.  

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“May God save her for you … but I hope you make your daughter wear respectable clothes because you’re a respectful player,” one user wrote to Soulia.
Another user said: “Cover up your daughter, son, so that she grows to become one (who’s covered).”
Several other sexually-loaded remarks targeted the little girl, prompting the player to take legal action against them. 
“All legal measures were taken and a lawsuit was filed against anyone who insulted me or any member of my family,” Soulia wrote on his social media account. 
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The incident is the latest in Egypt, where sexual assault and harassment are deep-seated problems. 
Egyptian actor Sherif Mounir recently hit out at people who insulted his teenage daughters in a picture he shared of them on Instagram.