What Startups Need: An ArabNet Community.

Photo credit:  imthiaz blog

Photo credit: imthiaz blog

When you work in the social media field like I do, it becomes inevitable to run into startups that are eager to launch the newest idea, the most tech-advanced service or the best-specialized network. As a startup, it is perhaps important to believe that the product you’re developing will be a success, will bring you fame, and help you cash in, hopefully sooner than later.

I do not claim to be an expert on entrepreneurship and startups, but if there is one thing that I can deduce by common sense, it’s that every successful business needs a COMMUNITY!nAn interesting definition of a community is by Michael Wu, the Principal Scientist of Analytics at Lithium Technologies Inc.:

A community (both online and offline) consist of people from all walks of life that seem to have no relationship at all but is a very robust social structure. What holds a community together is common interest. It maybe a hobby, something the community members are passionate about, a common goal, a common project, or merely the preference for a similar lifestyle, geographical location, or profession. People join the community because they care about this common interest that glues the community members together. Some stay because they felt the urge to contribute to the cause; others come because they can benefit from being part of the community (source).

Building a community may or may not be a long daunting task depending on what your product is, but it is a known fact that it is never as easy as “Build it and they shall come”. Growing Facebook from a small college community to the largest global community did not happen in a day. It wasn’t that the idea of Facebook was so revolutionary, in the simplest terms, it succeeded in capturing a fraction of a community with common interests (college students who wanted a social way to get to know each other), then gave way to that community to create other sub-communities with other common interests that others joined in, until everyone else felt they MUST be part of that community. According to Matthew Shampine, a serial entrepreneur, as a startup founder, you should not “be too focused on your product, because if you’re not building a community for it, it may never get off the ground.” He gives 2 successful case studies on how building a community the right way can help your idea or product (Source).

As a startup in the MENA region, your best chance is to find opportunities where early adopters, fellow entrepreneurs and potential investors... For you, that means the digital MENA event of the year, ArabNet Digital Summit. It’s the biggest event for web and mobile in the region! Last year’s summit brought over 1000 attendees, 100 speakers, featured 18 panels and 17 talks, in addition to 20 entrepreneurs pitching their ideas and startups. And this year’s summit is less than 2 months away so you better start working on your pitches and hone your skills in building your community! This year’s event is going to be even bigger. Cutting-edge panel discussions, specialized workshops, exciting competitions, focused networking sessions, social activities and more, spread over 5 action packed days including:

  • Two Developer Days with technical discussions and workshops for programmers. Even though I am not a developer, but I did enjoy this day as you can read in my post from ArabNet Digital Summit 2011.
  • An Industry Day about how web and mobile are transforming traditional industries like healthcare, travel, education and banking.
  • Two Forum Days, the largest gathering of digital business leaders in the region featuring over 100 globally renowned speakers covering the latest trends and technologies in web and mobile.
  • A Community Day raising public awareness about the the power of digital.

The Digital Summit will also include ArabNet’s annual competitions: the Ideathon and Startup Demo. The Ideathon aims at turning bright ideas into functional products will introduce the top 20 entrepreneurs and startups in the region, exposing the latest in digital entrepreneurship and giving entrants the chance to win big cash prizes and the attention of investors, incubators, and developers, not to mention the media! You’ll for sure have a better chance at exposure if you actually participate in the Ideathon. So you put your entrepreneurial hat on and get ready to network!

As one of the official bloggers of ArabNet Digital Summit 2012, I'll be bringing you more news about the conference and will be live covering it from March 27 till March 31. So don't forget to subscribe to my RSS, and follow me on Twitter if you aren't already ;)