Chief Executive Officer of twofour54, Noura Al Kaabi, has wrapped up the 2014 edition of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit (ADMS) by telling delegates that with 7 billion connected individuals forecast by 2020, the media and e-commerce industry may soon be managers of the world's largest and most relevant "mall".
The speech provided an optimistic and forward-looking conclusion to a third and final day of lively, insightful discussions between industry leaders and innovators.
Al Kaabi praised the high calibre and diversity of the speakers, and encouraged all ADMS guests to play their part in driving and sustaining a future media in MENA and beyond. The key challenges now were reaching out to those people not connected and growing and nurturing our young people so that they can fully realise their potential.
"I believe the Abu Dhabi Media Summit is a clear example of how we are all helping to build a positive profile of the Arab World. The future is bright and within the grasp of young people in the Middle East and everywhere," Al Kaabi said.
Earlier in the afternoon, a panel entitled "A Race for the Exits: The Rebound in IPOs and Dealmaking" saw speakers encouraging investors to look beyond tangible assets such as real estate and instead consider IPOs in the fast-growing technology sector.
Co-founder and Managing Director, CedarBridge, Imad Ghandour, said that "given the stability of local currencies and continuous growth of industries, the GCC has a great recipe for success", while Mona DeFrawi, Founder and Managing Partner, IPOQuest Partners, explained that "technology IPOs have high growth momentum and the ability to grow globally." Tom Urquhart, a presenter with Dubai One, moderated the next panel on "Accelerating Start-Ups", which looked at the challenges for new technology businesses in Abu Dhabi and beyond.
Ramesh Jagannathan Research Professor and Associate Dean of Engineering, NYU Abu Dhabi, told potential innovators "you have to believe you can create magic" to persuade others about the benefits of their start-ups. Nina Curley, Managing Director, Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi, said that Abu Dhabi is perfectly positioned to become a dynamic global hub for entrepreneurs with "the pieces now coming together for building a viable ecosystem".
A session led by Issa Aghabi, Head of Investments at twofour54, compared the differing approach of two companies – one local and one global – to starting a business in the same sector in MENA. Magnus Olsson, Founder and Managing Director, Careem, explained that his ground transportation company focussed on providing a reliable service based on a call-centre model made accessible to local customers.
In contrast, Jambu Palaniappan, Regional General Manager of Middle East and Africa, Uber, set out his view that technology scales better than people and that companies could avoid the burdens of call centres by relying on technology. The panel generated an insightful discussion on the pros and cons of each business structure.
The final session of ADMS 2014 was an interview between Badr Jafar, Managing Director, Crescent Group and Fadi Ghandour, Founder and Vice Chairman, Aramex, on the challenges facing innovators in raising finance in the MENA region. Ghandour remarked that "innovation is the ability to take pieces of knowledge and use them to affect people's lives – the process requires a symbiotic relationship between innovators and industry". Ghandour stressed that the Arab world had to adopt more of a solutions-based mentality and do more to provide the financial and legal structures needed to support business.