Honorable Mention at GIST Tech-I Competition is “Amazon Meets Facebook”
As more and more people begin shopping online, online stores must become more sophisticated, and cater to not only our needs, but our wants. What do we like? What do we love? Abedul-Azez Kasaji, a Jordanian entrepreneur, is CEO of Mallna.com, a social shopping tool. His project received an Honorable Mention and a $2,000 CRDF Global grant at the GIST Tech-I 2012 competition.
“Mallna is like walking through a mall with your friends,” he explains. Users get updates on their homepage from their favorite brands, see friend’s profiles for gift ideas, and add favorite products from any link on the internet. Mallna updates users when favorite items go on sale or special promotions are available.
A recent study found only 43% of internet users in the MENA region have shopped online. Kasaji is working to change that. “It’s Amazon meets Facebook,” he says in an interview with Wamda, describing his product as a “social commerce discovery platform.” Kasaji is looking to go global, but wants to first focus on the Arab market, growing a user base, connecting more tightly with Facebook, and making deals with online retailers. He hopes to soon have an “Add to Mallna” button for online stores, similar to Pinterest’s “pin it” button for Chrome.
Kasaji has added a very prominent feedback option on his website, encouraging all Mallna users to help him improve the new service.
An “Original” Idea to Stop Fraudulent Medicine Receives Honorable Mention at GIST Tech-I Competition
In Africa, one of the most disturbing trends is the pervasiveness of fraudulent medicine. Every year, over 700,000 people die due to complications from fake medications, illegal but poorly regulated. To combat this growing trend, Egyptian researcher Tamer Ahmed developed the mobile app “Original.” He received a $2,000 CRDF Global grant and an honorable mention at the GIST Tech-I competition.
To use Original, customers scratch off a label on the medication to reveal a unique code, and text the code to Original for authentication. They receive a text in reply with the medicine name, confirmation of authenticity, and its expiration date.
With over 17 years of experience in network design and implementation, Ahmed is inspired to create technology that focuses on social and economic issues, and has worked to bring telecommunications services to rural areas. In 2011, his team won the Best New Service award at AfricaCom 2011 for his app Surf & Pay, which makes it possible for neighbors to share the cost of an internet connection, and offers new opportunities for profit for small business owners in Uganda and Kenya. He was also first runner-up at the 2011 Cairo Arabnet Ideathon for iCall Taxi, an SMS-based taxi ordering service.
Moroccan Internet Security Startup Receives GIST Tech-I Honorable Mention
As internet security becomes a larger global concern, start-ups and small businesses find it harder than large, established firms to keep up with the latest electronic security measures. Rachid Harrando, a professional from Morocco with a background in IT, is Co-Founder of NETpeas, and winner of a $2,000 CRDF Global grant and an honorable mention at the GIST Tech-I 2012 Competition.
NETpeas is an online security assessment tool that can remotely detect security vulnerabilities. Though there are many antivirus softwares currently on the market, Harrando’s project seeks to democratize internet security by making a product from the best technologies currently available, but at price smaller companies can afford. “We bring technology used by big corporations to [small businesses] and startups,” Harrando explains.
Launched last year, NETpeas was named an Arabia500 company in 2012. Tech security is expected to rise from $55 billion to $71 billion in the next three years, which positions Harrando’s start-up to ride the wave.
“My friends and family think I am crazy to have started a business in Morocco instead of the U.S. or France,” he says. Harrando approaches the challenges of building his own start-up with a dry sense of humor, “Frankly, I prefer when they think I am crazy. . . It’s simply so much fun to be independent and create your own company. We’ve learned so much that I would recommend it to anyone, my kids included.”
GIST Tech-I 2012 Honorable Mention a Smart Buy for Senegal
Senegal’s streets are lined with vendors selling all types of essential goods, many of which are imported, from small, cramped stalls. Laurent Liautaud wanted to bring this street-side shopping experience to a convenient online store, with a focus on local products. His project, Nikobok, earned an honorable mention and a $2000 grant from CRDF Global at the GIST Tech-I competition.
Liautaud, a 35 year old French entrepreneur living in Senegal, has spent time in several developing countries, and believes entrepreneurship and social progress go hand in hand. Nikobok, which means “We are together” in Wolof, is a start-up designed to help Senegalese families help one another. “The idea is quite old, and has been inspired by the South African company Kawena from the 90s,” he explains in an interview with Afrique IT News. Kawena helped individuals living in Mozambique order goods to be delivered to relatives in South Africa. Nikobok replicates the model, allowing Senegalese living abroad to order essential goods online at lower or identical prices to those found in the market, and have them delivered to their families in Senegal at a low cost.
Liautaud hopes his technology will fight back against the rising cost of living in Senegal, and the saturation of their market with imported goods. “We especially want to push the Senegalese abroad to give their opinion on the economy by influencing consumption,” he says, emphasizing the importance of supporting the local food industry. “Nikobok is buying smart in Senegal.” The site has been active since the end of July, and Liautaud’s team is in discussion with local groups to promote the service.
Lebanese Entrepreneurs Reimagine the To-Do List, Win Honorable Mention at GIST Tech-I Competition
“Think about it. Almost everything you have to do today, someone did yesterday.” So say Bassam Seif and Nadi Chemali, entrepreneurs from Lebanon who have developed Kactus, an innovative to-do list and crowdsourced tutorial app. The team received an honorable mention at the GIST Tech-I Competition, winning a $2,000 CRDF Global grant to develop their technology.
Kactus provides the user a platform to upload to-do lists, whether it’s the steps to applying for a visa, getting into college, or fixing a car. What sets it apart from popular how-to websites like YouTube and eHow is the ability to customize and save a to-do list with personal progress updates and changes according to your needs. It will start with 200 instructional lists on college applications, visas, and other government paperwork.
Chemali and Seif are passionate about their decision to become self-starters. “I like . . . that I can transform ideas into a product I can share with others,” Chemali says in an interview with website Entrepreneur Levant. Seif was banned from entering Saudi Arabia after he left his job there to become an entrepreneur, and his sacrifices are a constant inspiration to his team to press on. They plan to market the app in the MENA region first, where there is a greater regional need for technical knowledge, but have plans to expand their reach to the global community.
GIST Tech-I 2012 Top Female Entrepreneur Urges Philanthropy through Shopping
With a video pitch set to cheery ukulele music, Centsless taps into the growing culture of young shoppers in Malaysia, and is an example of the rapidly evolving tech startup culture in the booming Southeast Asian country. Jolene Sim, who was awarded a $5,000 CRDF Global grant and the title of Top Female Entrepreneur at the GIST Tech-I 2012 competition, is the Co-Founder and Marketing Director of the new company.
Centsless is an online portal that allows merchants to do away with loyalty cards, instead using the customer’s phone number to reward purchases and referrals. On track to launch in February 2013, the website already has 2000 users signed up to beta-test. Its youthful and energetic message seeks to make businesses stand out among their competition.
Centsless made a bold move to stand out from the competition by urging philanthropy. After qualifying for the GIST finals, Centsless donated 1,000RM to the BARIO Community Project, a charity that helps develop struggling indigenous communities. They have also negotiated a partnership with MoneyTree, an organization that teaches children entrepreneurship and financial literacy.
Sim represented Malaysia at the 10,000 Women Entrepreneurship Program. In a video message from Taylor Business School, she speaks from the heart to other entrepreneurs, “My advice to anyone who has a dream is to go out there and try to make your dream a reality. You never know what you can do until you’ve stretched to your limits.”
Third-Place Winner of GIST Tech-I Competition Redefines “Clean”
“What if hospitals could disinfect themselves?” asks Pakistani entrepreneur Saman Khan. No more worrying about germs because someone “missed a spot” when wiping down a surface. In her native country of Pakistan, 58% of the population lacks sanitation, at an estimated national cost of 344 billion rupees a year due to health problems and lives lost.
Driven by her background in environmental science, Ms. Khan used nanotechnology to develop “Nanosanitizers,” a self-sanitizing sheet that can be applied on top of any surface and kills bacteria on contact. Her project won third prize, a $5,000 CRDF Global grant, in the GIST Tech-I 2012 Competition.
The process is entirely automated. Activated by normal light, the nanoparticles are oxidized and kill microbes on contact, leaving the surface germ-free. The technology requires no frequent reapplication, and in keeping with Khan’s eco-conscious background, is free of harmful chemicals. The technology has already received approval from the American Academy of Sciences, and the product is being beta-tested by a major Pakistani surgical goods manufacturer.
Khan has taken part in several national idea and business plan competitions, including being first runner up of INVENT, IBA, and winner of GIKI, Green Idea Challenge. She is currently completing her post-graduate degree in environmental science at the Institute of Environmental Science and Engineering-National University of Sciences and Technology (IESE-NUST), in Islamabad.