Since its inception in 2013, the in5 incubation centers launched by TECOM Group, have enabled entrepreneurs and startups in the UAE and the wider Middle East to bring their business ideas to life. Building up Dubai’s pool of talented entrepreneurs, the three in5 centers have successfully helped incubate over 160 entrepreneurs and startups which have secured approximately over AED140 million in funding.
A growing media focus from the incubator is welcome. While most of the newsworthy in5 incubated startups have so far graduated out of the tech innovation center, the in5 media innovation center is ready to make its presence felt. Operational since 2017, the in5 media innovation center is a creative hub which offers the media entrepreneurial community an opportunity to work collectively on media-related endeavors.
Digital Studio toured the facilities and spoke to some of the highly talented and passionate media entrepreneurs to understand how in5 media innovation center is helping them launch their media projects into the stratosphere. Speaking to them one can see why entrepreneurs, start-ups and even freelancers can find no better place in which to get new ideas off the ground in Dubai’s competitive markets.
With an AED 60 million investment in state-of-the-art studios, production and post-production facilities and an environment for networking, skill building and talent development, in5 Media has the capacity to house up to 200 start-ups across the media value chain at any one time. Facilities also include a co-working space, video studios and screening rooms.
in5’s media hub has impressive creative facilities which most startups and early stage entrepreneurs could hardly dream of having access to without incurring a huge investment. These include fully equipped production and recording studios, screening rooms and editing suites, a well-stocked equipment room with high-end professional gear, and large open co-working areas and meeting rooms for content creators, as well as dedicated office space for startups.
Majed Al Suwaidi, Managing Director of Dubai Media City, Dubai Production City says, “in5 is an important element in our ecosystem representing the innovation arm, enabling entrepreneurs and startups to foster innovation and bring new ideas to life. In the past, we have hosted several events to help startups unlock their full potential by providing key benefits such as incorporating a business set-up framework, training and mentorship, networking, investment opportunities, as well as cutting edge prototyping labs, studios, and creative workspaces. We look forward to building a more creative and innovative community, supporting the ambitious growth vision of Dubai’s leadership.”
As the media industry digitizes, in5 is empowering these startups with tools to succeed in an online world, whether they are creating audio-visual or written content. The entrepreneurs profiled in this month’s cover story are creating path breaking content in innovative formats.
Street Life ME: guided digital video tours to connect with authentic city life
Fabian Dagostin, founder of StreetLife ME is looking to disrupt the travel tours sector with his video based guided tour app. “We are a building a mobile app and platform where people can go on the app and do digital tours. You can self-guide yourself through the authentic city experience. The Street Life app is scheduled to launch in September 2018. At the moment Fabian is working hard to build out a rich library of videos for the mobile app.
Speaking about the vision for Street Life he says: “With our solution, simply open our app, and find a digital tour according to your location or interest. You can use our stop by stop navigation and we have a video per stop – allowing you to self-guide”
Above: Fabian Dagostin, founder of StreetLife ME
Dagostin explains more about Street Life’s latest invention: “We always use a local expert who takes us around town. The tours we have are alternative yet hip, such as an extreme tour jumping from planes or biking through the desert, surfing in the UAE, second-hand thrift shopping, vinyl and cassette hunting, street photography.”
Dagostin elaborates on his marketing strategy: “We work with the biggest film distributors in the region and have a few hotels on board and we will have a strong digital strategy for tourists and we have a strong friends in the creative community.”
“We have a fantastic video team and we also do music videos for local artists and people who are doing paintings outside.” continues Dagostin. Explaining his reasons to join in5 he says, “They have a fantastic video production facility and that helps us with the quality of the output.”
Streetlifedxb.com - the media platform Dagostin has built already has a ton of cool content engaging youthful Dubai audiences interested in the alternative underground culture of the city. For the upcoming Street Life app, film production is going on at the in5 center, while they continue making videos for clients. “We will have 45 videos – we have 30 already when we launch and then we will spread them out over time. At the moment we are in Sharjah and Dubai because Sharjah has a lot of traditional culture. Hopefully in the future we can go to Saudi and Lebanon and see how that goes.”
Squaremotion: Stop Motion Videos for Social Media
Vit Kodousek is the co-founder of Squaremotion who are creating stop motion videos for small businesses and digital startups to use on social media. “We are very interested in stop motion videos which are very popular these days especially on Instagram and other social media. Instagram is very popular in GCC and a lot of people engage with their videos.
“From the client’s perspective if you want to get a high engagement of your video, you need to figure out some new engaging ways and stop motion videos are exactly that!”
Kodousek is happy with the respose they have got: “Clients are responding to what we do and we are very happy with the way we are progressing.”
Speaking on the decision to be based at in5 he says, “It makes a lot of sense – if you see the property and facilities, we have here. All the things that we need to do as a startup we have here. All the things we need we have at our fingertips. The studio, sound recording, the editing, its everything what we need.”
“Of course the other things is it’s a community of people – creative thinkers who can help you out if you need it. We use the facilities very often and we try to be active in the community. Because we are all in the same boat as startups, and we know that there are other things we can do to help the other startups.”
“For the stop motion videos the studio is very important because you need a source of constant light Stop Motion is a unique technique where you take photos one at a time. For a good quality stop motion – you really need a constant light and proper conditions so hence we need the studio.” To produce the animation he says there are “Several software you can use, but we use Adobe Creative Cloud which is what in5 provides us with.”
Kodousek is now creating a SaaS platform for stop motion video creation. “What we are coming up with is a platform where people can make their own stop motion videos based on certain templates which we are creating. There will be several plans – one is free and two other paid tiers and it depends on the kind of resolution you want, watermarking etc.”
The platform will take a while to see a release: “We are working on a wireframe and we will be doing some feasibility studies. It takes some time with the beta testing and all so the timeline to introduce the platform at this moment is May 2019.”
“in5 is a great community of people and that’s what I would like to stress,” reiterates Kodousek.
“It’s not just those people who are in at this moment but also those startups who have graduated. They come back and share with us their own ideas. Some of them have become very successful so they are looking for opportunities to invest and to help others. There are lot of interactions, seminars and different workshops where we can mingle,” he added.
Soundeals: A marketplace for Arabic voice over talent
Soundeals is a voice over marketplace for voice over talents from around the Arab world. AbdAllah Khashaba, Co-founder says they cater to all the accents, ages and all the different categories of talent. “There is no other competitor in the Middle East or any company that is working in the same field. Only voices.com and you know they might announce they have 200,000 people working with them but actually the accounts are not activated. Talents are registered once and are asked to renew subscription even if they do not have any work on these kind of platforms.”
“On the Soundeals platform subscription is free. We have a commission based model – we take 25% commission from the talents. Now we have more than 12000 talents from the Arab world. We have a really hard filtration process where we filter the talents. It goes through five levels of filtration. We have got about 1500 professional talent and this number is really big.”
Above: AbdAllah Khashaba, Co-founder, Soundeals
Elaborating on the filtration process Khashaba said it was because of the limitations of reviewing so many voice over samples. “We saw that many of these samples are not really good quality. So we decided to make it depending on levels. If it doesn’t meet our technical requirement and language related requirements we do not accept. The vocals need to be clear without any mistake. It has to be in standard Arabic and not in slang.”
Level 1 talents can only upload one sample and they need to wait until the sample is accepted by Soundeals. Level 2 allows you to upload up to 3 sample, receive private deals from clients and be able to add one add-on service. Add-on services are pre-defined services which might be related or unrelated to voice. Users can add services like proof reading, scenario writing services so it’s not just only voice services. Level 2 talents can also bid on open projects.
“Clients can have three ways to work with us – one they can open a project. Second option is to go directly to a talent and send him a direct deal. And the third is to just buy a pre-defined service. Our major clients are advertising companies. Also clients like Emaar have used to record IVR systems for all their branches. Besides we also have audio books and audio summaries or anything else audio related.”
Soundeals acts as a mediator but also provide squality assurance because they hold the money until the service is completed to the client’s requirement. Clients can define everything about the service – price, execution time, number of files, technical properties, and quality parameters. If the voiceover talent doesn’t complete these requirement the money will be refunded to the client.
Khashaba tells us about their journey to become part of in5 media hub: “We had another experiment with in5 but it was refused. That’s the point we knew about in5 because we wanted to incubate our project. When we came to the Soundeals idea, we felt it would be accepted. in5 is very important because all the biggest brands in the world come here to Dubai. Audio books is a big market for us and we are trying hard to make deals.”
“In the Middle East You will not find any place better than here in Dubai. in5 allows you to innovate - it gives you a free place to work and think and gives you any help you want. For us it’s not just about making the money – it’s also about helping so many people who are living on the income coming from Soundeals.”
“I would like to mention a situation where in5 really helped us. Our main method of sending and receiving payments was Paypal. One time our account was blocked and this was a big problem for us. They told us it would not be unblocked for six months. I sent an email to Rekha Setpal (in5 Head of Community/Industry Partnerships), and within one day the account was unblocked. They could do it because they have very good relations with everyone. When we want an introduction to a company, or to attend a conference or event, they can facilitate that.”
Wedo Media: Startup Storytellers
Farid Antone and his partner Roland Daou have a background in radio, television and video production and their new project is creating a Television & Digital format show that tells the stories of startups in the region. “In5 made it happen,” Antone starts by declaring. He begins by telling the story of how the concept for Wedo Media came about.
“Four years ago I made a shift into technology and I wanted to learn how to develop apps, I ended up developing seven apps and because of that got involved with a lot of startups and programmers and I started to meet other people in technology and I noticed there was a gap: No one was talking about the struggles and stories that led to these awesome ideas coming to life.”
“Meanwhile, the UAE government is pushing this initiative for technology, science and innovation by supporting young entrepreneurs and creating a support system with things like in5. So you have the govt support which is amazing and you have all these startups emerging. It was fantastic but I realized the media wasn’t covering this – nobody was telling our story and if we don’t tell our story, no one will,” continues Antone.
“So what we did was film a pilot which is what you need to get into TV. We filmed. Pitched. Got in. Sounds easy but it’s not. You need to have all the elements in place. You need to do your homework and be persistent. A positive attitude is obviously key. We love creating concepts based on market needs and bringing them to life. Our feet are firmly on the ground. Experience counts, meaning we got our first project with our license.”
We had a chance to go to a lot of other areas and we came to in5 and saw the facilities are fantastic. My partner who is a veteran in the TV industry time was impressed with the facilities.”
“The (incubation) process is great as well. You need to have the area and platform to be able to work. This place makes it possible to bring our ideas to life. We use the studio facilities all the time but we film a lot outside as well,” Antone adds.
Antone says in the first month of setting up at in5 things started coming together. We pitched the concept of talking about the stories of startups. “Even though it was Ramadan, we got three TV stations on board. We got two mobile operators & several digital platforms who want our videos.” says an enthusiastic Antone.
Above: Farid Antone, founder Wedo Media
“The bottom line is we just have to get it done. Move forward with it. Tell the stories. Hire the right people who are storytellers. We don’t just show up and do reports. You need to find the story behind it. So there is an emotional connection & journalistic aspect to it.”
Along with that they had to consider the the production and the economic angle to it which is how do we monetize the whole thing? “Everything has to flow right. We have prior startup experience and that helped,” says Antone.
Some of the stories are right there in your face Antone says: “Like the person who put together an app because he couldn’t find people to play football with. And now it’s a business and people meet up on football pitches all over the UAE and become friends so that’s an amazing story.”
“in5 made it happen because I was wondering for a year how I was going to get this done. I came in here and I was convinced in the first ten minutes. One of the challenges for our business was are there enough startups? Are there enough stories to tell? There’s over 20,000 in the GCC and there’s your answer.”
“So we went for it and will launch the first TV & Digital show in October of this year. The show is currently in production and we want it to have an international look and feel to it. Things are moving in the right direction and we’re happy with that!”
MadAboutSale: personalised Sale discovery for Shoppers and engagement platform for Brands
Vikas Tawani has launched Madaboutsale.com – a sale discovery platform for shoppers. The platform allows one to track when a brand has a sale and offers a high level of personalisation to users.
“It’s all about consumer engagement. For every brand sales are the major driver of revenues. Fear of losing out on a great product offer makes people buy. We are building this consumer engagement platform, says Tawani, because he realized most UAE retailers do not have this kind of platform. “When you want to know where there is a sale or offer you cannot get the data at your fingertips.”
Talking about the in5 experience Tawani says, “When I came to in5 I liked that they do not just accept anybody. It’s a validation for us because you know they actually value the concept. There was a great set of senior people thrashing about my idea and giving feedback. The value addition they bring is great and they help you along the journey. One needs an identity and so we said we will enter with in5.”
LFNT Live: Educating and inspiring entrepreneurs
Alexandra Galani joined Bogdan Alexandru Zoicas after watching The Afterhour – a live digital TV broadcast presenting discussions between entrepreneurs, investors and field experts, covering local topics. The show’s concept was initialy developed by Bogdan and Tiberiu Iacomi as a means to air and share important conversation within the region. To Alexandra however, this was the perfect platform on which education, inspiration and support could be taken one step further.
With an example in hand and a vison to ultimately support the entrepreunerial ecosystem, Elephant Live was born.
The concept they came up with was to shift the traditional broadcast production methods to create content feeds and supports entrepreneurs, while being more engaging and marketable.
Galani says, “We use a live format because it is interactive and viewers can ask questions of our experts as we stream. It is nice because it forms bonds and takes discussion to deeper levels. As such, we’ve had a huge amount of feedback from experts who want to be a part of the show.”
Bogdan says they relationship with in5 started when he was looking for a studio in which to broadcast the show: “I was invited to join by an in5 representative. Expert facilities like this would be costly and difficult to get. Considering we are self-funded this was a great opportunity, with in5 saying we will support you and give you the opportunity to express yourself. It was a kind of freedom.”
Galani adds: “There are other freezones that offer startup packages, however what we liked about in5 is the personal and hands on approach of those in charge. They are really lovely and accomodating. And then there was the licensing process. Setting up here was straight forward and the support throughout meant that most of the stress was lifted off our shoulders.”
Bogdan also says that what with the facilities and support provided by in5, there is no excuse not to forge ahead: “You cannot say I don’t have this camera or lens or anything. in5 supports you with what you need. And you have access to all sorts of partnerships and services. Like when you need a designer for your logo – they just recommend someone and it’s done!”
Galani sums up the in5 experience: “They facilitate us, support us and accelerate us. Most importantly they help us meet the local requirements, so we do not need to panic every time their is a amendment in the law, because they are there, ready to explain and cover our needs. It’s nice when you are part of this entity and you have a group of people watching your back!”