In 1985 Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg teamed up for Back to the Future, a trilogy of highly successful sci-fi films that achieved cult status among fans. In the second installment, the series’ protagonist, Marty McFly, travels to the future in his iconic Delorean time machine all the way up to the year 2015 where flying cars, hoverboards and holograms are commonplace. Zemeckis and Spielberg might have overshot in some aspects, but that is exactly why the movie captivated many a young viewer, including our protagonist for this article, Dany El Eid.
Today, Augmented Reality has crossed over to the real world from being pure science fiction, making it better and empowering people to become enablers. In an interview with Apps Middle East, Dany El-Eid, Digital Evangelist and Founder of Pixelbug, talks about their new AR app titled Colorbug, deciphers the future of AR, its efficient solutions and how it can help create a sustainable business and lifestyle.
Are you a child between 4 and 10? Do you want to meet Patrick the Horse, Pablo the Penguin, Ricky the Rabbit, or Bugsy? Now you can download the colorbug app to enjoy a coloring educational adventure with all of these characters.
In a few days, Pixelbug will launch Colorbug in both English and Arabic, first on Apple’s iTunes and later on Google’s Play Store. Dany Eid, cofounder and managing partner, explained that Colorbug is an edutainment app that relies on augmented reality to magically bring storytelling and coloring books to life.
Pixelbug, since its inception in 2012, has relied on delivering projects for a wide customer base, including multinationals such as Nestlé, Sony, Lego, andProcter & Gamble. However, the team has always wanted to design its own products. Based on what they’ve learned from their corporate projects, they now feel confident enough to strike out on their own…
…Read entire article from Wamda link below
When Dany El Eid, a Lebanese-born entrepreneur, needed quick cash to fund his Dubai-based digital technology business Pixelbug he found the banks were offering him enormous rates of interest and a mountain of paperwork to get it.
By chance, he says, a financier he knew told him about an online company that links those who needed loans with investors, reducing the rate of interest for the borrower and increasing it for the lender. To boot, the company, Beehive, could get him the Dh200,000 he needed much quicker than the bank.
Instead of the weeks and months it can take to get a loan from a bank, Mr El Eid, said he got the loan in under 24 hours for the much needed cash to fund his company as it searches for longer term funding from venture capitalists – businessmen who take risky bets on start-ups.
“I was very fortunate, especially since Beehive had recently launched,” says Mr El Eid, 32, who founded the business in 2012 . “It came at the right time because we didn’t want to go to the banks. There is a lot of red tape and interest rates are through the roof and Beehive just allows us to have extra breathing space to manage cash flow as we close our funding round.”
Mr El Eid says that when he approached the banks, he was offered interest rates between 20 per cent and 26 per cent for a 12-month loan and would incur a penalty for early repayment. Instead, with Beehive, he was able to get a two year-loan at a rate of 14 per cent interest a year. And there would be no penalty for early repayment.
More and more small and medium sized businesses such as Pixelbug are cutting out banks in favour of cheaper online middlemen. These lenders are called peer-to-peer marketplace lenders, online companies that pair up those in need of debt with investors seeking to get a higher rate of interest than by leaving their money in the bank.
While peer-to-peer lending is not yet established in this part of the world, it is gaining traction in developed countries.
Late last year, the Lending Club, a San Francisco-based online lender, sold shares to the public in the biggest IPO for the industry, valuing the company at the time at more than US$5 billion. The global peer-to-peer lending market was valued at more than $9bn in 2014 and is forecast to grow to in excess of $1 trillion by 2025.
At stake is the monopoly banks have over financial services. Analysts say peer-to-peer lenders may create a more even playing field for consumers and businesses that need financing, especially at a time when interest rates across the developed world, including the UK, are near zero as central banks desperately try to stoke economic growth by keeping rates low.
While banks argue their clients want the kind of value-added services they can offer, such as a branch network and loyalty perks on credit cards, increasingly, no-frills banking is starting to proliferate in another blow to the big lenders that have been dogged by allegations of wrongdoing since the crash of 2008.
In the UAE, the peer-to-peer lending industry is still in its infancy – and faces huge challenges. The banking industry in this country is huge, where more than 50 lenders service a population of about 9 million.
Analysts say it will be a tough challenge for them to break the mould of the big lenders here – the country is overbanked and short on investors who may find peer-to-peer investment appealing.
“In theory it should make it easier for SMEs but I am not so sure it will work here because this market is so far behind,” says Vishnu Deuskar, the managing director at Salvus Advisors, a Dubai-base firm that advises SMEs.
“We don’t even have angel investors on the equity side. There are hardly any early stage funds.
“My feeling is that it’s not taking off very well in the sense that in the ‘S’ part of the SME is where this really applies and they are struggling to get any meaningful funding. It’s a great idea but its probably early stages here,” Mr Deuskar says.
Beehive, whose chairman is the former chief executive of Emirates NBD Rick Pudner, who joined the firm in 2013, begs to differ and has ambitious plans to expand regionally .
Since it began its operations in November, it has attracted 800 investors and disbursed about Dh3 million in loans of about Dh100,000 to Dh500,000 to 10 SMEs for up to three years, says the Beehive founder and chief executive Craig Moore.
Typically at a bank, an SME will get financed at rates ranging between 16 and 25 per cent per year and will usually have to pay hefty early repayment penalties of between 2 and 5 per cent, Mr Moore says. At Beehive someone getting offered an 18 per cent loan at the bank would get it for about 13 per cent, he says.
“The important thing for this region is to make sure that the SME community starts to make more of the GDP numbers within the region and there’s more diversification from oil, real estate and some of the usual areas because it’s not just the UAE but the whole Mena region,” he says.
“The real challenge is around growth and employment. And it’s the SMEs that drive most of the employment.”
This country has been striving to bolster support for SMEs. Even though small businesses represent almost 92 per cent of the total number of companies here and provide more than 86 per cent of jobs in the private sector, they account for only about 4 per cent of total lending.
Banks typically do not give a breakdown for lending to SMEs, but almost every other type of lending has grown and anecdotal evidence suggests it is the same for SMEs.
Peer-to-peer lending does not yet overly concern them as the amounts involved are a drop in the ocean of total loans banks give out. As of the end of the fourth quarter of last year, outstanding UAE bank loans stood at Dh1.4tn, according to the central bank. Lenders also bet thetheir value-added serviceswill keep clients loyal.
“It’s a good thing start-ups and SMEs have greater and more diverse access to capital,” says Mahdi Kilani, the head of business banking at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank [ADIB], the largest Shariah-compliant lender in the emirate. “But banks such as ADIB still have a strong role to play in the SME sector.
“We not only provide growth capital but most importantly, we are long-term partners, and can give advice on business plans as well as providing transactional banking services and, as companies mature, we can help provide access to capital markets funding.”
Vikas Thapar, the chief executive of Emirates Money, the consumer financing arm of Emirates NBD, echoes Mr Kilani’s sentiments, adding that he sees peer-to-peer lending as complimentary to the financial services industry.
But he says there are still issues surrounding the legal framework in the UAE for such types of lending to ensure lender s’ rights are protected.
All these claims by the banks leave Mr El Eid unmoved.
“Having quick access to capital in our stage of the business at rates much lower than what banks offer is crucial for small businesses and start ups, crucial to our survival.”
Following a day of intense pitching between 10 shortlisted startups, pixelbug, a marketing technology engine, was named UAE ‘Get in the Ring’ champion. The Global Entrepreneur Challenge was co-hosted by Afkar.me and in5 on October 11th as part of the organisations commitment to grow the region’s start-up ecosystem. The UAE champion will now battle against other hopeful Middle Eastern entrepreneurs at the regional final in Riyadh in early November, ultimately winning the opportunity to pitch for an investment of up to €1,000,000 in the global final in Rotterdam.
pixelbug is a Dubai-based marketing technology company that helps businesses adapt new technologies to drive engagement with their stakeholders, across all industries. pixelbug’s latest augmented reality ‘edutainment’ app, colorbug, won the competition, which aims to revolutionalise the way kids aged three and above will interact with storytelling and colouring books.
On receiving the award, Dany el Eid and Elie Youssef, founders of pixelbug, said:
“pixelbug aims to make the world a more interactive place through the use of advanced technology and augmented reality techniques. We are delighted to have won today’s competition, and we are greatly looking forward to presenting our company at the regional final in Riyadh.
“‘Get in the Ring’ has given us the opportunity to reach regional investors, and to interact and network with experts. We appreciate in5′s efforts in providing such an ecosystem for entrepreneurs, and we would like to thank the judges and everyone who took part in this competition; we won’t stop until we make it happen!”
Judge and Afkar.me founder Juan Jose De La Torre commented: “For the first UAE ‘Get in the Ring’, the quality of entries was very strong. I congratulate pixelbug who’s concept is innovative and creative, and who are changing the face of marketing in the UAE. By developing partnerships such as the one we have with in5, and bringing these competitions to the UAE, we continue to support the growth of the region’s entrepreneurship and investment ecosystem on its journey to become a global player.”
Judge and TiE President Prashant K. Gulati said: “There was a very positive and confident energy in the presentation room. All of the participants gave great presentations and it was difficult for us to decide who to crown the winner! We wish all of the startups the best of luck in their endeavors, and we advise them to keep on going because there is always work to be done.”
Majed Al Suwaidi, Managing Director of Dubai Internet City and Dubai Outsource Zone, said:
“‘Get in the Ring’ provides an ideal platform for start-ups and entrepreneurs to meet experts and industry leaders, and to share knowledge and ideas. It is of the utmost importance that start-ups are given the proper infrastructure and support, and in5 continues to work extremely hard to ensure that start-ups and entrepreneurs are supported and nurtured from idea creation through to the launch of a product or service.
“The companies who took part in the competition and the innovation we saw here today is testament to Dubai’s vibrant entrepreneurial landscape, and it is important that people see today’s success stories to realise there are no barriers to entry into entrepreneurship. I would like to congratulate all of the competitors as well as pixelbug, and I wish them the best of luck in the regional finals in Riyadh.”
Finally, the long awaited pixelbug keynote presentation that received wide acclaim at the 2014 installment of agIdeas, the premier creative & design conference that has been running over 24 years, is available for your viewing pleasure.
In this presentation, Dany and Denis provide a compelling glimpse into the creative process behind the Magic of Augmented Reality to an audience of over 2000 knowledge seekers at the new Hamer hall in Melbourne, and share their insights into what may arise in the very near future as we progress into the digital technology revolution. So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!
As an active member of the entrepreneurship and startup community in the region, Dany was invited for a live interview on Sky News Arabia to discuss his latest mentoring role with Deehubs, a startup that converts digital billboards into smart billboards that anyone can interact with. Dany was also invited to share his thoughts on the latest digital trends. Take a few minutes to see the entire interview below.
pixelbug had the privilege of participating in the final installment of agIdeas in Melbourne, Australia. We spoke amongst some of the foremost creative minds on the planet to a crowd of over 2000 leading design professionals and students. At the same time, we release an augmented reality app for the conference that garnered over 700 downloads. You can download the app and get a glimpse into the conference for yourself by following http://pixelbug.ae/agideas (quick link below video)
Check out the awesome video complication of the entire 3 day event that our friends at Melbourne International Design Week put together.
We’re spreading the digital bug to all corners of the Earth
pixelbug had the privilege of giving a keynote presentation at the 12th TechForum held at Dubai Silicon Oasis. The aim was to educate the audience about Augmented Reality and promote its adoption.
Thank you to our friends and partners at Dubai Silicon Oasis and Qualcomm for putting together a great event!
We are honored and excited that Dubai will have the privilege of hosting the Expo2020!
pixelbug is confident that it will have a pivotal role in the successful accomplishment of the Dubai Expo 2020 vision and that of cementing innovative use of digital technologies that enhance the central theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”
We had an amazingly successful night at the Gulf Capital SMEawards 2013!
The pixelbug team was dashing and dressed to rival top Hollywood stars! However, one key member, our dear Denis, was missed. He was in Germany celebrating a very important milestone with his family
It’s marvelous to receive such recognition and it’s a great motivator to keep doing what we do best…capturing imaginations with marketing technology!
Without further ado, we are happy to share the footage of our presentation at InsideAR 2013.
pixelbug is proud to have put the Middle East, and specifically Dubai, on the augmented reality map!
Thanks again to the metaio team for putting a great conference together and affording us this great opportunity.
pixelbug is proud to be featured in the October 2013 issue of Forbes ME for our groundbreaking work in Augmented Reality technology for healthcare. The application was deployed for Boehringer Ingelheim sales representatives to help them promote a new type of inhaler device and stand out from their competition.
The success of this application proves that AR technology can be deployed as a viable sales tool. As a Boehringer Ingelheim brand manager testifies “AR is doing very well job for us in terms of feedback from the doctors and reflection on sales especially during launch”
The pixelbug management team will be representing the MENA region as its foremost augmented reality (AR) pioneer at the leading AR conference, InsideAR 2013 in Munich, Germany.
InsideAR is the largest augmented reality conference in Europe and amongst the top 3 globally. It’s organized by metaio GmbH every year. The first one was held in 2009 and in 2012 attracted more than 520 participants from 39 countries. We’re expecting over 600 participants in 2013.
pixelbug will be showcasing their flagship AR projects as case studies during the conference. The pixelbug team’s objective is to demonstrate to the European technology community that augmented reality and tech entrepreneurship in the MENA region is significantly important since some of its countries have the highest smartphone penetration in the world.
Wish us luck and let us know if you’re there!
This interview was filmed at the Cribb where pixelbug and KinTrans signed their official mentorship agreement.
KinTrans is a startup that develops software to create and improve the lives of people with hearing disabilities by translating sign language into audible words. It’s an exciting and promising technology for the greater good and pixelbug is proud to be involved in this project for the significant impact that it can entail. We all wish Mahamed Elwazer the best of luck in his endeavors!
TURN8, a new startup seed accelerator program from DP World, has partnered with pixelbug, a Dubai-based technology solutions firm, to provide coaching and training to the 10 teams selected for acceleration in TURN8′s first round.
As part of the TURN8 seed accelerator, pixelbug will provide one-on-one coaching and a monthly training session for all startups in residence. The team may also offer technical mentoring and support to startup teams that need their unique expertise. A four-person team from pixelbug will take up residence alongside the TURN8 teams at a new co-working space in Al Quoz, The Cribb, established by startup incubator i360accelerator.
DUBAI // Shoppers waving their hands in the air and grasping for imaginary objects while squealing with pleasure attracted more than a few strange looks this week. Even more so when they started throwing smartphones in a bucket of water.
The unusual activity was sparked by a video game developed by a Dubai technology company, pixelbug. Augmented reality technology – seen by many as the future of computer gaming – uses a camera to record an environment, then projects digital images on top.
Players see virtual objects visible only to them moving around their real surroundings – prompting the shoppers’ waving as they played using a newly developed waterproof smartphone as a controller. At the end they had to drop the phone into water, which sent their scores to a leaderboard. The player with the highest score each day won a tablet computer.
Dany El Eid, founder and managing partner at pixelbug, said about 300 people had playeddaily since the demonstration opened at Mall of the Emirates last Wednesday. Elie Youssef, another managing partner, said: “It wasn’t just professional gamers playing, it was people from all walks of life because the game relied a lot of luck as well as skill.
“We had a Saudi woman win one day and a completely different person the next.
“It was amazing how competitive everyone was – they kept coming back to make sure they still had the highest scores.”
Pixelbug specialises in augmented reality apps for smartphones and tablets and has been nominated for AME Info’s Startup of the Year Award 2013.
Unfortunately for those who became hooked on the game, there are no plans to release it. “This isn’t an android app that will be available for the public,” Mr El Eid said.
DUBAI // Visitors to the ArabNet digital summit yesterday could shave and style their beards by waving their hands at a screen – even if they had no facial hair.
A digital razor application, developed for Schick by the UAE marketing technology company pixelbug, enabled onlookers to grow a virtual beard, shave it and even dye it.
The company’s demonstration was one of the highlights on the opening day of a three-day summit at Dubai’s Atlantis, The Palm hotel.
Attending are more than 125 speakers, 70 sponsors, and 900 professionals from around the world.
Some of the biggest online names are taking part, such as Facebook, Microsoft and LinkedIn, yet it was the local company’s demonstration that proved the most eye-catching.
The shaving app is one of the company’s most recent efforts at producing augmented reality software. It lets smartphone a iPad users interact with digital objects projected on to the real world around them.
Pixelbug showed a more practical use of its software, in the form of an iPad app developed for pharmaceutical brand Boehringer Ingelheim.
The app displays an interactive virtual model of the brand’s Spriva Respimat inhaler used to treat lung diseases. Using it enables doctors to test, open and discover how the inhaler works without holding it.
Dany El Eid, founder and managing partner of pixelbug, said the company wanted to capture the imagination of medical professionals by relieving them of complicated texts full of complex medical terms.
The company has created software for a wide range of industries, and insists there is nothing “gimmicky” about its product.
“The technology alone is a novelty. You need to link it to solving real business problems and business objectives,” said Mr Eid’s managing partner and long-time friend Elie-Charles Youssef.
Local industry was also given a boost with the announcement that the summit would become an annual fixture in Dubai, having previously been held in Beirut.
“Dubai is definitely now the hub for digital businesses in the Arab region,” said Omar Christidis, founder and chief executive of ArabNet.
“We’ve seen PayPal, LinkedIn and Facebook all open regional offices in Dubai. This is now the new home of the summit an a place where we believe it can grow.”
The UAE was hailed as the ideal “shopfront” for selling online services in the Arab world, but experts said more needed to b done to create and build those services locally.
Charbel Fakhoury, vice president of sales, marketing and services at Microsoft’s regional office, said the country’s progress was encouraging.
“The UAE is doing the right thing in investing in education,” Mr Fakhoury said.
“It takes a while to build a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and that requires academic stakeholders, and the Government to provide the environment and support to create more funding so that people feel there is a value on investing your time in inventing something new, other than just being a consumer in technology.
“We at Microsoft work with students to continue to develop this ecosystem and culture, and I think we are seeing the makin of that in the UAE. Some feel in the UAE that they want to jump straight in, but Silicon Valley was not created in five to 10 years.”
Alexander McNabb, director of Spot On Public Relations who spoke at ArabNet, said online services in the region were growing rapidly, but there was still some catching up to do with other parts of the world.
“For most of us, the impact of this will be felt in terms of e-commerce, the ability to get the stuff you want, when you want it, the way you want it and if you don’t like it, send it back,” Mr McNabb said. “I want to be able to buy a packet of Walkers crisps from Spinneys at the click of a mouse, and the day that happens I think we’ve all succeeded.”
pixelbug was silver sponsor at the latest installation of the STEP2013. We had the opportunity to showcase some of our latest innovations in augmented reality and gesture based technology. We also enjoyed the presence of great digital pioneers from the UAE as well as some excellent pizza!
Augmented reality is an effect that combines digital graphical content with the real-world physical environment in real time, when viewed through any camera-enabled, network-capable device such as a smartphone, tablet or PC.
Pixelbug has already won business in the region with P&G, Novartis and Samsonite.
“75% of mobile phone users in the Middle East own smartphones and 67% of those access the net through their devices”, said founder and managing partner Dany El Eid. “What we aim to do is allow people to engage and explore products and brands in ways that were never before possible using augmented reality technologies.”
Managing partner Elie-Charles Youssef said, “Digital marketing campaigns with augmented reality features deliver, on average, 55,000 unique users per month with an average dwell time of 7 minutes and 45 seconds.
“What’s important to note here, versus other marketing initiatives, is that the technology is not forced onto the consumer. It is a decision by the consumer to engage out of an interest and willingness to explore a product in a fun and innovative way, in their own time”.
Smartphone penetration in the UAE sits at over 62%, the highest in the world according to a Google report, conducted by Ipsos MediaCT, released in May of this year. Saudi Arabia has the second highest ownership at 60% while the US is at 44%.
While augmented reality business solutions are not yet main-stream, several leading brands have adopted the concept hoping to associate their brand with the innovative technology.
“As one of the region’s leading brands, Ariel is always exploring new ways to showcase its innovative technology and communicate with our customers in an engaging way”, said Omair Siddiqui, brand operations manager at P&G, Dubai.
“We work closely with pixelbug, as our marketing technology partners, and together have successfully launched interactive on-ground activations that immersed our customers in Ariel’s cleaning process. We were able to fuse virtual elements with the customer’s real-life physical interactions with the Ariel box, creating a totally new experience”.
Dany believes augmented reality (AR) technology unlocks boundless opportunities. “The best thing about AR is that it transcends all industries. We’ve worked with government, automotive, education, healthcare and FMCG brands. We currently have interesting projects in the pipeline with major airline, banking, tourism and hotel brands”.
A key difference of AR applications is the data analytics, which provide crucial information on the number of active users, gender, ethnicity and most importantly in-app dwell time – data that can be used to measure ROI. Leveraging AR with a print advertisement campaign, for example, can yield powerful results and provide accurate user demographics for print publications that were never before possible.
Elie added, “We always strive to deliver experiences that serve a purpose or solve an actual business issue, be it driving footfall, increasing awareness or maximising sales. The ‘wow’ factor alone just isn’t sustainable in the long term”.