So what’s App with all that?


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So what’s up with all these “Apps”? Do we really need these tools to help us navigate our daily lives? Did you know there is a $4 App called the Hair Clinic? It supposedly regenerates your hair by sending special frequencies to you follicles!  There’s also an App called the “Woo Button”, yes a button that blurts out a simple “Wooooo!” Surely Steve Jobs had more cerebral uses in mind when he came up with the applications platform.  So given the deep rooted common background, Steve and I share, (both of Syrian Origin), I have taken the liberty to develop my own list of “Abe’s 9 must have Apps of 2012”:

  1. The “I told you so” App,  monitors unsolicited yet priceless advice I give to random people, and then send them I told you so emails and texts when they mess up, having failed to heed my valuable advice.
  2. The “1 minute fast-forward” App, is a button I would push when I find myself listening to an endless phone conversation and just want to move things along.
  3. The “Whatever” App, is a tool that automatically translates the intended meaning of the word “whatever” when annoyingly used by my teens.
  4. The “You looking me?” App is used for those instances when I’d like to know whether the young lady across the bar is actually looking at me or is looking at the TV behind the bar.
  5.  The “Arab Spring Cleaning” App is a real-time tool with latest updates on Arab dictators, with projected exile locations and potential impact on local real estate prices.
  6. The “Just one more” App would monitor my alcohol intake and issue a warning message showing me a facsimile of how I will look and feel like at 6:57am the next morning should I imbibe that last drink I’m still holding in my hand.
  7. “Homework guard” is an App that replaces my continuous nagging so that my kid finishes his homework. Instead it sends a delicate wireless electric shock to my son’s frontal lobe causing homework inducing convulsions.
  8. The “Teen descrambler” App allows me to unscramble and decipher the low volume subhuman noises that emanate from my teens when they rarely communicate with me.
  9. “Mind-scriber” Is what I would have used when I woke up at 3am last night and came up with this lame article. Instead of pen and paper, mind-scriber simply saves fertile ideas in my brain’s hard disk for later access (or deletion). 

By Ibrahim Mardam-Bey: father, husband, brother, friend, entrepreneur and writer.


Twitter: @MardamBey



The Arab ‘Conflict of Interest’

This article is not about the conflicts, revolutions and uprisings that the MENA region is experiencing and is anxious about, says Ibrahim Mardam-Bey, CEO, Merchant Edge. This is about long established and deeply embedded cultural and business practices of brokering influence and power and their leverage for personal gain. It is about the business and influence connections and the impact they can have on the MENA entrepreneurial landscape.
‘Conflict of Interest’ comes in all shapes and sizes; it is favouritism, nepotism, and corruption all in one neatly packaged black box. It is a practice that can generate accolades and praise from beneficiaries yet generate a greater amount of resentment and envy from those who don’t. It is a nefarious disease that eats away at the burgeoning spirit of Arab entrepreneurism; it is the old versus the new. Webster defines conflict of interest as “when an individual abuses power emanating from a privileged position to benefit his or herself.” There is no doubt that this practice had its rightful cultural and tribal roots that remain embedded in the MENA business community. It took root many decades ago to protect wealth from colonial tentacles. But what purpose or role does it have in today’s global economy? It stifles entrepreneurship, demotivates generations of entrepreneurs and alienates the new breed of international investors. What once was a justified practice of protectionism against colonial invaders is today’s major hurdle to Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and startup growth. It remains so rampant and customary that one wonders if it is simply inevitable.It hinders SME’s by distorting the value chain so that it is more important who you know than what your business model is. Our entrepreneurs have grown up with the overriding shadow of influence brokering. Entrepreneurial resources must only be focused on innovation and development and should not waste one grey cell on “who do I know and where”.
Paradoxically there is another side to this coin. Entrepreneurs in our region have few alternative sources of finance but family and friends. It is a well of human and financial capital that these new entrepreneurs depend on for building and sustaining new startups. Brothers and sisters depend on their parents and each other to create ecosystems that are vital to startup and SME growth in our region. So highlighting the downsides of “conflict of interest” should not come at the expense of supporting our entrepreneurs.