Yadig to launch iPhone, BB apps, eyes expansion

UAE internet startup mulling expansion into Jordan, Syria; Middle East ‘fertile ground’ for tech sites, says CTO
Yadig to launch iPhone, BB apps, eyes expansion
INTERNET STARTUP: Dubai-based Yadig.com will unveil an iPhone application in the next two weeks (Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)
By Karen Leigh
Wed 15 Dec 2010 09:11 AM

Dubai-based
internet startup Yadig.com, which provides real-time feedback on restaurants
and entertainment via user reviews, is to unveil an iPhone application in the
next two weeks and a BlackBerry application next month, a critical step as the
site moves to expand its reviews to include categories from salons to
healthcare providers.

“With
what we’re doing, you have to have a mobile app,” Johnny Huntington, Yadig’s
chief technology officer, said in an interview with Arabian Business. “[They]
go hand in hand.”

Soon,
Yadig’s users will also be able to see restaurant picks in Dubai and around the
GCC by clicking on map locations, which will be available online and on mobile
devices via the new applications.

“We
want to expand to other markets – we’re GCC based, but we also want to spread
to Jordan, Syria, the rest of the MENA region,” said CEO Saif Abdul Rahim Al
Zarouni. “We want to add [reviews for] medical services, financial services,
salons – if you come to a city, would you know where to get your hair done?
We’re expanding.”

Users
have a dashboard that shows them their review buddies, and are notified when
those users post reviews or when something new opens in their designated city.

Having
watched its technological aspirations simmer far below the ranks of the US,
India and Europe, the Middle East is finally starting to see young tech
entrepreneurs break through.

“There’s
fertile ground for startups in the Middle East,” Huntington said.

“In
the last couple of years a lot of people have been starting up in the Middle
East. It’s still raw in terms of ideas and business, but a lot of these
dot-coms are starting to pop up,” Al Zarouni said.

The
28-year-old Al Zarouni, born to an Emirati father and American mother, attended
Auburn University in the US and moved back to the UAE permanently in 2004.
Yadig was founded out of frustration with existing review sites, he said.

“People
were always asking, ‘where do you want to go tonight?’ What do you want to
eat?’ They needed a place to go that would have reviews. You might not have the
same taste as your friends and family.”

Yadig
was launched last month. The site, which was self-financed, incorporates
elements of social networking portals such as Facebook and open-review sites
such as Yelp.

The
site currently employs ten staff, all of whom are expats.

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