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AUB alumnus and co-founder of yamli.com talks about innovation and entrepreneurship with engineering students.

Summary: AUB alumnus Habib Haddad (CCE 2002) found inspiration in the 2006 July War even as it wreaked havoc in the country.

Based in the United States and eager to devour every bit of news on Lebanon to keep track of events that might be affecting loved ones, Haddad turned to the world wide web for information. But he was disappointed to find very little on Lebanon in English, realizing that he needed to tap into the Arabic news world online.

AUB alumnus Habib Haddad (CCE 2002) found inspiration in the 2006 July War even as it wreaked havoc in the country.Based in the United States and eager to devour every bit of news on Lebanon to keep track of events that might be affecting loved ones, Haddad turned to the world wide web for information. But he was disappointed to find very little on Lebanon in English, realizing that he needed to tap into the Arabic news world online.But that left him with another problem: his American keyboard was not Arabic-enabled. [In any case, his Arabic typing skills were limited.]

So instead of throwing his arms up in desperation, Haddad decided to do something about it.Thus came the idea for yamli.comCoa web-based transliteration tool that can convert Arabic words typed in Latin script into ones written in Arabic letters.Haddad joined forces with his friend Imad Jureidini, also a computer engineer, and co-founded Language Analytics, a US-based internet start-up which launched yamli.com in 2007.The new technology has already won the Best Web Technology, 2008 Pan Arab Web Awards in April 26, 2008."Our vision is to empower the Arabic web," said Haddad, during a talk he held at AUB recently. "The first step was to help facilitate typing in Arabic. The second step is to encourage creating Arabic content, because right now, the Arabic digital culture is endangered."Entitled "From Idea to Reality," the talk was held on August 4 in the Engineering Board Room. It also addressed steps needed for creating a startup including forming the team, financing the project, using the right software engineering principles and getting the appropriate protection for your ideas. The talk drew on Haddad and Jureidini's key entrepreneurial experiences and the steps they took to convert Yamli.com from a concept into an active startup.

According to Haddad, less than one percent of all blogs are in Arabic, even though Arab internet users make up about 5 percent of all worldwide users. "In fact, studies at the American University in Cairo shows that 78% of Arabic internet users have never typed in Arabic! Imagine if 78% of French never typed in French," he said.

So Haddad and his partner are also partnering with Google to help improve Arabic search engines so that they could recognize different Arabic dialects and distinguish words phonetically even if typed in Latin script.

As a student, Haddad was inquisitive and full of ideas, he says. "If you have an idea, talk to professors, entrepreneurs, well-established people, but believe in yourself and do your research. Partner with someone who complements you, and brings something you donCOt have on the table."Haddad also encouraged young graduates to think out of the box. "There is this misconception in Lebanon and the Middle East in general that you always need to work at the biggest and most famous company as soon as you graduate, but in fact you will learn more from small companies and start-ups, where you can build very strong relationships and connections with successful people," he said.

Haddad expressed his gratefulness for the education he received at AUB, saying: "What I really like about AUB is that they teach you to get down and dirty your hands in the actual engineering. They did us a big favor by walking us through the nitty-gritty basics before showing us the big picture."In particular, he named Dr. Ayman Kaysi, the chair of the electrical and computer engineering department, as one of the professors who motivated him most and helped him develop his ideas.Moreover, he said that the final-year-project, which all engineering students have to submit, is something every student should take advantage of."ItCOs a chance to actually start building something, and it's a learning experience that is truly valuable."Haddad told students not to give up in the face of failure. "In our culture, a failure is considered shameful, whereas in the start-up culture it is only a learning experience."

Haddad has other things on his plate, too. He has also co-founded InletCoInternational Network of Lebanese Entrepreneurs and Technologists. Moreover, he also founded ReliefLebanon a grass root effort aimed at supporting the relief efforts in Lebanon during the July 06 war.

Haddad holds a master's degree in electrical engineering and computer graphics from the University of Southern California, in addition to his engineering degree from AUB.

Gulf Bank KOC Branch Reveals New Draw WinnerKuwait, August 7th 2008: Gulf Bank has announced the winner of its third prize draw for 2008 at the KOC branch. The successful customer to win the KD 5000 was Ms. Huda Ali Haidar Ashkanani.

Ms. Ashkanani was presented with her cheque by Gulf BankCOs KOC Branch, Mr. Mark Abi Karam.

The KOC Branch Customer Draw has been a great success for Gulf Bank so far this year and throughout the past two years. The draw is open to all KOC employees who bank with Gulf Bank and reinforces the importance of Gulf BankCOs relationship with KOC.

On winning the KD 5000, Ms. Ashkanani said, C[pounds sterling]I would like to thank Gulf Bank for this amazing prize and for the excellent service the bank provides me at the KOC branch. It is especially wonderful to have a convenient branch for me to bank at and yet have this great opportunity to winning this outstanding prize.C[yen]

About Gulf BankGulf Bank is KuwaitCOs second largest and fastest growing commercial bank. Established in 1960, Gulf Bank has since progressed to becoming an industry-leading financial services provider complemented by a large network of 44 branches strategically positioned in key locations in Kuwait for the banking convenience of customers.Gulf Bank Co awarded CyBest Retail Bank in the Middle EastCO in 2005 and 2006 by Banker Middle East Co routinely surpasses its competition by focusing on one simple strategy: delivering superior customer satisfaction. Gulf Bank has consistently delivered strong financial results in a highly competitive market environment reflecting its well focused and effective business strategies.The Bank continues to grow and evolve its leadership position within the Kuwait banking community as a result of its innovative Transformation and Actualization Strategies that have been the driving force behind its management, operations and remarkable success since 1999.

A[umlaut] 2008 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

A[umlaut] 2008 Al Bawaba (Albawaba.com)

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