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Dubai Startup Belong Is A Social Platform With A Twist

The company has ambitious plans for growth and has already begun scaling operations in US cities.

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dubai startup belong is a social platform with a twist
Belong

Startup Belong is an online social platform catering to the needs of fitness, food, travel, arts, sports, and wellness enthusiasts. The app also allows users to connect in person to attend events together.

Founders Michael Askew and Matthew Gaziano have first-hand experience of struggling to connect with the right people after living in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, for seven years and later moving to Dubai.

“When we moved to Dubai, we were excited because the place is amazing. We expected to have a packed, endless social calendar, but when we got here, we realized we’d got to make friends first,” says Gaziano. “How do you get out, find like-minded people, and do all these fantastic things? How do you approach people? It’s not easy to go over and speak to someone in public and start talking about yourself,” he added.

The pair were inspired to design an app where “online meets offline”, helping people to break the ice and form lasting relationships out in the real world.

After launching the app in 2019, the social platform now has a user base of 350,000 and a presence in Dubai, New York, and San Francisco.

Also Read: Top 10 Best Freelance Platforms In The Middle East

Belong works by allowing users to select their interests. After that, they start posting and discussing what they have in common. The company has already secured $3.5 million in crowdfunded investments and plans to raise more funds in 2024 to crack the wider US and MENA markets.

“The UAE is a fantastic place to launch your business,” explains Gaziano. “It’s such a melting pot of cultures and nationalities, and you can really put your startup to the test here”.

The United Arab Emirates aims to become home to 20 startups valued at over $1 billion by 2031 in a bid to become a regional center for innovation and entrepreneurship. Last year, the country launched its Entrepreneurial Nation initiative to help entrepreneurs set up operations in the Emirates and support them when expanding their businesses, exporting products, and tapping into online sales.

The UAE’s digital economy is expected to reach a value of $140 billion by 2031, rising dramatically from its current $38 billion, according to a report by the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy.

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Truecaller To Use Microsoft Azure AI Speech For Call Answering

The new service features a powerful speech generation tool to allow users to create AI versions of their voices.

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truecaller to use microsoft azure ai speech for call answering
Truecaller

Truecaller, a well-known app for identifying and blocking spam calls, is enhancing its services by allowing users to create AI versions of their voices. The new feature, available to those with access to Truecaller’s AI Assistant, stems from a partnership with Microsoft and its Azure AI Speech tool, allowing the generation of realistic AI voices that accurately mimic users’ speech patterns and tone.

“This groundbreaking capability not only adds a touch of familiarity and comfort for the users but also showcases the power of AI in transforming the way we interact with our digital assistants,” explained Truecaller product director and general manager Raphael Mimoun in a recent blog post.

The AI Assistant in Truecaller screens incoming calls, informing recipients of a caller’s purpose. Based on this information, users can decide whether to answer the call themselves or let the AI Assistant handle it.

When the feature was introduced in 2022, users could only choose from a collection of preset voices. The ability to record one’s own voice represents a significant step towards the complete personalization of the service.

Also Read: Getting Started With Google Gemini: A Beginner’s Guide

Azure AI Speech, showcased during the last Build conference, only recently added a personal voice feature that lets people record and replicate voices. Microsoft explained in a blog post, however, that Personal Voice is available on a limited basis and only for specific use cases like voice assistants.

To maintain ethical standards, Microsoft’s Azure AI Speech automatically adds watermarks to AI-generated voices. Additionally, a code of conduct requires companies to obtain full consent from individuals being recorded and prohibits impersonation.

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