Friday, September 22, 2023



FTC Sues Anesthesia Group Backed by Private Equity, Claiming Antitrust

The federal agency claims the company’s practices amount to antitrust activity, a new salvo in the government’s scrutiny of health care consolidation that has led to higher prices.After vowing to tackle consolidation in the health care industry, the Federal Trade Commission filed an antitrust lawsuit on Thursday that challenged the growing practice of private-equity firms backing companies that amass medical practices and dominate local markets.The suit targeted a large doctors’ group that operates anesthesia practices in several states, claiming the group and the private equity firm advising and financing it were consolidating doctors’ groups in Texas so they could raise prices and increase their profits.The agency brought the civil lawsuit in federal court against U.S. Anesthesia Partners and Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, a private-equity firm in New York.“These tactics enabled USAP and Welsh Carson to raise prices for anesthesia services — raking in tens of millions of extra dollars for these executives at the expense of Texas patients and businesses,” said Lina M. Kahn, the chair of the F.T.C., in a statement. “The F.T.C. will continue to scrutinize and challenge serial acquisitions, roll-ups and other stealth consolidation schemes that unlawfully undermine fair competition and harm the American public.”The case is significant because it focuses on a business strategy that has become increasingly common in health care. Private equity firms have been helping companies to buy more doctors’ practices in various medical specialties, and those purchases have allowed them to control a large share of certain local markets.The suit is also unusual because it was also brought against the private equity investor, which now owns a minority stake in U.S. Anesthesia Partners, and not just the company.A recent study from researchers at the Petris Center at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a progressive think tank in Washington found that private equity-funded consolidation had led to price increases in gastroenterology, dermatology and other medical specialties.The F.T.C. has said it considers this type of health care merger to be an enforcement priority, a sign that this case may be the first of several scrutinizing the growth of private equity in the industry. The firms have argued that their businesses do not violate federal antitrust law.The suit argues that Welsh Carson and U.S. Anesthesia Partners have expanded their reach across Texas with an explicit goal of using market share to raise prices its doctors and nurses would be paid by insurers.Brian Regan, the head of Welsh Carson’s health care group who sat on the board of U.S. Anesthesia Partners, was quoted in the lawsuit as telling lenders who were financing a key deal that the firm planned to “build a platform with national scale by consolidating practices with high market share in a few key markets” and to improve “negotiating leverage” with insurers.After learning of the strategy, an executive in a practice the firm bought in Austin, Texas, responded, “Awesome! Cha-ching,” according to the suit.The suit also accused U.S. Anesthesia Partners of conspiring with another large anesthesia company to stay out of its markets in Texas. The name of that company was redacted from the legal filing.Two of the largest acquisitions in U.S. Anesthesia Partners’ history were previously reviewed and approved by the F.T.C.Welsh Carson and U.S. Anesthesia Partners disputed the F.T.C.’s claims and said they would fight the lawsuit.“The F.T.C.’s civil complaint is based on flawed legal theories and a lack of medical understanding about anesthesia, our patient-oriented business model and our level of care for patients in Texas,” said Dr. Derek Schoppa, a Texas physician and board member of U.S. Anesthesia Partners, in a statement.The company said its commercial prices in Texas had only “increased modestly over the years,” remaining “essentially” flat after being adjusted for inflation.Amy Stevens, a spokeswoman for Welsh Carson, said the private equity firm was “disappointed” by the suit. “Unfortunately, this is consistent with the series of recent lawsuits that the F.T.C. has filed using litigation to pursue radical policy theories,” she said in a statement. “We are confident we will prevail.”Fiona Scott Morton, a professor of economics at Yale and the former chief economist for the Justice Department’s antitrust division, said the case highlighted how many small mergers could have the same effect as a large one.“If each individual transaction is small but there’s lots of them, you end up with a cumulative effect,” she said. “It’s important not to get caught up in evaluating one transaction at a time and missing the forest for the trees.”

Sudan army chief warns UN that war could spill over in region

Sudan's army chief warned Thursday at the United Nations that months of war could spill over in the region as he urged international pressure on the paramilitary unit he is fighting.General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the de facto ruler of Sudan since a 2021 coup, alluded to the rival Rapid Support Forces' ties with Wagner, the Russian mercenary group hit by Western sanctions over alleged abuses in Africa."The danger of this war is now a threat to regional and international peace and security as those rebels have sought the support of outlaws and terrorist groups from different countries in the region and the world," Burhan said. "This is like the spark of war, a war that will spill over to other countries in the region," he said."Regional and international interference to support these groups is crystal clear by now. This means that this is the first spark that will burn the region, and will have a direct impact on regional and international peace and security."War broke out on April 15 after the collapse of a plan to integrate the army and the Rapid Support Forces, led by Burhan's former deputy, General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.The fighting in Sudan has killed at least 7,500 people, according to the NGO Acled, and displaced some five million people, dealing a new, devastating blow to efforts to bring democracy to Sudan.Burhan has increasingly been traveling around the world in what are seen as efforts to burnish his legitimacy.At the United Nations, he urged world powers to designate the Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, as a terrorist group. More from this section "They have committed all sorts of crimes that give grounds for such a designation," he said."Those who have supported killing, burning, raping, forced displacement, looting, stealing, torture, trafficking of arms and drugs, bringing mercenaries or recruiting children -- all such crimes necessitate accountability and punishment," he said.The United States earlier this month imposed sanctions on RSF leaders including senior commander Abdelrahim Hamdan Daglo, the brother of the group's leader, over alleged abuses including the killing of the governor of West Darfur.But the United States and other Western powers have also been strongly critical of Burhan. Alongside RSF leader Daglo, Burhan in 2021 sidelined the civilian leadership that had been part of a transitional power-sharing deal following mass protests that brought down longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir."We are still committed to our previous pledges to transfer power to the people of Sudan with great national consensus and consent," he said."The armed forces would leave politics for once and for all."abd/sct/jh

Saudi FM takes part in OIC, Arab League meetings during UN General

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Thursday took part in a coordination meeting of the foreign ministers of member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on the sidelines of the 78th UN General Assembly session in New York, the Kingdom’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The minister expressed the Kingdom’s condolences, sympathy and solidarity with Morocco and its people in the aftermath of the earthquake that rocked the North African country, and to Libya and its people following the deadly flooding in Derna. He praised the OIC and member states’ response to a call by the Kingdom for an extraordinary session of the Council of Foreign Ministers to address the desecration and burning of copies of the Qur’an in Sweden and Denmark. Prince Faisal highlighted the Palestinian issue and the pursuit of a comprehensive solution, in accordance with international legitimacy resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. He also chaired the Arab side of a high-level foreign ministerial informal interactive dialogue session between the Arab Summit Troika and the UN Security Council. During the session, the Saudi foreign minister said the international community faces many common challenges that require collective action, but no progress will be achieved without a safe and stable regional and international environment that enables countries to work together. The Arab Summit Troika is a group of three rotating countries that monitors the implementation of resolutions and commitments adopted by the Arab League, which consists of the outgoing, current, and incoming Arab Summit chairs — Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Other countries belonging to the Arab Group at the UN have been invited to participate in the meeting, along with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit. Prince Faisal said that since Arab issues make up a prominent share of the topics raised in the Security Council, strengthening cooperation and joint work between the Arab League and the Security Council to establish peace and security in the Arab world is of great importance. The Kingdom is interested in improving this cooperation to achieve a common perspective for dealing with crises and developing peaceful solutions, he said. Prince Faisal warned of the growing role of armed groups outside the framework of the state in creating these crises, which threaten international peace and security. He said the ease with which these groups gain access to advanced technology and weapons enables them to undermine state institutions. He called on the Security Council to take serious and strict measures against the groups. Prince Faisal welcomed the results of discussions on a road map to support the peace process in Yemen, which brought together the Saudi communication and coordination team with the Sanaa delegation in Riyadh, with the participation of Oman. He expressed the Kingdom’s hopes for dialogue between the Yemeni parties to pave the way for security and stability in the war-torn country, and ensure a future in which Yemen enjoys a comprehensive renaissance and sustainable development.

Census shows 3.5 million Middle Eastern residents in US – WXYZ

The United States had 3.5 million residents who identify as Middle Eastern or North African, Venezuelans were the fastest-growing Hispanic group last decade and Chinese and Asian Indians were the two largest Asian groups, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.The most detailed race and ethnicity data to date from the 2020 census was released Thursday more than three years after the once-a-decade head count, which determines political power, the distribution of $2.8 trillion in annual federal funding and holds up a mirror to how the U.S. has changed in a decade. The delay was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of a new method to protect the confidentiality of participants.The Census Bureau says the 2020 census provided more details on the nation's racial and ethnic groups than ever before, offering counts for about 1,550 racial, ethnic and tribal groups, although some tables aren't available at smaller geographies for some groups because of the new confidentiality methods.MIDDLE EASTERN OR NORTH AFRICAN POPULATIONThe 2020 census was the first to allow respondents to identify themselves as coming from a Middle Eastern or North African country, otherwise known as MENA. While there was no separate MENA category in the 2020 census, respondents were encouraged to write-in their backgrounds, and if they wrote Jordanian or Moroccan, for instance, they could be classified as MENA. The data showed that more than 3.5 million people did so or in combination with another group.The results come as the Biden administration contemplates updating the nation's racial and ethnic categories for the first time since 1997. Right now, MENA residents are classified as white, but they would have their own category under the proposed changes. The process also would combine the race and ethnic origin questions into a single query, because some advocates say the current method of asking about race and separately about ethnic origin often confuses Hispanic respondents.The bureau's American Community Survey previously has asked a question about ancestry, from which MENA figures could be inferred, but the survey collects data only from 3.5 million households while census forms go to every U.S. household."This is a monumental change," said Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute, a Washington-based advocacy group. "For us, it's a wonderful indication of what is to come when we secure a MENA category."According to the 2020 census, the two largest groups of people who identified as MENA, either alone or in combination with another group, were Lebanese, with more than 685,000 people, and Iranian with more than 568,000 people. The states with the largest MENA populations were California, Michigan and New York.HISPANIC POPULATIONVenezuelans were the fastest-growing Hispanic group. They nearly tripled their numbers, from more than 215,000 people to more than 605,000 people from 2010 to 2020, as they fled a political, economic and humanitarian crisis that has lasted the entirety of President Nicolás Maduro's government."This shows, really, what is going on in Venezuela," said Ernesto Ackerman, president of Independent Venezuelan American Citizens, an advocacy group in Miami. "There is nothing there and it's getting worse."The Biden administration on Wednesday said it was granting temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who are already in the U.S. — quickly making them eligible to work.Mexicans were, far and away, the largest Hispanic group in the U.S. with a population of 35.9 million people, followed by Puerto Ricans with 5.6 million people and Salvadorans at 2.3 million people.WHITE POPULATIONAmong the census respondents who identified as white, English was the most common detailed group written down on the form where people were asked to elaborate on their backgrounds, with 46.6 million people saying they were English alone or in any combination. They were followed by those identifying as German, with 45 million people, and Irish, with 38.6 million people.BLACK OR AFRICAN AMERICAN POPULATIONAmong the 46.9 million Black respondents, African American was the most common answer, either alone or combined with another group, at 24.5 million people, when asked about their backgrounds. That answer was followed in more or less a tie between Jamaican and Haitian at more than 1 million people each. Nigerians had the next highest responses, with more than 604,000 people, followed by Ethiopians at more than 325,000 people.ASIAN POPULATIONMore than 5.2 million people identified as Chinese, the largest group among respondents who were Asian alone or in combination with another group. They were followed by Asian Indians with 4.7 million people, Filipinos with 4.4 million people and the Vietnamese population at 2.2 million people. The Nepalese population was the fastest growing Asian group, growing from almost 52,000 people in 2010 to almost 206,000 people in 2020. California was home to the largest share of the six most common Asian groups in the U.S. New York had the second-largest share of Chinese residents, while Texas had the second-largest share of Asian Indian residents.AMERICAN INDIAN AND ALASKA NATIVE POPULATIONFor the American Indian and Alaska Native population in the U.S., Cherokee was the largest group alone or in combination with another group, with 1.5 million people. The next highest was Aztec with almost 584,000 respondents and Navajo Nation with more than 423,000. Tlingit was the largest Alaska Native alone or in any combination group, with more than 22,600 people.SOME OTHER RACEAlmost 94% of the almost 28 million respondents who answered "some other race" for the race question were Hispanic, supporting previous research that showed Hispanics often are unsure how to answer the question with the current race categories. Some 1.9 million respondents who picked "some other race" identified as multiracial or multi-ethnic, and more than a half million said they were Brazilian, either alone or in combination with another group.___Follow Mike Schneider on X, formerly known as Twitter: @MikeSchneiderAP.

President Biden Announces Key Nominees – The White House

WASHINGTON – Today, President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to serve as key leaders in his Administration: Melissa G. Dalton, Nominee to be Under Secretary of the Air Force, Department of Defense Andrew Plitt, Nominee to be Assistant Administrator for the Middle East, U.S. Agency for International Development Tanya F. Otsuka, Nominee to be Member of the Board of Directors of the National Credit Union Administration Board Spencer Bachus III, Nominee to be Member (Republican) of the Board of Directors of the Export Import Bank of the United States Melissa G. Dalton, Nominee to be Under Secretary of the Air Force, Department of Defense Melissa G. Dalton currently serves as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs. She is responsible for advising the Secretary of Defense and other senior defense leaders on defense continuity and mission assurance, homeland defense and defense support of civil authorities, Arctic and global resilience, and U.S. defense and security policy for North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean. Previously, she served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities from January 2021 to March 2022. In that role, she was responsible for advising the Secretary of Defense and other senior defense leaders on national security and defense strategy, the forces, contingency plans, and associated posture necessary to implement the defense strategy. Before joining the Biden-Harris Administration, Dalton was a Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) International Security Program and Director of the Cooperative Defense Project. Prior to joining CSIS in 2014, Dalton served for a decade as a career civil servant in the Bush-Cheney and Obama-Biden Administrations in the Department of Defense. A graduate of the University of Virginia and the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, she is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and was a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow.Andrew Plitt, Nominee to be Assistant Administrator for the Middle East, U.S. Agency for International DevelopmentA career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Andrew Plitt serves as USAID’s Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East region. In this role he is USAID’s principal senior-level contact for oversight and management of policy, strategy, resources, and operations across the Middle East and North Africa region and directs technical and regional support matters for the Bureau for the Middle East. Plitt joined the Foreign Service in 1991 and most recently served as Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East covering North Africa and Egypt from 2019 to 2021. He served as USAID’s Senior Development Advisor at U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany from 2016 to 2019. He has also served as Director of the Office of North African and Arabian Affairs in the Bureau for the Middle East, and Director of the Office of Strategic Planning and Operations in the Bureau for Asia, covering the Asia and Middle East regions. Plitt’s previous overseas assignments include West Bank and Gaza, Jordan, Morocco, Rwanda, and Cote d’Ivoire. Prior to government service, Plitt held staff and mid-level positions at Price Waterhouse and Ernst & Young offices in Washington, D.C. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Plitt holds a Bachelor of Arts from North Carolina State University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin. He and his spouse are proud parents of two boys.Tanya F. Otsuka, Nominee to be Member of the Board of Directors of the National Credit Union Administration BoardTanya F. Otsuka is a dedicated public servant with over a decade of experience in financial regulation and supervision. She is currently Senior Counsel for the majority staff of the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee under Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH), where she has handled the Committee’s work on banking and credit union issues since March 2020. In 2019, she also served on the Committee staff through the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University’s Capitol Hill Fellowship Program, on detail from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Prior to her time with the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Otsuka was a staff attorney and Counsel at FDIC where she worked on a broad range of banking issues. She began her career at the FDIC as a law clerk in 2010 and an Honors Attorney in 2011.Otsuka earned her J.D. from Boston College Law School and B.A. with distinction from the University of Virginia. She is originally from Woodbridge, Virginia and is a member of the Virginia Bar. She currently resides in Washington, D.C. with her husband and son. Spencer Bachus III, Nominee to be Member (Republican) of the Board of Directors of the Export Import Bank of the United StatesSpencer Bachus III has served as a member of the Export-Import Bank (EXIM) Board of Directors since May of 2019. Bachus served a Member of the House of Representatives from the state of Alabama. In the House of Representatives, Bachus worked on the committees of Transportation and Infrastructure, Judiciary, and Financial Services. He was named Chairman Emeritus of the Financial Services Committee for the 113th Congress. His accomplishments for his district and state include work on I-22, the Northern Beltline, other major highway and infrastructure projects, establishment of the National Computer Forensics Institute, creation of the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge, and construction of the Alabama National Cemetery to honor veterans and their families. Selected by his Republican colleagues as Ranking Member and Chairman of the Financial Services Committee from 2006 to 2012, Bachus assumed his responsibilities during the 2008 financial crisis, where was the first to advocate for the Capital Purchase Plan to help stabilize the financial sector. The approach was ultimately adopted by the Treasury Department and returned a profit to the U.S. Treasury of more than $15 billion dollars. He has also helped to pass the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act, deposit insurance reform, Check 21, and he is credited with originating the provisions which authorized Medicare coverage to seniors for prostate cancer screenings that eventually became part of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. Bachus is the recipient of numerous financial, legal, humanitarian, and leadership honors, including the Houghton-Lewis Leadership Award from the Faith and Politics Institute. Starting in 1993, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) and Bachus cohosted an annual civil rights pilgrimage to Alabama, visiting the cities of Selma, Montgomery, and Birmingham. Bachus holds his B.A. from Auburn University and a J.D. from the University of Alabama School of Law. ###

New Student-Loan Plan Promises to Lower Payments. Should You Switch to SAVE?

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Midas List Europe 2023: Submissions Are Now Open – Forbes

The Midas List Europe, Forbes’ data-driven ranking of the top 25 private tech investors in Europe, Israel, and the Middle East, is back for a seventh year. Submissions are open through October 6. 2023 saw Europe’s largest ever tech IPO, a flurry of investment in AI startups and a trickle of later-stage rounds, signaling early signs of green shoots for Europe’s tech ecosystem. Even so, the value of venture capital deals in the first half of this year was down 60.8% from 2022, while exits have hit a decade low. But some investors have thrived in this turmoil, and the seventh annual Midas List Europe will highlight the 25 most successful. Submissions for the Midas List Europe 2023, the definitive ranking of the continent’s top private tech investors, are now open through October 6. Produced in partnership with TrueBridge Capital Partners, the Midas List Europe is a data-driven list that evaluates hundreds of investors from across Europe, Israel, and the Middle East’s top venture firms. Forbes and TrueBridge rank the top 25 VCs based on their portfolio results: Eligible portfolio companies must have gone public or been acquired for at least $100 million over the past five years, or have at least doubled their private valuation since initial investment to $200 million or more over the same period. Liquid exits count for more than unrealized returns, and the Midas model rewards investors who have made bigger, bolder bets. With decades of experience and industry data, Midas and TrueBridge can ensure that data is input correctly and confidentially; portfolio performance shared in the Midas process is not published or shared. THE MIDAS LIST 2022 Read More Note: Investors that submitted for the Midas List, published each May, are encouraged to re-submit for Midas List Europe unless their portfolio activity remains unchanged. Last year’s Midas List Europe saw Index Ventures’ Danny Rimer shoot to the top of the rankings thanks to Adobe’s $20 billion offer to acquire one of his early bets, Figma. With that deal stalled in antitrust arbitration, there will be challengers for the title of Europe’s top venture investor, and likely several new entrants adding to last year’s four breakthroughs.

Libraries Commission launches audio services tool

RIYADH: CEO of the Saudi Libraries Commission Abdulrahman Al-Asem has launched a device created from the audio library booths “Masmou” project at the King Fahd National Library Park in Riyadh.The device allows library and park visitors to benefit from the audio services provided in an accessible and easy way.The launch of the device is a continuation of the second phase launched by the commission this year in Al-Ahsa, to be followed by many devices in Riyadh, Jeddah and the Eastern Province. It is also one of the strategic initiatives of the commission aiming to provide library services in gathering places.Through “Masmou,” the commission seeks to introduce audio content and facilitate access to knowledge for different community groups in all regions of the Kingdom by providing audiobooks in distinctive locations, as well as reviving cultural heritage in an innovative way.The idea of the audio library booths project was inspired by the telephone booths of the Ministry of Telegraph, Post, and Telephone in the 1980s and the 1990s, as they were commonly available and easy to use.The “Masmou” booths allow users to listen to audio content via mobile phone, by browsing content according to duration, topic, most listened to, and other categories. Users can then choose the desired audio file, with the ability to listen to a short clip directly via the device or scan the QR code to listen to the entire audio file via mobile phone. 

From Hip-Hop Fan to Full-on DJ with Pierre Carnet

Starting out his career in France, it was the hip-hop genre that initially captivated MassiveMusic Dubai’s managing director Pierre Carnet at the age of 14. Since then, the genre has been part of his listening diet and even fed into his becoming a hip-hop DJ. Following that, it was at FF Creative Community where Pierre first became a music supervisor, which saw him then lead the music department and work with brands such as Amazon and Audemars Piguet. Eventually becoming an independent music supervisor, he worked on campaigns and feature films for Parisian luxury brands Chanel, Cartier and Yves-Saint-Laurent. Joining the MassiveMusic team in 2020, his goal is to develop music solutions across both the EMEA and APAC regions, as he finds direct-to-brand music solutions. Sharing his journey, musical passions and varied listening diet – from Coldplay to Lil Wayne and Akala – Pierre speaks to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani.LBB > Taking things back to earlier days, when did you first discover a love of all things music?Pierre > There is some footage of me as a child dancing to disco tunes and messing around with a guitar, and I took some half-hearted piano lessons in the early days. But I would say, the real epiphany came around the age of 14 when I fell wholly into hip-hop culture, my first true passion in music. Beginning as a fan, I quickly moved on to experimenting with DJing and downloaded a music production program called FL Studio to begin producing some basic beats. The rest evolved from there, becoming a full-fledged hip-hop DJ and producer in Paris in later years, before getting into the space that I am now: consulting on music for brands and entertainment. I believe hip-hop was a great base to begin with, as it’s a genre that samples and mixes many other genres and eras, allowing you to develop an extensive musical ear and culture naturally. LBB > What were some of the early memories of songs or albums you have and are they attached to any specific memories?Pierre > I remember my first iPod Nano (RIP, still one of the best products I’ve ever bought), which at first was stocked full of my parent’s playlists. Think Abba, Elton John, and classic French rock. But the first album I ever bought for myself was ‘American Idiot’ by Green Day on CD (feeling old yet?), which I remember listening to on loop in my bedroom to transcribe the lyrics and learn to sing them. Other key memories include ‘Gymnopédie No. 3’ by Erik Satie, the first song I ever performed in public on piano, and ‘Viva la Vida’ by Coldplay, the first pop song I learned to play and sing simultaneously. The most iconic album of my youth has to be ‘Tha Carter III’ by Lil Wayne. Finally, I credit the songs ‘Find No Enemy’ by British rapper Akala and ‘Ill Mind of Hopsin 5’ by Hopsin for influencing my core values and perception of the world that surrounded me as a teenager. LBB > There’s something about music that creates a real sense of nostalgia and amplifies memories. What does music mean to you?Pierre > I listen to music every day and everywhere I go, in a sense creating the soundtrack to my own life. This means that I am able to identify the exact songs or albums that I listened to at particular periods in time, and listening to those tracks brings me back to travels, experiences, people, emotions, and sometimes even smells and physical sensations. Music truly helps anchor memories in our brains and can be used to resuscitate those memories. This is something we leverage regularly in our work at MassiveMusic to help brands and filmmakers create memorable, iconic moments. LBB > In your role as managing director at MassiveMusic Dubai, what does your day-to-day look like?Pierre > The Middle East is the fastest growing region in the world for the music industry, and has been flourishing at an incredible rate over the past decades. As an active participant in this growth, I engage in a variety of activities, ranging from assisting brands and agencies in discovering music for their campaigns or crafting distinctive and unforgettable sonic identities to participating in panel discussions that emphasise the significance of music or providing guidance to composers and local talent on monetising their art. Additionally, I collaborate with film producers to curate the perfect songs to convey their narratives. I feel incredibly fortunate to have a job that consistently brings new and unexpected experiences, all of which are deeply rooted in my passion for music.LBB > What are some of the pieces of work you’ve created that you are particularly proud of or attached to and why? Pierre > For French brand La Redoute and their campaign ‘Lou’, I took care of the music, using the song ‘Une Minute’ by young singer-songwriter Pomme. Beyond the resulting film being a beautiful story, this is a particular point of pride as the film was directly responsible for helping to launch this artist’s career – she went on to be nominated for the Victoires de la Musique (French Grammys) the following year and has now become a household name in France. I believe this is one of the beautiful aspects of our job creating music for film and TV: helping to promote young talents and give them the exposure they deserve. In more recent years, I’m proud of this epic film we produced for NEOM, now recognised across the Middle East as an emblematic representation of the ambitious initiative known as ‘The Line’. LBB > The Dubai office opened up in 2022 and was part of the company’s goal of expanding its global footprint. What has it been like working in the UAE so far and what are some of the unique aspects of the market?Pierre > Our ambition with opening an office in the UAE was not only to expand our scope to the MENA region, but also to become active participants in helping to build the regional music industry. So far, this has been an incredibly exciting adventure given the unique musical landscape: every week, we encounter new talent to work with and new opportunities to explore the world of sound. Beyond this, from a career development perspective, I've found that the Middle East is a region where ambitious individuals with a positive outlook and a proactive mindset can often achieve their goals and aspirations. On a more personal level, I have learned to cope with the heat and sun which, as a Frenchman from Normandy (the cold Northern part), was probably one of the biggest challenges when settling in.LBB > For brands looking to create a unique sonic experience for their audiences, what would you say is the best place to start?Pierre > Well, give us a call! Jokes aside, I have to give a boring answer here: the best place to start is to do a little research and learn about how audio branding and music experiences are built at a professional level. Unfortunately, we still encounter too many marketers who believe that music is an afterthought – a cheap, fast and easy accessory for their brand, failing to recognise it as the vital asset that it is. Developing a proper sonic experience for a brand requires thorough strategic thinking, time and the right investment if you want to compete with the TikToks and McDonald’s of this world. Think of your brand as a whole – how you are using music across the spectrum, from advertising, stores and locations to apps and devices, and you will begin to see the true scope and potential of building out a proper sonic identity for your brand. Done that? Then, do give us that call 😉 LBB > The UAE is known for its technological innovation. How does this play into some of the technology and equipment that you use daily?Pierre > Indeed, the UAE is a global hub for innovation in spaces like web3, AI and cryptocurrency, all of which, except the latter, have a direct impact on our business. At MassiveMusic, we’ve been working on developing tools that leverage AI for music curation, tagging and creation, as well as looking into the implications of AI for voice. I’ve written several pieces on voice deepfakes which is a passion topic of mine, as I’m convinced that, in a not-so-distant future, anyone will be able to clone a voice easily and use it for healthy creative purposes, or for harm, such as scams over the phone. We also get requests from clients for music and sound to be used in the metaverse, and work with many digital-first brands to develop their sonic ecosystems. LBB > Where do you see the future of music going? Is there anything that you’re excited about trying out or seeing executed?Pierre > I believe in an AI-augmented music world in the very near future. Tools for music and voice creation with AI are developing quickly, and the industry is racing to both adapt and capitalise on these innovations. I think we’re moving towards a landscape where creation is shared between humans and computer programs – half of the music in your playlist a few years from now may have been created by an algorithm instead of a person. Many see this as a challenge with a negative impact. I see it as an opportunity as, so far in history, every technological innovation has pushed artists to evolve and innovate as well, giving us new genres and ways of expressing art in the form of music. LBB > Aside from work, what are some of the hobbies that take up your time?Pierre > I still play around with producing beats at home and the occasional DJ set when the opportunity arises, but in recent years I’ve diversified my hobbies beyond music significantly. Dubai is a great hub for travel so when I can, I explore the fascinating countries of the MENA region. This has been a beautiful and rewarding journey so far, experiencing the incredible kindness of people across the region and the unique foods, sites, music and cultures in and around the UAE. Beyond this, I’ve been getting in touch with my inner Sporty Spice, running a sprint triathlon earlier this year and going on long cycling adventures every summer. Along with a few friends, we’ve been cycling across Europe for two weeks at a time, wild camping along the way – the latest trip in the summer of 2023 took us from Paris to Barcelona in 14 days, covering 1,200 km in total. And before you ask – no, the bike does not have a battery on it. LBB > What’s currently taking over your listening diet?Pierre > This is always a tricky question as it is very eclectic and changes every week. A couple of tracks I have on loop right now are the super-funky ‘Sexy Maserati’ by Babyman (discovered in the hilarious German TV show ‘Der Tatortreiniger’), ‘High No More’ by Saudi singer Hajaj for a solid jam, ‘Lala’ by Shkoon to mellow out, ‘Twee’ by Kaufmann when I’m in the mood for something darker, and ‘Sprinter’ by Central Cee and Dave, because I still can’t resist a good hip-hop banger.

AstroLabs joins forces with London Business School’s MENA Entrepreneurship Club

AstroLabs and London Business School Entrepreneurship Club host entrepreneurship event at AstroLabs Riyadh with Saudi VC leaders. Founding & Managing Partner at Nama Ventures, Mohammed Al Zubi, Partner at Joa Capital, Abdulrahman Al Mousa, and Partner & CEO at Impact46, Abdulaziz Al Omran, moderated by Jorge Grieve, Partner at McKinsey & Co, as well as hosting Roland Daher, CEO at AstroLabs and Ihab Tabbara, Co-founder of LBS Entrepreneurship Club in MENA, led the conversation on the event agenda. Mohammed Al Zubi expressed his confidence in the ‘3rd entrepreneurial evolution’ in the Kingdom. “What you’re seeing in Saudi Arabia is unparalleled, it might even be overstimulated by the government’s support.” The discussion framed the investment momentum in Saudi Arabia within the context of government initiatives, namely the ongoing and adaptive efforts to empower up-and-coming entrepreneurs in line with Saudi Vision 2030. They further debated the importance of localization and cultural integration as indispensable factors for a successful startup venture. Riyadh:- The prestigious London Business School’s MENA Entrepreneurship Club joined forces with AstroLabs, MENA’s leading entrepreneurship ecosystem builder, to support aspiring entrepreneurs with their journey in the Kingdom by bringing the first of a series of co-hosted events in Saudi and the UAE. The panel discussion about the entrepreneurial ecosystem “What VCs look for in a startup,” which was hosted at the AstroLabs coworking space in Al Malqa, Riyadh, brought together some of the most established venture capitalists in MENA, in an effort to bridge the gap between business school alumni and the Saudi entrepreneurial ecosystem. Founding & Managing Partner at Nama Ventures, Mohammed Al Zubi, Partner at Joa Capital, Abdulrahman Al Mousa, and Partner & CEO at Impact46, Abdulaziz Al Omran, moderated by Jorge Grieve, Partner at McKinsey & Co, discussed the current trends in the tech startup’s investment landscape, highlighting the current investment sentiment, elevated competitiveness of the Saudi ecosystem on a global level, and the role of localizing product market fit in attracting the right investments; the panelists shared their views on what makes a startup investment-ready in the current market.  Mohammed Al Zubi expressed his confidence in the ‘3rd entrepreneurial evolution’ in the Kingdom. “What you’re seeing in Saudi Arabia is unparalleled, it might even be overstimulated by the government’s support.” Al Zubi continued to emphasize the roles that enablers play in supporting the fast-tracked growth of the ecosystem. “They are racing to support entrepreneurial endeavors. What you’re seeing in Saudi, there is no equivalent anywhere in other geographies, we’re living in the platinum age of entrepreneurship, in MENA particularly – in Saudi.” The discussion framed the investment momentum in Saudi Arabia within the context of government initiatives, namely the ongoing and adaptive efforts to empower up-and-coming entrepreneurs in line with Saudi Vision 2030. They further debated the importance of localization and cultural integration as indispensable factors for a successful startup venture. Partner & CEO at Impact46, Abdulaziz Al Omran, highlighted how startups can capitalize on local culture to catapult their growth in Saudi as compared to their operations in other regions. “Online flower shops have been around for years, but Floward put an emotional element in their product messaging, and I think we’re emotional human beings here in Saudi, which is why It succeeded so well.” By bringing together diverse players from the Kingdom’s digital innovation and startup landscape, this event reinforced the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem over the last decade. Such collaborations highlight AstroLabs' commitment to Saudi by supporting entrepreneurs with their growth journeys, providing an opportunity for various stakeholders in the ecosystem to share vital knowledge for the greater good, aligning seamlessly with the objectives of both the London Business School and AstroLabs, as highlighted by AstroLabs CEO, Roland Daher, in the opening keynote.  Ihab Tabbara, LBS MBA alumni and co-president of the LBS MENA Entrepreneurship Club in Saudi Arabia, said, "Our aim is to cultivate a MENA-based entrepreneurial landscape by bridging the gap between founders and investors. We are dedicated to supporting this ecosystem on two fronts. On one side, we facilitate connections between startup founders, venture capitalists, and investors. On the other side, we curate and offer vetted deal flow opportunities for investors. In essence, our goal is to unite both facets of the ecosystem, fostering a social and innovative impact. To achieve this, we host informative panel discussions on a quarterly basis with key industry players, including the topic mentioned above, and organize an annual startup pitch competition event. Our partnership with AstroLabs is pivotal in nurturing successful entrepreneurship ecosystems, as we share the same vision and values." Through this partnership, budding entrepreneurs acquire a fleshed-out understanding of the requirements needed to rise through the challenges of early-stage operations.  As a dedicated enabler of Saudi-based businesses, and a leading market entry partner to global corporations looking to expand to the Kingdom, AstroLabs continues to build the bridges needed to tie the Saudi startup landscape together. In this light, London Business School’s Entrepreneurship MENA Club panel discussion proved to be yet another successful endeavor to keep fueling the momentum of Saudi entrepreneurship, while endowing new players with the knowledge necessary to ensure maximum success, and in turn, a more prosperous and digitally-enabled Saudi Arabia. -Ends- For media inquiries:Lara Fakih, director of communications, AstroLabs ( About AstroLabs AstroLabs is an ecosystem builder that enables the growth of people, companies, and innovation capacities on a regional level. With 10 years of active building in MENA and a vibrant community across 3 coworking spaces in the UAE & KSA, AstroLabs is MENA’s trusted partner in solving the innovation challenges of tomorrow by navigating the entrepreneurial landscapes of today. Partnering with key industry shapers, including governmental entities, corporates & enterprises, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem, AstroLabs designs and facilitates ecosystem transformations through business expansion and market entry operations, SME ecosystem building, digital upskilling, entrepreneurship, and innovation programs, as well as value-focused talent recruitment practices. About London Business School London Business School's vision is to have a profound impact on the way the world does business and the way business impacts the world. The School is widely acknowledged as a centre for outstanding research. As well as its highly ranked degree programmes, the School offers award-winning Executive Education programmes to business leaders from around the world. As well as its main campus in London, London Business School has a campus in Dubai, and a presence in three additional international cities – New York, Hong Kong and Shanghai. The School equips its diverse student body with the tools needed to tackle today’s business challenges and connects them with many of the world’s leading thinkers. The School has more than 50,000 alumni working in more than 157 countries. Together, they are a community defined by a wealth of knowledge, business experience and worldwide networking opportunities. London Business School’s 240 faculty members come from over 30 countries. They cover seven subject areas: accounting, economics, finance, management science and operations, marketing, organizational behaviour, and strategy and entrepreneurship.

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