On November 8-11, the 6thHarvard Arab Weekend brought Arabs from around the world together to network, collaborate, and discuss the future of the region.
This year’s event also marked the first ever Harvard Arab Startup Pitch contest, an opportunity for Arab entrepreneurs from around the world to present their ideas, get feedback and network with prominent judges, panelists and mentors at the Harvard Business School (HBS).
Developed by Said Francis and Noura Selim, the co-Chairs of the MENA Conference at HBS, and managed by Dina El-Haddad and Tala Nsouli, the contest attracted more than 60 submissions from Arab entrepreneurs in North America and the Middle East who competed for the top 15 slots. The applications covered a broad range of industries including healthcare, energy, e-commerce, education IT, and mobile apps.
“Given the unprecedented entrepreneurial activity in the Arab World, we wanted to host an annual meet-up of entrepreneurs and investors related to MENA in order to promote Arab entrepreneurs in the US to MENA investors and to create an opportunity for entrepreneurs in MENA to meet investors in the US,” said Francis.
The teams traveled to Boston on November 10, to compete for the top prize, the “Samih Darwazah Entrepreneurship and Excellence Award” of $10,000. Each of the finalists had five minutes to pitch their idea to the judges, followed by a five minute question and answer session.
After 3 hours of dynamic and entertaining presentations, the judges, including experienced entrepreneurs and venture capitalists across different sectors, declared the following winners:
- First Place, BlueLight - A consumer finance concept that draws on traditional informal savings tools and behavioral economics research to generate opportunities at the base of the pyramid. Bluelight uses the power of microlayaway to help hundreds of millions of households across the developing world make small prepayments to buy consumer goods without going into debt. The team presented a case study in Morocco and a detailed implementation plan there.
- Second Place, KarmSolar - KarmSolar has developed a high-capacity Off-Grid Solar Water Pumping Solution that is able to power water pumps reaching up to 600 kW. The solution is a battery free solar water pumping solution designed to replace unreliable and expensive diesel generators in the agriculture and water pumping sectors.
- Third Place, CardioDiagnostics - CardioDiagnostics is commercializing a non-invasive, wireless, GPS-enabled technology that allows patients to be monitored outside hospitals for long periods of time for critical and non-critical conditions.
The two runner-up teams will receive private mentorship sessions by one of the region’s VCs.
“Our hope is that the startup pitch at Harvard Arab Weekend will grow in the years to come to play a pivotal role in supporting Arab entrepreneurs and to contribute to the growing entrepreneurship eco-system for Arabs,” says Francis.