First Startup Weekend Kuwait Unites Local Entrepreneurship Community

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Finally, Startup Weekend has made it to Kuwait's small but growing entrepreneurship scene. 

Startup Weekend Kuwait kicked off a couple of weeks ago, organized by a dynamic young team of entrepreneurs, who managed to attract a variety of participants. What surprised me the most was the large number of developers in attendance, as often such events are filled with non-tech entrepreneurs who lack programming and development skills which ultimately make some ideas less viable.

This weekend, however, got off to a good start. The 60 or so attendees quickly formed 16 teams at the end of the first day, which then continued through the typical Startup Weekend schedule: develop the idea for two days, while attending talks from local mentors, and then pitch a prototype on the third day to a panel of judges in hopes of cash prizes. 

I typically run my own company, group-fishing expedition startup fishfishme.com, so I wasn't starting out at the idea phase. Yet I wanted to visit and experience Kuwait’s first Startup Weekend myself, so at the last minute, I decided to pitch and develop my sister May’s idea: “Cameralized,” a marketplace for finding and booking photographers. After making a short pitch, she and I formed a team with my friend Mohammad, and a designer named Ahmed Abdulla.

Only 11 of the 16 initial teams made it to demo day:     

  1. NeverMiss App: A location-based reminder.
  2. MyDiet App: A mobile app that helps you find restaurants that follow your diet.
  3. Dream Touch: This technology works to turn everything into a touch screen.
  4. FishMe: A fishing game connected to real life fishing experiences (completely unrelated to my startup fishfishme.com).
  5. GEOffer: A location-based marketing solution.
  6. Facebook for the blind.
  7. Yazly App: An easy way to compare products and services.
  8. The League: A fun way to organize football games between friends.
  9. iPay: A smartphone payment solution.
  10. Cameralized: A marketplace for finding and booking photographers.
  11. CloudSync: A way to manage one’s cloud storage in one place.

After solidifying their teams and ideas, teams scrambled to mold their business models and build their prototypes on Day 2. Our team got off to a late start at 5pm, but we stayed until midnight to get some serious work done and came in early on Day 3 to finish.

Critically, we were able to leverage my sister’s online reach by disseminating our ideas through Instagram to test our model and get customer feedback. This validation gave us a huge boost and propelled us with confidence into our pitch to the judges.

Though we were under pressure as the last team to pitch, my sister lead the team’s presentation and walked the judges through our real user feedback and working prototype. This may have contributed to their decision for the final winners:

1st Place: Cameralized
2nd Place: MyDiet App
3rd Place: The League

I was happy with the outcome of the event, not just because we won, but it was literally a smaller version of a healthy startup community; it brought together entrepreneurs, programmers, investors, and designers, and I’m confident that these talented people are going to transform Kuwait and the entire region. What I appreciated the most at this event, and across Kuwait, is that the entire entrepreneurial community is working to support and build a startup ecosystem together.

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