Many startups from the Arab region dream of conquering the world; not an easy task when you’re based in the Middle East and North Africa. This year, the famous MIT Entreprise Forum Arab Startup Competition has decided to team up with TechWadi, a Silicon-Valley based NGO designed to connect high-impact entrepreneurs in the Arab world with mentors, capital, and acceleration in the U.S., to invite 18 top MENA startups ready for global growth to the Silicon Valley for a week long of workshops and training. This weeklong program culminated on June 14th when the entrepreneurs where invited to pitch in front of local VCs and Angel Investors during the 5th TechWadi Forum.
One week of training
During four days, the 18 startups, selected for their current growth and international ambitions, pictured above, benefited from workshops on security and the Internet of Things, visited a few famous offices including Twitter and Google, were trained on how to improve their pitchs, and enjoyed a full day of mentorship.
“I personally enjoyed the mentorship day the most because we got to sit down in one-on-ones with well established entrepreneurs who shared their experience and helped us figure out many questions we had tied in our head,” explains Hassane Slaibi, co-founder at Band Industries, the company behind Roadie Tuner. “On the company level, we have made several valuable connections with investors and mentors […] who gave us excellent advice on business development, marketing, sales, and product roadmap,” he continues.
Besides Band Industries, 17 startups took part in the program, almost all previously featured on Wamda. Here are the 18 laureates:
Instabeat, swimming tracking device mounted on goggles.
- Integreight, the hardware company behind 1Sheeld, an all-purpose Arduino shield connected to a mobile app
- Band Industries, winner of TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2014 Audience Choice Award for its connected tuner device Roadie Tuner
- Gallery AlSharq, provider of exclusive Middle Eastern stock photography with images and digital content
- MXD3D, browser-based 3D design tools for the mainstream
- eTobb, online medical platform that connects patients and doctors around the globe
- Harir, online outlet for top design and lifestyle brands at discounted prices
- Apps2you, leading Mobile Applications Development Agency with custom-built innovative solutions
- Wuzzuf, online recruitment platform focused on job matching algorithms
- Tamatem, a mobile games publisher serving the Arab world reaching 50 games (iOS & Android) by the end of 2014
- FoodLve, social discovery platform for food, where users collect, create, browse, and buy all about food in one place
- Skill Academy, online platform that builds skill bootcamps of free online courses from top-tier universities
- CardioDiagnostics, wireless cardiac monitoring devices
- Shop Go, eCommerce platform that offers the opportunity for offline stores to go online in just one click
- Karm Solar, the first high-capacity solar pumping solution in the Middle East & North Africa
- Jamalon, the largest online bookstore across the Middle East
- Azur Systems, event management software
- Nabbesh, the Middle East and North Africa’s first online work marketplace
Additionaly, two startups sponsored by Silatech joined the program, Tawseela, which seeks to provide affordable and environmentally-friendly solutions to Cairo’s traffic, and Tatweer, an Egyptian-based startup aiming at modernizing the kiosk as a retail channel.
A celebration of Arab entrepreneurs
The last day, which was open to the public, was a success. “It was really a great day,” says Youcef Es-skouri, founder of GeekFtour and intern at Visual.ly in the Silicon Valley. “You feel proud to be an Arab, you can feel that the next Google could come from the Arab world,” continues the young Moroccan.
Around 150 persons from the tech industry were gathered at the UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center, in San Francisco California. It was a great opportunity to connect with people from all around the Arab world, and to be reminded of how diverse and similar the Arab population is, says Es-skouri, who left the event convinced that the Arab region is a market full of opportunities to which MENA diaspora belongs and should want to dedicate their effort.
The women panel
Four panels with high-level experts were organized on a variety of entrepreneurship-related topic such as:
- The Expanding Oasis: Leadership in Building Billion Dollar
Businesses, during which successful entrepreneurs from the MENA
region shared their stories and lessons learned the hard way
- Innovation for Growth: The Paradigm of Entrepreneurship, during which panelists discussed the relationship between corporates and startups when it comes to innovation.
- Angels to Crowds: The Rising Support Ecosystem, during which VCs and BAs gave tips on how to raise money
- MENA Women Rising
For more info on the panels, click here.
The team successfully managed to keep the event upbeat and interesting by alternating panels and pitches.
The highlight of the event was the closing keynote of Mohamed Gawdat, VP of Business Innovation at Google[x], the really secretive R&D lab of Google, which is currently working on the Google car, and Wael Ghonim, Entrepreneur in Residence at Google Ventures in Mountain View.
For Es-skouri, the event was a great way to connect with smart, and often influential persons from the diaspora in the ecosystem, but mostly, it was an occasion to be reminded of the potential of the Arab community. “It gave me hope for the region’s tech ecosystem,” he concluded.