Tunisian startups get a crash course in storytelling at Hivos event

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In October, 12 teams of one to three Tunisians, under 35, were invited to Tunis’ coworking space Cogite to compete during Disrupt!/Media!/

The applicants, mostly undergrads with a business idea, shared their project, and used the two-day training as an opportunity to further develop the ideas  and learn more about pitching. Eight mentors were there to accompany the participants through their entrepreneurial journey.

For Hivos’ Mideast Creatives program, this was their first time in Tunisia. The program, aimed at boosting more cultural and creative sectors in the Arab region, launched its Disrupt series last November in Cairo with Disrupt!/Design!/  The event, designed for startups in the field of music, graphic design, and digital media, created a platform enabling them to showcase their ideas, interact with mentors, and compete.

“This is a competition, not just training, bringing together young passionate students,” said Houssem Aoudi, cofounder of Cogite. “It was intense. We need to support more events revolving around themes such as storytelling and social media.”

Unleashing creative potential

One of the highlights of the event was looking at the culture of storytelling, as well as visual lively presentation of their business idea, through workshops focusing on creativity, storytelling, gaming, music, animations, design.

“People usually focus more on the project itself, or the idea more than the way it is presented. We try to create the safe space where participants can speak out,” said mentor Monique Doppert, Hivos’s Program Officer ICT and Media West Asia.

Adel Beznin, principal trainer and coach of Disrtup!/Media! emphasized the importance of the business model canvas as a way to get over monotonous presentation techniques, by focusing on story telling.

Walid Hamrouni, a 21 year old participant, concurs: “There is a big problem with pitching. Many people have great ideas but they do not know how to present them or deliver the message.”

“Before the training I searched on the internet about business model for example but I thought I would never understand it. It was a mysterious world for me,” said 22-year-old participant Monia Balghouthi.

“I came here to help youth with their projects. I believe that there are great successful projects but their success is limited due to lack of their online presence. Modern projects today need to be up-to-date with social media and technology.” Said Karim Ben Abdalah, mentor and communication expert.

The competition

The participants had three minutes to convince the judges of their ideas, which used visuals, personal stories and animated images.  

The three judges’ panel included experts from the field of entrepreneurship such as Leila Charfi, the head of Yunus Social Business in Tunisia, as well as Mehdi Baccouche from the IMPACT social entrepreneurship incubator within Lab’ESS, and Saber Sassi. 

The projects were astonishingly diverse reflecting a high awareness of market needs and especially innovative ways of dealing with certain problems. They ranged from educational platforms to personal development mobile applications, to neurological marketing, and a personalized pottery platform where client can choose their own items.

Giving the participants feedback the judges let them know how feasible they were. They also expressed willingness to support any project owners who might need more specified trainings. “I was so glad to be part of this event,” said Charfi. “We were so thrilled to see the quality of the projects presented. They are all welcome to the Yunus social business for any support.”

And we have a winner

The winning project was GillArt, an online platform raising awareness about cultural events and activities in Tunisia. It will include cinema, music and art. The group of three youngsters won a prize of 2,500 Euros, as well as the ability to use Cogite as their base for three months.

“It is amazing to have a dream and see it come true, especially when it’s combined with you passion such as cinema, music and art,” said group member Kenza Zweri, 19. “We will be working on the website first, and then on a gallery [which will organize screenings, outreach activities, concerts in order to move from digital media into something tangible].”

Participants and partners were all left inspired by the first edition of Disrupt!/Media!/ in Tunis, a confirmation that future editions will occur. 

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