Startup Weekend in Sooq Okadh in Taif ended on August 13 after three days of hard work on entrepreneurial projects. The event falls under the Saudi Vision 2030 that aims to make the country’s economy diverse and sustainable. It also hopes to encourage Saudi’s youth to invest in building a knowledge economy.
Organized by Badir Program for Technology Incubators and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), the Taif event hosted both male and female Saudi innovators working on a variety projects ranging from tech to manufacturing, and design.
Only 62 of the 303 ideas were selected and 15 made it to the final stage. After introductions, the first day included participants presenting their ideas to an audience. The audience voted and those with the highest marks made it to final round.
On the second day, chosen participants were divided into working groups around building, developing and designing business models. Various mentors aided the groups in developing sound marketing strategies.
On final day, the teams finally presented their projects to a panel of judges for feedback and evaluation. The three winning teams were:
The first prize of 20,000 Saudi riyals (around US$5000) went to Wahidoun’s team by the three sisters Nouf, Raghad and Ohoud Al Hammad. Wahidoun is an app that targets children suffering from autism. Still in the development stage, the app was designed after consulting with several specialists in the field, according to Nouf. She had begun working on the idea before the event and conducted a survey to prove the existence of a gap in healthcare for children with autism.
Wahidoun, still under construction, enhances and eases communication for autistic kids through audible and visual icons that express emotions and feelings. The app’s icons help children identify images, differentiate between colors, and recognize facial features.
“I talked to three autism centers in Medina and shared the idea for the app, they were very encouraging and even gave me advice,” Nouf said. “There was an initiative from Riyad Bank wanting to support the project and I can’t wait for the app to be ready so that children with autism all over Saudi and the Arab world can benefit from it,” she added.
The second prize was won by Mic one. It’s team, Iman Qassim and Bilal Haafs, received a prize of 15,000 Saudi riyals (US$4000).
Third place went to Salleh by Ibrahim Al Ajlan, Ibrahim Al Qassim and Saad Al Osimy. The project won 1,0000 Saudi riyals (US$2500).
This event “aims to develop initiative and innovation spirit in Saudi youth in order to turn unique projects into promising entrepreneurial projects and access targeted sectors,” according to the Startup Weekend in Sooq Okadh press release. The event aims to gather entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators “to implement the Saudi Vision 2030 and encourage the country to invest its time in what is beneficial to it and move towards a knowledge economy that helps in strengthening the national economy,” the statement added.