The World Economic Forum (WEF) is on the lookout for the best 100 Arab startups as part of its Startup4IR initiative.
The initiative, in partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the world bank group, aims to integrate entrepreneurial thoughts into the innovations of the fourth industrial revolution, a theme adopted at the 2016 WEF conference in Davos.
Entrepreneurship in a global context
The chosen startups will attend the forum’s annual regional conference which will take place at the Dead Sea in May. The conference usually draws up to a 1,000 participants.
In addition, those selected will get access to the forum’s network in order to partner with WEF members on future projects in the region.
WEF MENA region head Mirek Dusek said it is very important for startups to meet decision makers and politicians, because it gives entrepreneurs a more holistic perspective. For example, instead of thinking merely about revenues, entrepreneurs could be encouraged to start thinking about how to lift their countries’ GDP as well.
He said it was also important for politicians to meet startups; the interactions mean that innovative solutions could move from being in an isolated tech bubble to being implemented as responses to large scale, national problems.
Startups working with artificial intelligence, 3D printing and the Internet of Things (IoT) will be prioritized in the selection process.
Startup4IR is the first of its kind and Dusek hopes it would also scale into other regions. The forum chose MENA as its starting point because “there are many successful startups in the region that are disrupting many sectors, and we want to be part of the change”, Dusek said.
The forum has previously endorsed entrepreneurship by cofounding the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, which selects successful social enterprises from all over the world. It also organizes Technology Pioneers which annually selects 30 tech startups prominent in the ecosystem.
Revolution around the corner: are we prepared?
In his book The Fourth Industrial Revolution, WEF founder Klaus Schwab explained how the fourth industrial revolution would fuse the physical, digital and biological worlds to create an unprecedented system.
The change follows the third revolution which began in the 1960s, disrupting the concepts of time and space through the internet and digital technology.
The fourth revolution is already disrupting all aspects of life, starting from the individual all the way up to political structures. Although the change will contribute to humanity and civilization, it will not come without its disadvantages, especially to the job market. Five million jobs are expected to be lost to technological changes by 2020.
Dusek said that if we intend to control the change, maximize its benefits and restrict its negative implications, we need to prepare ourselves and keep it in mind while doing busines.
"[Historically] civilizations have positively absorbed change to open new markets and new opportunities, we hope that the future will do the same,” he said.
Startups will be able to apply online through this link. Results will come out mid April.
Feature image via World Economic Forum.