Three startups prevailed as champions of the Get in The Ring challenge, held for the first time in Ramallah on November 19.
Mockapp, Fadfid, and Batuta were the winners in the light-, middle-, and heavyweight classes respectively at the end of a fierce competition that has caught the attention of the startup community in Palestine. Winning startups will travel for the regional competition in Saudi Arabia in February 2016.
Competition was fierce. (Images via Bader)
Getting out of the comfort zone
The international Get in The Ring (GITR) competition began in Rotterdam, The Netherlands in 2012 to help startups network and access investors. It has had three international finals since then.
GITR is now in over 64 countries, including the MENA region. The event is like a boxing match in that startups of the same “weight class” compete against one-another.
"Weight" is determined by its valuation and size. Each round has two startups that answer questions from the narrator and the audience in front of a jury that decides a winner.
“The reason we are doing this is because we have been supporting startups for about 10 years, and we thought that we could help startups around the globe connect to resources that they had a hard time getting,” said Erwin Koenraads, chairman of the Get in the Ring Foundation. GITR is an opportunity for startups to get out of their comfort zone and get hooked into an international network of startups and investors, and to have fun in the process, he continued.
Co-organized by Bader and PNB Palestine as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, Ramallah’s one-day event was a peer competition between startups of similar size and valuation in front of a jury of experts from Jawwal, Ibtikar Fund, Sharakat Fund and Siraj Palestine Fund.
The audience was diverse, with entrepreneurs from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as representatives of public, private and development organizations. The event was sponsored by Paltel Group,Bank of Palestine, CCC, and Coca Cola.
The GITR jury listens closely to the pitches.
Contestants had to answer questions on team skills, accomplishments, business model, and investability. One only of every two competing startups was announced as winner in each weight class.
In addition to tickets for the regional competition in Saudi Arabia, winners of were offered incubation services by PICTI, access to the Palestinian House in Silicon Valley program by Leaders, and office space by Work Factory Ramallah.
More than 60 startups applied for GITR Ramallah.
Startups that took part came from Gaza, Ramallah and even Haifa and included Batuta, Dum.ps, FadFid, Indiepush, Mockapp, and WebTeb.
Light-weight winner Mockapp is a Gaza-based designer services startup supported by Gaza Sky Geeks. CEO Mustafa Dahdouh was impressed by the organization and the size of the event.
“I was not expecting to win, but inside of me there was hope as I practiced pitching multiple times before the event,” he said.
Middle-weight winner Fadfid is a Ramallah-based startup with an online mental health platform supported by Leaders, Welfare Association, and PMDP.
“Events similar to GITR showcase Palestinian ingenuity, perseverance and desire to succeed, and I am very proud of my team’s hard work and dedication,” said CEO Hani Abughazaleh. The regional competition in Saudi Arabia is an opportunity to expand Fadfid’s market there, he added.
Heavy-weight winner Batuta is another Ramallah-based tourism startup offering online booking and travel services. Batuta recently received investment from Siraj Fund.
“Our economy has created a complete ecosystem in the internet industry including VC's, Accelerators, incubators and skilled entrepreneurs,” said cofounder Amir Ounallah. “I dare to predict that if this trend continues, [the] ICT sector will be the main export sector of the Palestinian economy in the coming years.”
We have a winner!
“The success for the event was unforeseen as it has impacted the startup ecosystem and universities across the West Bank,” said Salah Amleh, former director for Bader ICT Incubator.
Plans are underway for several smaller local competitions and a central national competition next year, he said.
"It's always such a pleasure to watch entrepreneurs rise to the challenge and show what Palestine is really about,” said Zahi Khouri, chair of the Palestine for a New Beginning, an alliance of public and private institutions for supporting and investing in startups.
“These young men and women are our future and we are happy to continue to support them through PNB.”
As for the three winners, they are now preparing for representing Palestine in the MENA regionals upcoming in February, aiming to reach the international final. You can follow their progress here.