KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY — During an intense competition this week, Saudi youth proved that sky was the limit ehen they put forward entrepreneural ideas to serve their country in the best possible way.
Over 40 young professionals and overachieving students from different fields pitched their tech startup ideas at the Techpreneurship Sprint and voted for the top five to work on throughout the day. The event was organized by Jeddah’s Global Shapers, an initiative of the World Economic Forum that comprises a global network of hubs developed and led by young people seeking to make positive contributions to their communities.
The event featuring the competition and inspirational talks by successful entrepreneurs took place at the new halls of Prince Muhammad Bin Salman College (MBSC) for Business & Entrepreneurship in King Abdullah Economic City where innovative classroom spaces were filled with teams developing their ideas from scratch to a working product in one day.
“Working in teams is the best advice I can give anyone, I believe that’s when the true innovation happens,” said Emon Abdul Shakoor, co-founder of the initiative. Emon wants to bring the experience of Silicon Valley to Saudi Arabia. “I wanted to bring everything I learned here. We have talented, motivated, and ambitious people. All ideas need to be refined, challenged and given opportunity.”
Emon, who plans to launch her new startup EventFen, an app to find all social and professional events in the Kingdom, said there were many rising startups but “not enough incubators and accelerators here.”
“The investments are not in tangible startups, like technology startups. The majority of investments are for tangible enterprises like malls and shops. I think educating investors where to put their money would help significantly,” she said.
Technology startups proposed by different groups range from websites, e-commerce, IoT, ICT, FinTech, TravelTech, HealthTech and other tech areas.
Successful entrepreneurs were invited to guide as mentors for the teams and bolster their ideas into products.
Tech entrepreneurship is growing in the Kingdom in recent years, according to Mounir Kabbara who is working on his startup Mobilicious, an app connecting customers to local food trucks.
“We want to educate people about entrepreneurship through mentorship and the judges’ feedback,” he says. “It’s important to empower and inspire people to start their business. Networking is also helpful so that people with different backgrounds can complement each other in future endeavors.”
Three top winning teams were awarded by a panel of judges from various expertise including from MBSC, the Ministry of Economy and Planning, and Qotuf. To transform their startup from idea to real life in the coming months, the teams will receive access to co-working spaces from The Offices and Nawa Space, branding workshops from 25Branding, as well as to mentoring sessions, startup boot camps, and a chance to be a member of Saudi Arabia’s leading accelerator, Qotuf.