May 24, 2014, Cairo – Winners were announced at the First Startup Competition co-organized by The American University in Cairo (AUC) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Enterprise Forum (MITEF) of the Pan Arab Region. The event, held for the first time in Africa and Egypt on AUC’s New Cairo campus, brought together 150 entrepreneurs from around the Arab world to receive one-on-one coaching in a two-day workshop from May 20 to 21. Wining the first prize in the “Startups” was SudaMed from Sudan, which places the Sudanese healthcare system onto one online platform, where patients can find all relevant information. Second place went to the Jordanian Little Thinking Minds that produce educational and edu-training audio-visual content in Arabic in the form of video and DVDs, audio and CDs, applications and online games targeting children, parents and educators. In the third place came Looly’s from Morocco, an impact-driven start-up leading a zero-compromise food movement combined to a beyond fair- trade food brand. Winners in the startups and ideas tracks were honored on May 22 at an awards ceremony at Bassily Auditorium. Bill Aulet, senior lecturer and managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management, delivered the keynote speech at the ceremony.
Three projects won in the “Ideas” track, the first was Loue1voiture from Morocco, which won the first prize with the best Idea receiving $15,000. The project aims to be the first independent car rental comparison website in Morocco. Saily, a social marketplace to buy and sell with people nearby, from Lebanon, received the second prize and third place went to Vound, from Egypt, an evolutionary wearable device that allows users with hearing disabilities to “see the sounds” around them instead of hearing it.
Three women-led start-ups were also rewarded a trip to Silicon Valley and sponsored by Google for Entrepreneurs for which Looly’s was selected, as well as Start-up Palestyle, from Palestine, a luxury social brand embracing a timeless fashion collection and Alleph from Lebanon, which promotes Arabic language development and civic engagement through an online platform.
Another three start-ups proving the best social impact received $10,000 each from Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives, Mercy Corps and Skoll Foundation were Looly’s again, making this their third prize, Trochet from Saudi Arabia that makes crochet our of trash bags which benefits the environment and creates jobs and finally Egyptian project Jozour, opening a new market by creating a network of industries that depend on agriculture residues, and developing solutions through them.
“The MIT Enterprise Forum of the Pan Arab Region has been holding its competition for several years, and this year it is their biggest ever,” said Ayman Ismail, assistant professor and Abdul Latif Jameel Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship at AUC’s School of Business.
Ismail emphasizes that AUC is a leader in supporting the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Egypt and a hub for many of its activities.” “By hosting this event, we bring entrepreneurs and mentors from MIT and all over the region, as well as from the University’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program and AUC Venture Lab to Egypt to connect, network and share their knowledge and experience."
Hala Fadel, chair of the MITEF Pan Arab Region, shared the same viewpoint, “we are empowering entrepreneurs through participation in a three-day, MIT-style entrepreneurship forum, and are providing them with the necessary resources to inspire and motivate them to continue their journey and grow.”
The competition, which was held in partnership with Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives, included intensive workshops attended by mentors, investors and the media. Representatives from Strategy (Formerly Booz & Company), Google, Yahoo, TechWadi and PepsiCo were also present to share their expertise with the young entrepreneurs.
Targeting 21 countries in the Arab world, the MITEF Arab Startup Competition has helped train more than 900 entrepreneurs and has led to the introduction of more than 200 companies in Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia and other countries. Last year, 40 percent of the applicants to this competition were startups from Egypt, proving Cairo’s big market for entrepreneurs.
“The partnership with the MITEF Pan Arab Region brings together the best ideas and startups in the Middle East together in one place to give youth the necessary guidance and to turn their ideas into a sustainable business,” said Sherif Kamel, dean of AUC’s School of Business.
The MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition is one of several activities that are a product of the recent partnership between the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program at AUC’s School of Business and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Enterprise Forum of the Pan Arab Region. The partnership, which was established in Fall 2013, aims to foster entrepreneurship in Egypt and the Arab world. AUC's School of Business collaborates with MITEF Pan Arab to organize workshops, lectures and events that encourage entrepreneurship and innovation in the business world.
MITEF of the Pan Arab Region is one of 28 chapters of the MIT Enterprise Forum, a nonprofit networking organization that has been serving the entrepreneurial community for more than 35 years.
“Being an MIT alumnus, I’m happy to work with other Arab MIT alumni to bring the energy and innovation of the Boston entrepreneurship ecosystem to Egypt and the region,” Ismail said. “Entrepreneurship and innovation bring a contagious positive energy that we want to spread around in Egypt and the region and to contribute to economic development, job creation and global competitiveness.”