The 8th MIT Enterprise Forum officially got underway last night in Kuwait. From the opening speech delivered by MC Talal Malik, I could feel the crowd growing in anticipation for what was to come (especially the startup teams who were waiting for the announcement of the Arab Startup Competition winners!).
The forum kicked off with a fireside chat between Hala Fadel (Chair, MITEF panArab) and Mr. Mohammad Abulaziz Alshaya (Executive Chairman, M.H. Alshaya Co.). Alshaya’s success story, dating back to his grandfather in the late 1800’s, was truly inspiring. It was very apparent in Alshayaa’s answers how confident he was in Arab youth and what they could aspire to be. He continuously underscored three important factors for realizing success:
For me, the highlight of the chat was Alshaya’s belief that “government should stop guaranteeing jobs”, pointing out that such policy kills motivation among youth, especially in the GCC.
Next on the agenda was the Panel titled “The Missing Link: From Startup to Global Powerhouse”. The main topic of discussion was underlining the required infrastructure and mentality for startups to grow into global industry leaders. On the panel were Sheikha Al-Zain Al-Sabah, Mohammad Jaffar (former CEO of Talabat), Tarek Sultan (CEO at Agility), and Hala Fadel.
The different backgrounds of the panelists made for an extremely insightful discussion.
From a governmental and infrastructural perspective, Al-Sabah believes that there needs to be disruption and reconfiguration in the way government supports the startup ecosystem. She called for youth to provide change from the inside.
Jaffar, who lead Talabat from a local player to a regional powerhouse, believes that entrepreneurs must possess an extraordinary work ethic and commitment. He also stressed the importance of remaining transparent, honest, and socially responsible; three factors to which he accredits a lot of Talabat’s success
From a Kuwaiti global company’s perspective, Agility’s CEO Tarek Sultan pointed out the strategic significance of understanding where you come from as a company, and what that entails in terms of limitations and opportunities. He remarked that Agility’s global success stemmed from its fundamental understanding of the market in initially operated in, and then building upon that.
By the end of both panels, I was left feeling extremely optimistic that the startup ecosystem would continue to flourish in the Arab world because today’s leaders are willing to instigate and adapt change and disruption.
At the end of the night, the winners of the MITEF Arab Startup Competition were announced, as follows:
Startups Track: Colorbug- UAE (First Place), Project IO- Jordan (Second Place), ScreenDy- Morocco (Third Place)
Ideas Track: Kotobna- Egypt (First Place), ConCure- KSA (Second Place), Nano Ebers- Egypt (Third Place)
Social Entrepreneurship Track: Visualizing Impact- Lebanon, Tahrir Academy- Egypt, La Perle de la Mer- Morocco
Congratulations to all the winners, who were all truly outstanding.
Catch our coverage of the second (and last day)) of the forum tomorrow!
Pictures from the entire duration of the event will be posted soon in a different post (as soon as we get them, we promise).