More than 2,200 entrants in the 2017 MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF) Saudi Startup Competition have been whittled down to 45 semi-finalists, then to 27 finalists last Thursday by a panel of business experts and academics from Saudi Arabia and beyond.

The event, now in its second year, is organised in partnership between Community Jameel’s Bab Rizq Jameel initiative and Zain Saudi Arabia. It has three categories: startup, social enterprise, and ideas. The nine finalists in each track are:

  • Startup track – Shayala App, Ajeer App, Mrsool App, Nashmi Services, Float, Gofrah, iBoat, Zayer, and Madad Services
  • Social track – Tadweer, Banafsajeel, Scientific Saudi, OmCare, D. Sin Project, Axor, University Market, Ketaby Lak application, and Kararat.
  • Ideas track – More than a 100 Years, Morshed, Smart Booking App, Health and comfort, Aquaponica, Wahidoon App, Packageha, Stitches, and Sense.

The top three in each track will be announced on March 18 at the final celebration of this year’s contest at King Abdullah Economic City. They will share prizes totaling SAR 265,000 and benefit from high-level training, expert mentorship, and media exposure.

The 27 finalists that were chosen out of 45 teams by a panel of business experts and academics from Saudi Arabia and beyond who assessed applicants’ business models according to the contest criteria. This included the creativity used to answer a concept-based, entrepreneurial, or social need; ability to expand beyond the competition itself; and making a positive impact on society.

In the startup track, judges examined each entrant’s capabilities and whether they had the potential to become effective-impact entrepreneurs with strong teams, broad experience and crucially, an expandable and promotable idea.

In the ideas track, the entry criteria targeted creative, promotable, and expandable ideas with the potential to provide effective social and commercial solutions. In the social track, entrants were asked to show their profitable social enterprise concepts.

Throughout the contest and beyond, MITEF Saudi Arabia arranges workshops and orientation courses presented by specialist training entities to help participants develop and implement their projects. The most recent was a three-day training camp at the Prince Mohammed bin Salman College under the supervision of trainers from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology(KAUST).

Finalist teams continue to attend weekly training courses with experts assigned to work with them and help make their ideas and projects successful. Finalists will also participate in the Saudi StartSmart Forum, a MITEF program that guides and motivates local entrepreneurs.

The nine winners from Saudi Arabia will then take part in the 10th MITEF Pan Arab competition (to be held in Bahrain in April) where the best startup ideas from across the Arab world will be showcased.

Dr Sarah Ghaleb, Senior General Manager of Education and Entrepreneurship Initiatives at Community Jameel and the Project Manager of the 2nd MITEF Saudi Startup Competition, said: “We are looking forward to a key event in Saudi Arabia in terms of audience and influence in spreading the culture of entrepreneurship and creativity in the Kingdom and the region. This will culminate in a set of important agreements between BRJ and some leading players in this sector as well as between BRJ and a group of entrepreneurs.”

Sultan bin Mohammed AlShahrani, Chief Human Resources Officer in Zain Saudi Arabia congratulated the finalists, saying: “The level of competition we witnessed in this year’s contest, promises a bright future for entrepreneurship and innovation projects in Saudi Arabia.”

AlShahrani added: “Partnerships with startups in the field of Communications and Information Technology is a vital part of Zain’s strategy, as it enables us to play our role in the digital transformation initiatives indicated in the National Transformation Program 2020.”

MITEF Saudi Arabia is organised with the support of partners including the Small and Medium Size Enterprises Authority (government partner), MIT Technology Review Magazine (media), MITEF Pan Arab (regional), Wadi Makkah Company (innovation), King Khalid Foundation (social entrepreneurship), Sedco Holding (financial awareness).

Badir Program 9 (technical incubators), Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Center ‘Wa’ed’ (promising partner), Prince Mohammed bin Salman college (cognitive partner), King Abdullah Economic City, (co-host), and Saudi Investment Bank (investment partner), are also participating.

Further support is provided by Microsoft, Oracle, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Alwan Company, Qotuf Company, and Al Mosa’don Company.

MITEF Saudi Arabia is part of the MITEF global network of chapters dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship and innovation worldwide, and to provide knowledge, communication, and training for entrepreneurs, enabling them to quickly turn ideas into world-changing companies.

The Saudi Arabian chapter was established in 2015, with a view to promoting and enriching entrepreneurship. Its aim is to support and celebrate all startups and entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia through the three project categories.