GITEX Future Stars: The Arab region's next big startups to watch
- 19 October 2018
- Add to Bookmarks
The grand finale of the GITEX Future Stars Supernova Challenge saw 24 startups put their best people forward to pitch their company to a panel of judges.
The prize pot? A category cash prize of $10,000 or the top reward of $100,000.
The contest, that took place at the Dubai World Trade Centre from 14 to 17 October, was part of the latest edition of what’s been dubbed the largest startup conference in the MEA and SEA.
The grand prize went to Lebanon’s Spike App, founded by 25-year-old Ziad Alame. A diabetic, Alame came up with a concept that could prove invaluable to millions of people with diabetes: a mobile application that monitors a user’s daily behaviour, alerting them with reminders about insulin, food and various activities.
The most impressive part of the app, however, is that it can detect when a user enters a restaurant, instantly sharing healthy recommendations from the menu in real time.
“I’ve been diabetic for almost a decade; [the app] started off as something to help me, and now it has exploded into what it is today,” said the Beirut-based entrepreneur.
In development since November 2017, the app went live last month after going through two accelerators. The company is now seeking investment. The founder added that while the app is currently only in English, this cash prize would help the team create an version in Arabic as well as other languages.
EXPLORING MENTAL HEALTH IN SAUDI
Founded by Basim Al-Beladi from Medina in Saudi Arabia, the ‘Best Social Impact’ winner Labayh connects users with therapists via in-app messaging or in-app calling. Users remain anonymous.
The 30-year-old came up with the concept after seeing a family member’s struggle to find the right help. “I chose mental health because it is still a taboo in the region, and we wanted to make it easier for people to get counselling,” he said. “Services are offered by Saudi Arabian-based specialists and are available in both Arabic and English.”
It’s also affordable. The starting price for the service is SAR 50 for a 30-minute session.
Speaking of his $10,000 prize, Al-Beladi said, “It’s not about money necessarily; it’s about the exposure. But it will also help us with expansion, and of course, it’s a nice reward for my team, who have been working endlessly.”
EMPLOYMENT FOR ARAB YOUTH
From the neighbouring UAE, Oliv.com bagged the ‘Best Youth Startup’ prize thanks to its commitment to providing employment opportunities for young people in the region.
Formerly InternsME, Oliv.com rebranded this year with a wider offering, catering “to the full spectrum of entry-level opportunities, like internships, graduate jobs, volunteering, part-time, and freelance,” as 32-year-old CEO Jean-Michel Gauthier explained.
“[Since rebranding], we’re now the world’s fastest career site. We’ve built the platform to make it hyper-scalable to roll out to other countries. We’re treating the UAE as a launchpad to bring Oliv first to the GCC and then the wider MENA region.”
He continued, “We go out every day to meet companies and help them open their doors to young people: the kind of young talent that helps them grow their business. And bit by bit, we’re addressing the youth unemployment rates in the region.”
Egypt’s WideBot was named ‘Best AI Startup’ at the Supernova Challenge. Billed as the first Arabic-focused bot builder platform, the company, which launched in 2016, offers workflow automation in several Arab dialects.
“Basically, instead of a human texting another, it is a human texting the software,” said CPO Saif Ahmed. “We are the only startup that supports Arabic dialects: Egyptian, Saudi, Emirati, Lebanese and so on. The bots are able to detect slang.”
WideBot now serves 500 clients, resulting in half a million end-users. The $10,000 prize will go towards more research: “Most of the funds will go to the AI lab to improve our models. We also need more accurate sentiment analysis and to expand other models like voice recognition. Voice recognition is really a big challenge, and we are trying to solve it.”
FULL LIST OF WINNERS
BEST EMIRATI STARTUP
Khayati, United Arab Emirates
BEST YOUTH STARTUP
Oliv, United Arab Emirates
BEST SOCIAL IMPACT
Labayh, Saudi Arabia
BEST AI STARTUP
BEST SCALE UP
Onesoftdigm, Republic of Korea
BEST FEMALE-LED STARTUP
MAJ Solution, Lebanon
BEST GCC & MENA STARTUP
Aura Lab, United Arab Emirates
BEST INTERNATIONAL STARTUP
Satellite Vu, United Kingdom
Spike Diabetes Assistant, Lebanon
© MySalaam.com 2018 All rights reserved