On March 20 in Dubai, 15 startup teams participated in the regional SeedStars World startup competition. The winners received cash prizes and the first place winner was awarded a ticket to Switzerland with the opportunity to compete for a USD 500,000 investment and perks in February 2014.
Part of a global competition across twenty countries, Seedstars World aims to find the best startups within emerging and fast growing startup scenes, such as the UAE. Participating teams were invited to compete by Innovation 360, a regional partner of Seedstars World.
The teams who pitched came from all over the region, including the UAE, Jordan and Egypt. The startups offered a variety of services, from e-commerce websites and mobile apps, to healthcare, fashion, and automotive offerings.
Each team had six minutes to pitch a jury panel with their idea, including the problem thee startup aims to address, the solution they provide, how it works, the business model, and a brief overview of the company’s financials and team. The judges also looked for the startup’s scalability, or its potential to appeal to a global audience.
The first place winner, TourBud, allows residents to register as guides and assist tourists during their stay by being a call away. Founder Rafael Harutyunyan explains the idea:
“When you go somewhere as a tourist, sometimes there are problems; for example, you are lost. You cannot tell the taxi driver where to go or you cannot communicate with local people… I’m giving a solution to that problem by providing a phone number of a local person for some reward, who will answer your calls and help you by phone.”
As top winner of the Dubai competition, Harutyunyan and his team will compete in 2014 at the international Seedstars World event. TourBud also received 3,000 AED in prize money, and will be invited to prepare for the next round of competition at the next round of i360accelerator, a 60-day innovation acceleration and seed funding program based in Dubai.
Second place in the Dubai competition went to Gallery AlSharq, a provider of high quality and exclusive oriental and Middle Eastern stock photography and audio-video/digital content serving the MENA region.
Winning third place was Safe Journey, a mobile app to track a vehicle route from source to destination using SMS. The app makes it safer for people, especially women, the elderly or children, who use public transportation at night.
The second place team received 2,000 AED in prize money, while third place received 1,000 AED. Both will be invited to participate in the next round of i360accelerator.
The ‘Best Pitch of the Day’ was made by “Team Aflamnah” who presented their regional crowdsourcing platform.
Prior to the event, the contestants received professional coaching and training by Ahmed Abu Safia from DP World, the event sponsor, and the i360accelerator team.
In addition to the Dubai regional winner, 24 other startup teams will be invited to attend the international competition in Switzerland, where the grand prize includes investment (up to USD $500,000), coaching opportunities, publicity, and global partnerships. The 25 finalists will include 19 other regional winners, plus an additional five winners chosen on line by a peer voting system. Anyone can vote online for a team from one of the other open regions (Dubai voting is closed).
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Kamal Hassan is President and CEO of Innovation 360 Institute, an innovation management and operation advisory group based in Dubai. Mr. Hassan works with public and private organizations on business model innovation, innovation strategy, innovation project execution and organizational change. He leads international workshops on Business Model Innovation. www.i360institute.com.