The MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF) Pan Arab recently held a press conference at Le Gray Hotel in Beirut and announced the kick-off of the MIT Enterprise Forum 12th edition of the Arab Startup Competition, an annual competition designed to support and celebrate startups in the Arab world by awarding entrepreneurs and providing them with an avenue to exhibit and apply their ideas.

The press conference was held in the presence of HE Minister of Telecommunication Jamal Al-Jarrah, Emre Gurkan (CEO of touch), Paul Welton (Lead Governance Specialist at the World Bank) and Chairperson of MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab Hala Fadel, in addition to regional and local media outlets.

The competition will be held in partnership with Community Jameel, a social enterprise organization that operates a wide range of initiatives that promote and contribute towards positive social change and economic sustainability, the World Bank Group, a global organization providing  a wide array of financial products and technical assistance that help countries share and apply innovative knowledge and solutions to the challenges they face. Also, the competition is held in collaboration with touch, a long supporter of Lebanese innovators and the leading mobile telecommunications and data operator in Lebanon.

Among the supporting partners are Beirut Digital District (BDD), a built community dedicated to creating a hub for the digital and creative industries in Lebanon, Roland Berger, a global strategy consulting firm headquartered in Munich, with 50 offices in 36 countries, as well as Careem, the leading ride-hailing app in MENA and the first ‘unicorn’ to emerge from the regional startup ecosystem.

The highlight of the press conference revolved around a discussion panel which included Hala Fadel (MITEF), Paul Welton (World Bank), Emre Gurkan(Touch), and Mouhamad Rabah (BDD).

Registration for the competition opened on 24 September 2018 on the competition’s official website, and will last until 10 December 2018.

The MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition has evolved into an annual occurrence that is awaited by thousands of young Arab entrepreneurs, who see it as a platform that allows them to showcase, test and develop their creative and innovative ideas. Each year, the competition incorporates three tracks: The Ideas track, the Startups track and the Social Entrepreneurship track, with cumulative cash prizes of $160,000. The teams that qualify for the semi-finals will participate in a series of preparatory activities which include training sessions, mentorship, coaching, and workshops.

In the final stages of the competition, the most promising teams will be crowned winners (3 for each of the tracks).

Commenting on the launch of the Arab Startup Competition, Hala Fadel, Chair of the board of MITEF Pan Arab said: “The Arab Startup Competition, our flagship program, is a unique platform for entrepreneurs to showcase their business model and to build large networks in and outside of the Arab region. Throughout the last twelve years, we have seen a growing Arab startup scene, with an increasing number of entrepreneurs applying for this particular competition, who not only want to launch a business but who want to stand out from the crowd. I am confident we will receive many more top-tier applicants this year! Thanks to Community Jameel, our longtime partner, we offer Arab entrepreneurs, through this program, cash prizes, learning tools to move forward, and entry point to investors and other supporters.”

Fady Mohammed Jameel, President of Community Jameel international, commented: “The Arab Startup Competition reaches its twelfth year in a row with an impressive success in the Arab region and, as in previous editions, the support of a growing group of important international partners and elite of local and international companies that support innovation and entrepreneurship. In April 2019, Lebanon will host the annual event that thousands of young entrepreneurs in the Arab world are waiting for! We encourage entrepreneurs in the Arab world to join the Arab Startup Competition that has demonstrated its Solemnity in supporting and training young Arab entrepreneurs and convert their ideas into a reality.”

“The World Bank is very excited about partnering with MIT Enterprise Forum Pan- Arab Competition and to support entrepreneurs from the region scale their ventures,” noted Paul Welton, Lead Governance Specialist at the World Bank’s MENA Department. “This is a welcome innovative approach that offers entrepreneurs a platform to showcase their products.”

“We as the World Bank, believe that the MENA region needs new sources of growth and jobs to be able to absorb a large number of new entrants to the jobs market. Entrepreneurship is a promising new source, especially for the youth,” he said. “This region has an abundance of youth and talent. If properly leveraged, this human capital will undoubtedly make a significant difference in growth and job creation.”

touch’s Chief Executive Officer, Emre Gurkan commented, “As an anchor provider of ICT solutions in Lebanon, it is our responsibility to develop the startup ecosystem domestically and elevate Lebanon to become a leading digital innovator in the region. Our partnership with MITEF stems from Zain Group’s innovation vision and is aligned with our Corporate Sustainability Program, “Positive touch”, which also supports the United Nations Sustainability Development Goal number nine, focused on the development of industry, innovation, and infrastructure.”

The MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition will conclude with an event organized on 3-4 April 2019 where the winners will be announced in an official awards ceremony.

Lebanese teams since the first edition of the Arab Startup Competition in 2006

●        Throughout the 11 previous editions, Lebanese teams represented 18.73% of the semifinalists 

●        A sum of USD 185,000 has been offered as an equity-free investment; this amount equals 17% of total equity-free investment offered by MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab

●        13% of Lebanese semi-finalists were crowned as winners

●        After BDL’s Circular 331 – boosting investment in Lebanese startups – the number of Lebanese semifinalists increased by 280% to date

Facts and Figures about the Arab Startup Competition since its first edition in 2006

●        MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab trained and empowered more than 2,300 entrepreneurs

●        A total of 40,000 applications received

●        The number of submitted applications has increased by 293% over the years

●        51% of all the semi-finalists teams had at least 1 female leading member

●        Winners received a sum of USD 1,080,000 in equity-free investment

 For more information on this year’s MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition registration process, eligibility, and judging criteria, as well as the planned roadshows, please visit:

About MITEF Pan Arab: Founded in 2005, the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Pan Arab Region ( is one of the 28 worldwide chapters of the MIT Enterprise Forum Global, an avid promoter of entrepreneurship and innovation worldwide. The MIT Enterprise Forum- Pan Arab has a proven record in promoting MIT-style entrepreneurship by organizing each year the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition targeting 21 countries of the Arab region and attracting over 12,000 entrepreneurs a year.

About Community Jameel:  Established in 2003, Community Jameel is a social enterprise organization that operates a wide range of initiatives to promote a positive society and economic sustainability. From individual, community and Arab life as a whole, in Saudi Arabia and beyond, Community Jameel promotes Arab arts and culture in the Middle East and around the world, works against unemployment, enables research for poverty alleviation and food and water security, and provides education and training opportunities.

Community Jameel supports and partners with global institutions, which employ hundreds of people, all aiming to provide people with opportunities and training in the following areas:

  • Job Creation – Bab Rizq Jameel
  • Arts and Culture – Art Jameel
  • Global Poverty Alleviation
  • Food and Water Security
  • Education and Training
  • Health and Social

About World Bank: The World Bank Group (WBG) is one of the world’s leading source of funding and knowledge for developing countries. It comprises five institutions. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and International Development Agency are commonly known as the World Bank. The other sister institutions are: International Finance Corporation, WBG’s private sector arm;  Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency; and International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. These WBG institutions share a common commitment to reducing poverty, increasing shared prosperity, and promoting sustainable development.  

About touch: touch is the leading mobile operator in Lebanon, managed by Zain Group, the pioneering mobile and data services operator in the Middle East and Africa. In the last ten years of operations under Zain’s management, touch has had many success stories, providing cutting-edge services and technology to its consumers.

Drawing from Zain’s regional expertise providing telecommunication and mobile data services to 50 million users, touch has devised and adopted a consumer-centric strategy. touch’s range of services and its telecom and 3G coverage of all Lebanese territories has allowed it to gain a 53.82% wireless telecommunication market share in Lebanon. touch employs specialized and competent Lebanese personnel that aims to provide the latest in telecommunication services and products to the local community to help it grow in a more sustainable way.

touch, with the backing of Zain and its cooperation with the Lebanese Ministry of Telecommunications, dedicates all its resources to keep up with the latest in telecom and mobile data. It offers a 24/7 call center service to cater to the need of its customers for uninterrupted connection. 

touch values the local community, perceiving it as a major partner; its mission and vision reflect a dedication to humanitarian, social, and cultural causes, as well as creativity and innovation, which it considers integral to advancing its social responsibility program.