The 45 semi-finalists for the 2017 MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF) Saudi Arabia competition have been announced.

The event, now in its second year, has been organised in partnership between Community Jameel’s Bab Rizq Jameel initiative and Zain Saudi Arabia and has three categories: ideas, startup, and social enterprise.

The semi-finalists were chosen from more than 2,200 entrants by 100 business experts and academics from Saudi Arabia and beyond who assessed the 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 and in the social track, entrants were asked to show their profitable social enterprise business.

The second round of judging will take place later this month and the panel will announce the names of the 27 finalist teams.

The overall winners will be announced on March 11 after which the top three in each track will be invited to participate in the 10th MITEF Pan Arab competition (to be held in Bahrain in April) where the best startup ideas from across the Arab world are recognised and rewarded.

Meantime, participants who have reached this stage of the Saudi Arabia competition are now eligible to participate in the Saudi StartSmart Forum, a MITEF programme which is organised with the aim of encouraging, motivating, and guiding local entrepreneurs to achieve success across social and commercial and idea-based projects. The programme hosts workshops directly related to technology and innovation.

Dr Sarah Ghaleb, Senior General Manager of Education and Entrepreneurship Initiatives, said: “Since the launch of the contest, MITEF Saudi Arabia has developed a rich and thorough programme designed to help prepare and encourage participants to start implementing their small and medium projects. With cash prizes worth up to SAR 265,000, workshops and orientation sessions available throughout the contest period, MITEF Saudi Arabia plays an important role in supporting the development of a knowledge-based economy and an entrepreneurial spirit within Saudi Arabia. We are proud to be involved in such an important endeavour.”

Since the beginning of this year’s competition, MITEF has sought to promote the values and benefits of the contest by organising a series of educational tours in Saudi Arabia. Our aim is also to seek out talent and encourage entrepreneurs from various disciplines to participate.

These tours included extensive visits to universities, colleges, and entities concerned with entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia who helped us not only spread awareness of MITEF and the competition in general, but actively encouraged and inspired young men and women to create and instigate their own entrepreneurial concepts.

Saad Al-Ahmari, Media Relations Manager at Zain Saudi Arabia, expressed his pleasure in seeing the variety of innovative ideas and businesses. He said: “The initial stages of the contest, across all the tracks, proved the ability of the participating teams to continue providing added value to the local business landscape as an extension of what the previous edition of MITEF Saudi Arabia provided.”

Al-Ahamri added: “Zain Saudi Arabia partnership comes within its sustainability initiatives and support to the local start-ups. Supporting innovation and technology entrepreneurship is essential in the country’s transformation to the knowledge based economy.”

He added that Zain’s partnership in the contest comes within its sustainability initiatives and in encouraging national entrepreneurship projects, since simulation of innovation and supporting startup technical projects are within the national strategic objectives in supporting Saudi Arabia’s transition to a knowledge-based economy.

MITEF Saudi Arabia is organised with the support of backers and partners including the Small and Medium Size Enterprises Authority (government partner), MIT Technology Review Magazine (media partner), MITEF Pan Arab (regional partner), Wadi Makkah Company (innovation partner), King Khalid Foundation (social entrepreneurship partner), Sedco Holding (financial awareness partner). Badir Program 9 (technical incubators), Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Centre ‘Wa’ed’ (promising partner), 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 contest of startups, ideas, and social projects.



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