MANAMA: Start ups from around the world will compete for a share of a $600,000 prize money at the world’s largest debut technology event being hosted by Saudi Arabia next month.

The first edition of LEAP will take place at the Riyadh Front Expo Centre from February 1 to 3, bringing together the global technology community under one roof, including all the largest tech companies, most innovative start-ups and venture capitalists, celebrities and more.

LEAP is expected to become a global platform for innovation, connecting pioneers and disruptors with business and government leaders, entrepreneurs and investors to experience and learn about the technologies of the future.

“Technology and innovation have enormous potential to transform economies and societies. We live in a time where you either leap or be left behind. We are proud to host LEAP to help the region lead and leapfrog with technology and innovation,” said Saudi Communications and Information Technology Minister Abdullah Alswaha.

The Rocket Fuel Start-up Pitch Competition is being held as part of LEAP’s Investor Programme, to find some of the most exciting and impactful new businesses from around the world.

Ninety start-ups will be invited to pitch their business ideas live on stage on February 1 and 2, to top venture capitalists and international investors.

In just five minutes, the finalists will have to convince a panel of international and local investors that they have what it takes to be one of the top 10 businesses who will then go into the grand finale on February 3.

These 10 entrepreneurs will get another chance to showcase the merits of their businesses which will be scored on creativity, innovation, potential, functionality and impact on people and society.

The winner stands to win the LEAP Award, for the strongest and most outstanding start-up in the competition, and the grand prize of $200,000.

The finalists will also compete for three other awards: The Shooting Star Award for best early-stage start-up ($100,000); the Aviatrix Award for best female-led start-up ($150,000); and the Technology for Humanity Award for the start-up that best embodies the spirit of LEAP “Technology for Humanity” ($150,000).

The world-class panel of judges includes Social Chain founder and chief executive Steven Bartlett, best known for the BBC’s Dragons’ Den; business executive and TV personality Baroness Karren Brady; entrepreneur and TV personality James Caan; interior designer, author and entrepreneur Kelly Hoppen, retired Real Madrid football player and celebrity investor Michael Salgado; Saudi Venture Capital Company chief executive Dr Nabeel Koshak; and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology director of entrepreneurship Hattan Ahmed.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship are at the core of the technology sector, so it is fitting that the competition will recognise some of the best start-ups in the world,” said Saudi Communications and Information Technology Vice Minister Haitham Alohali.

Entries are open for the Rocket Fuel Start-up Pitch Competition and close on January 18.

More details about LEAP are available on

The event has been co-created by the ministry and Informa exhibitions company.

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