Startups win Saudi heat of $5mln global contest for entrepreneurs

Misk, the foundation set up by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to empower Saudi youth, and the Global Entrepreneurship Network.

  
Image used for illustrative purpose. Gulf businessmen in kaffiyehs having conversation.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Gulf businessmen in kaffiyehs having conversation.

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JEDDAH: “The French,” former US President George W. Bush is said to have observed, “don’t even have a word for ‘entrepreneur.’”

Well, they do in Saudi Arabia — five of the best have won the Saudi qualifiers for the $5 million global Entrepreneurship World Cup, and a prize of $50,000 each.

The startups were all founded by graduates of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) entrepreneurship program. They are Red Sea Farms, which use saltwater technology for desert agriculture; DHAD audio books in Arabic; Fahim, which connects teachers with students; Sadeem, which is related to flood management, air quality and traffic control; and Cura, which specializes in telemedicine.

“Seeing these technological innovations is impressive,” said Dr. Kevin Cullen, KAUST’s vice president of innovation and economic development. “It is an indication of the great appetite for entrepreneurs and companies to promote innovation.”

The competition is organized by Misk, the foundation set up by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to empower Saudi youth, and the Global Entrepreneurship Network. Up to 100,000 entrants worldwide will compete for three grand prizes, 15 finalist stage prizes and 100 national prizes.

In addition to the $5 million prize fund, winners will be offered investment opportunities and mentorship. The finals will take place during the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh in November.

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