TechCrunch hosts first ever startup battlefield in MENA
BEIRUT: The first TechCrunch Startup Battlefield in the Middle East and North Africa was hosted Tuesday in the heart of the vibrant startup ecosystem at Beirut Digital District (BDD) with the event sponsored by Facebook.
Throughout the day, 15 companies pitched their ideas, demonstrated their technology and answered the judges’ questions as the jury consisting of seasoned venture capitalists and entrepreneurs analyzed what was presented to them.
Founded in June 2005, TechCrunch is a leading technology media property, dedicated to profiling startups, reviewing new Internet products, and breaking tech news. TechCrunch Startup Battlefield, whose alumni community of 763 companies have raised over $8 billion, brought early stage startups together across the region including Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Algeria, and others.
Mike Butcher, Editor at Large of TechCrunch told Annahar "he's delighted to have hosted the event in Beirut given that the city speaks well of emerging youth tech talent and enthusiasm."
The Battlefield presented start-ups with the opportunity to compete for a $25,000 prize, as well as being exposed to a big global investment community. Two members from the winning startup received an all-expenses-paid trip to participate in a future TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco.
After a day of incredibly fierce competition, the winner was announced. “Buildink” won the competition; this startup offers a solution for real estate construction firms, via a scalable and mobile-friendly robot concrete 3D printer and signature concrete mixture. The company says 3D printing will not only open the space for unlimited architectural designs, but also reduce the overall construction cost.
The event kicked off with a panel between Imad Kreidieh, Chairman and General Director of Ogero Telecom, and Ari Kesisoglu from Facebook discussing the Telco industry and how it is changing in Lebanon and the region, and how this translates in the business world.
Kesisoglu, Vice President, Middle East, Turkey, and Africa at FBstart said: “As Facebook, we recognize the potential of entrepreneurial talent in the region and we want to help them develop their digital skills so they expand their businesses and create new jobs. That’s why we are very excited about TechCrunch Startup Battlefield MENA.”
For his part, Kreidieh encouraged the startups, “providing an adequate infrastructure is a key point in retaining talent in Lebanon, but we also need to have legislation that helps young entrepreneurs access the market.”
The 15 teams competed in three preliminary rounds, consisting of five startups per round. They had six minutes to pitch and present a live demo to the panel of judges who were expert technologists and VC investors in their respective fields.
One of the judges, Rana El Chemaitelly, founder of The Little Engineer, expressed her joy that BDD has become a key technological and co-work hub attracting people with an intellectual and IT background to create a whole new work sector for the Lebanese economy.
Oussama Berqi, Data Scientist at Careem transport company, told Annahar that he is excited to see that many of the startups have used artificial intelligence, as it has been of a great to advantage to Careem when it came to emerging people into one ecosystem.
Beirut Digital District (BDD) is a cluster for the digital and creative industries in Lebanon. It is the epicenter of the entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem and hosts four startup accelerators, two venture capital firms and over 100 companies and 1,500 community members.
BDD combines value-added services and state-of-the-art infrastructure to increase the productivity of BDD’s community and enhance their positive sense of well-being.
Mouhamad Rabah, General Manager of ZRE, the developers of Beirut Digital District (BDD) told Annahar that he is really glad that this event is taking place in Lebanon because this will be of a great advantage by the light it sheds on what the entrepreneurs have done and how much they can achieve.
About BDD’s collaboration with TechCrunch, Rabah told Annahar, “We hope, today with TechCrunch that all the startups that are participating get the opportunity to be exposed on an international level and thus make a successful story.
At the end of the day, everyone agreed that the startups did a terrific job and showed a high level of sophistication and technology savvy.
“In our community, you can find awesome talents, qualified techies, enthusiasts, and much more. They all need a chance to shine and innovate and they eagerly wait for such events”, event attendee Rami Zebian told Annahar, “Thank you TechCrunch and Facebook for placing Lebanon on the global tech map!”, Zebian added.