London Business School (LBS) Conducts Inaugural MENA Startup Competition 2022

Jack Saab and Tarek Abboud, MBA Candidates at the London Business School and the minds behind the inaugural LBS MENA Startup Competition 2022., speak to Small Enterprise about the potential such a competition offers to budding entrepreneurs and startups

Tell us about the LBS MENA Startup Competition.
The inaugural London Business School (LBS) MENA Startup Competition 2022 is backed by global giants Strategy& (part of the PWC network), Zain, and Amazon Web Services Activate. It was created by the new MENA-based Entrepreneurship Club and supported by the School’s London-based Entrepreneurship Club and the Institute of Entrepreneurship and Private Capital (IEPC).

The LBS MENA Startup competition aims to become one of the most-reputed annual startup events in the MENA region. The competition received various applications from right across the MENA region, representing a diverse range of sectors, including Fintech, Healthtech and Artificial Intelligence Analytics. It aims to connect the most inspiring and innovative Middle East entrepreneurs with prominent VCs and investors alongside extensive mentoring.

How many startups were part of the competition?
Demand was high for the prestigious competition which received more than 70 applications from tech startups across the MENA region, representing a wide range of sectors. After rigorous assessment phases, the 12 LBS MENA 2022 finalists were selected out of 20 semi-finalists who followed months of extensive mentoring and semi-final virtual pitch. The competition brings together the huge talent across the region’s entrepreneurs.

What was the selection process?
The 12 finalists made their pitches to the judging panel made up of Roger Rabbat of Strategy&, Manya Pamnani of Dubai Cultiv8, part of Dubai Economy, Jane Khedair, Executive Director of the Institute of Entrepreneurship and Private Capital, Philipp Pabst of Dubai Future District Fund and Haya AlMana, currently heading Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Zain Kuwait. An awards ceremony was held to announce the successful finalist.

With the competition set to be an annual event, we would encourage entrepreneurs in the region to get involved next year through the Entrepreneurship Club and London Business School’s Institute of Entrepreneurship and Private Capital (IEPC).

What sort of mentoring was provided to the selected candidates?
The 20 semi-finalists in the competition had received months of extensive mentoring from across the LBS’ global network of alumni entrepreneurs, as well as mentorship and investment calls with great regional organizations, such as Dubai Angel Investors, Dubai Future District Fund, Impact46, and others. The competition aims to connect the most inspiring and innovative Middle East entrepreneurs with prominent VCs and investors alongside extensive mentoring.

London Business School’s Institute of Entrepreneurship and Private Capital (IEPC) has been providing support and encouragement to the Entrepreneurship Clubs and the new competition. For startups, access to good quality mentorship can make the real difference between thriving and surviving. New businesses can grow and succeed by having access to the right support and mentorship as they navigate their entrepreneurship paths.

Who were the winners of the competition and what did the winning team win?
Leading tech start-up Ollang from Turkey, a provider of end-to-end human-powered AI localisation through subtitles and dubbing for video and audio was announced the winner of the competition. Vaqat from the UAE, an online platform for companies outsourcing intern support, was announced as the runner-up.

Ollang walked away with a $15,000 cash prize along with runner-up Vaqat receiving $5,000. Beyond this, the competition gives startups the opportunity to develop traction for their companies, reach a wider audience, gain financial investment with access to VCs, exposure to the London Business School global network, and increase their media exposure.

They now join London Business School’s incubator of startups which has already generated six unicorn businesses and supported and developed over 100 new ventures, helping them to raise an impressive £100 million in seed capital. Incredibly, over 93% of early-stage companies supported by the London Business School programme over the last five years, go on to sustained success.

Do you plan to conduct similar competitions in other parts of the MENA region going forward?
This was the first time the London Business School MENA Startup Competition 2022 has been held, and we saw demand was high for the competition with over 70+ applications. We plan for the inaugural competition to be an annual event, with the competition open to startups from across the MENA region. The new Entrepreneurship Club is creating a wider ecosystem for LBS entrepreneurs and startup ventures in the MENA region.

It will be managing a programme of networking and support, panel discussions and prominent guest speakers drawn from industry and commerce. To date, the London Business School Incubator has successfully supported and developed more than 100 businesses through their programme, with a huge £100 million raised in seed capital, and the School is aiming to further expand their entrepreneurship model to the Middle East.


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