4 July 2010
Four enterprises from Lebanon, Egypt and Yemen were the winners of this year’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Arab Business Plan Competition. The first prize went to “The Little Engineer” from Lebanon, which was awarded USD50,000 for use as start-up capital. BioBusiness from Egypt was named first runner-up, with a USD15,000 prize, while the third runner-up prize of USD10,000 in start-up funding went to Arabic Coach from Yemen and EG-Bioinformatics from Egypt.
All four winning projects involved enterprises that would make good business while at the same time tangibly benefiting the community. The Little Engineer is an after-school edutainment centre which introduces children and teens to pre-engineering courses. The aim of the centre is to expose the largest number of young persons to the world of Robotics and renewable energy in a friendly atmosphere, preparing them for the challenging future.
BioBusiness’s product is a new non-invasive Blood Glucose Monitoring System that allows frequent and easy ways continuously to measure and monitor the blood glucose levels of diabetic patients, in a totally non-invasive way, without the need to prick a finger or implant sensors. The product is comprised of two pieces; the gBracelet is worn anywhere on the arm, and is the main measurement sensor which transmits glucose measurements wirelessly to the gMon hand-held device.
An online platform that would connect students attempting to learn Arabic online from all over the world with teachers from the Middle East is the Arabic Coach project, offering students the world over affordable lessons and teachers flexible freelance job opportunities. Also online, EG-Bioinformatics provides innovative and cost-effective solutions for Genomics data management and analysis, targeting regional and global markets.
The MIT Arab Business Plan Competition, affiliated to the MIT Enterprise Forum (MIT EF) of the Pan Arab Region, is the first of its kind in the Arab World. It is designed to encourage young entrepreneurs in the region to start their companies and, ultimately, create a nest of leading firms in the Arab world. MIT EF is a non-profit organisation and it has one key partner Abdel-Latif Jamil Company (ALJ) at the regional level. The competition has been running since 2006 and since then, has involved more than 8,000 entrepreneurs from 17 Arab countries. Out of 1,852 qualified applications presented this year from 13 countries, 177 were qualified and graded. “Winning teams from previous years have established five companies and created about 50 jobs,” said Hala Fadel, chair of MIT EF of the Pan Arab Region. This year’s projects comprised energy, engineering, healthcare, Internet-based solutions, software and telecom sectors.
The nine finalist teams of this year were three from Egypt, three from Lebanon and one from Yemen, Palestine and the United Arab Emirates each. Last March, all members of the nine teams participated in a workshop in Beirut, which focused on training them to improve their presentation skills.
The winners were announced in Cairo earlier this month, in an event held at the Cairo Marriot.
In her opening address Ms Fadel described all the projects as being versatile, comprehensive and professional. According to Fadi Jamil, representative of ALJ Company, “The judges and everyone who took part in the 2010 MIT Arab Business Plan Competition were tremendously impressed with the level of forethought, diligence and good old-fashioned hard work that had gone into the initial 1,852 applications received.”
“Taking part in the MIT Arab Business Plan Competition has enabled us to refine our entrepreneurial vision while really understanding the attention to detail required to create and manage a successful business,” said Rana al-Chemaitelli of the Little Engineer.
Mustafa al-Wakil, general manager of the BioBusiness project, told Watani he was very happy with the prize and the international acclaim. “But I am very disappointed, because my colleagues and I have many times called upon the scientific research authorities in Egypt for funding and support, but to no avail. We perform all the necessary research and work at our personal expense, which we cannot afford to keep on doing. We would have very much liked our product to see light here in Egypt, funded with Egyptian money.”
Mohamed Abou al-Hoda of the EG-Bioinforamtics had the good fortune of being on the staff of Nile University (NU), the first research university for graduate studies in Egypt and a State-owned institution that offers research opportunities in, among others, fields of wireless intelligent networks, Informatics Science, and Nanoelectronics Integrated Systems. He confirmed to Watani that such competitions are a real opportunity for serious scientific competition.