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Meet MITEF Saudi’s Impressive Alumni & Get Inspired for Your Next Big Idea

We get up close and personal with 10 of the past winners and participants of the MITEF Saudi Startup competition and get the insider information that will help your application.

One of the most hotly anticipated startup competitions on the MENA region calendar, MITEF Saudi has helped bring some of the KSA’s best ideas and most innovative companies to life over the years. With three tracks, the competition garners thousands of applicants every year, and not only rewards winners with financial grants, but bolsters the local and regional ecosystem with roadshows, training and mentorship opportunities, all designed to better each applicant's chances to make it to the finals. 

And make it they do – from super SaaS startups to awesome AgriTech, these alumni have gone on to make real impact in the KSA and beyond, whether or not they went home with the big prize money. Representing different regions in the Kingdom, this super network of experienced entrepreneurs have been sharing their advice and experiences throughout MITEF’s virtual roadshows in preparation for the new cycle, but here we get down to the details with each of them to help you with your application.

Abdullah Aljassim

President - MITEF Saudi Alumni Council Network 
Co-founder & CEO - GrintaHub

1) What encouraged you to enter the MITEF Saudi Startup Competition?

I believe that we are very close to big, positive changes in the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the MENA region. In these entrepreneurship events you meet many wonderful minds and talents and it is an amazing opportunity to connect with these networks.

2) How did the pre-competition activities help you prepare for the big event?

MITEF Saudi supports entrepreneurs and startups at the highest level. At this early time in the growth of the ecosystem in our region, you need to build relationships and meet talents continuously. You need to sit with mentors and advisors and owners of successful companies and benefit from their expertise and advice. Startups are built on many foundations such as the strength and harmony of the team, experience, knowledge and vision in leading the company, and obtaining guidance and advice from those with experience and expertise in the field is important.

3) What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned from the advice and mentorship embedded in the competition? How did you apply them to your startup?

The money will come eventually, but you must choose angel investors or VCs that will believe in the team and the vision of the company in the long term. You do not want the money injected from investors to be a hindrance to you, but rather you need the investors to have added value to grow with effectiveness and high quality. At the MIT Enterprise Forum, I met a number of investors and VCs who showed their interest, but we were keen to choose the right investors who believe in us and our vision; the important thing is to be accurate in this equation.

4) Aside from the prize money, what are your key takeaways from the whole experience?

When you come to these wonderful events, you see the energy and enthusiasm of these new entrepreneurs. And they’re not always in their twenties or thirties. I have seen lots of different ages, but they were all filled with the same energy and passion. Everyone has big dreams to change their society for the better, and the beginning was for them to start to implement their idea and their company, which will solve a real problem and make people's lives easier.

A large part of the success of the ecosystem is not just ideas and investments, but rather this human energy and talent. I have met many entrepreneurs and benefited from every meeting, whether we were at the lunch table or drinking coffee or chatting in the hotel lobby.

5) Tell us some of the milestones you've achieved since winning.

We at GrintaHub have started offering our products to those wishing to attend sporting and entertainment events last year in the United Kingdom. We are also happy to have reached partnerships with a number of government agencies and the private sector to announce new products for sporting and entertainment events in Riyadh and Jeddah for the first time. We are preparing to announce a major partnership in the local market in 2021.

6) What's your advice to anyone who wants to enter the competition this year?

If you have a great idea that solves a real problem, a talented team and a clear vision, the money will come, but never miss the opportunity to be a member of these communities of entrepreneurs and the most successful startups in the region, and benefit from the expertise of consultants and mentors who have already gone through the experience. 

Huda Flatah

Vice President – MITEF Saudi Alumni Council Network
CEO – Helper Robotics

1) What encouraged you to enter the MITEF Saudi Startup Competition?

We wanted to experience and seize the opportunity at hand, knowing the depth and breadth of MITEF Saudi programmes and bootcamps.

2) How did the pre-competition activities help you prepare for the big event?

The activities were enlightening and made us see different points of view. From pitching and future planning, it made us understand the whole process differently.

3) What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned from the advice and mentorship embedded in the competition? How did you apply them to your startup?

The elements of having a strong team and understanding how investors think were our key takeaways. We applied this to Helper Robotics by assigning each member tasks depending on their strengths and passions. 

4) Aside from the prize money, what are your key takeaways from the whole experience?

The amazing experience and the great people we got to meet.

5) Tell us some of the milestones you've achieved since winning.

We went on to win first place in the German-Saudi Arabian Liaison Office for Economic Affairs (GESALO) competition.

6) What's your advice to anyone who wants to enter the competition this year?

Be confident and believe in your project no matter how hard it might get.

Mohamed Amine Merah

Alumni Advisor - MITEF Saudi Alumni Council Network
Finance & Strategy Partner – Ejaro

1) What encouraged you to enter the MITEF Saudi Startup Competition?

Our partner, Mohammed Khashoggi (Founder of Ejaro) and I thought it would be a great opportunity to enter Ejaro into the competition to challenge ourselves and our assumptions about our startup, to meet and mix with like-minded entrepreneurs, and to win! We did not end up winning the finals, but we did come out with a great experience, a more solid business model and expanded on our network.

2) How did the pre-competition activities help you prepare for the big event?

The workshops, pitch drills, consultations, and material we received helped a lot in refining our pitch to something we were proud of taking all the way to the finals.

3) What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned from the advice and mentorship embedded in the competition? How did you apply them to your startup?

It’s hard to recall specific lessons, but I can tell you of the impact we have seen. For example, coming into the competition we had a 14-minute pitch that we thought we could not compromise on. At the end we came out with a 5-minute pitch that we are way more happy with. 

4) Tell us some of the milestones you've achieved since winning.

As our startup is a mobility app, we were obviously impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, right after the end of the competition. We took this opportunity to focus on refining our features and updating our tech, fundraising for our seed round, working with the regulators, recruitment and preparing for our relaunch in a few weeks, Insha’Allah.

6) What's your advice to anyone who wants to enter the competition this year?

Getting exposure and engaging with the experts, other entrepreneurs and enablers of the startup ecosystem is a must for any founder and startup, and there’s no better way to do it than through one of the most thought-out competitions in the region. This year might be a bit challenging with the event being virtual but try your best to stay engaged and connect with everyone.

Hala Alhashim

Eastern Region Chair – MITEF Saudi Alumni Council Network
Founder – SaNoor

1) What encouraged you to enter the MITEF Saudi Startup Competition?

In the early stage of my startup, I needed a trusted person to evaluate my work and guide me to the next step. Fundraising was also important for the stage I was at.

2) How did the pre-competition activities help you prepare for the big event?

The extensive workshops and diversity of mindful, specialist mentors and lecturers help you develop your business approach, as well as understand the risks and opportunities.

3) What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned from the advice and mentorship embedded in the competition?

The preparation needed to convince the investors and develop a business model.

4) Aside from the prize money, what are your key takeaways from the whole experience?

I met great people who were extremely committed to guide me, give the right advice and connect me with the right people.

5) Tell us some of the milestones you've achieved since winning.

Since I won, I’ve been working extensively in developing our underwater internet-of-things prototype to meet customers’ needs.

6) What's your advice to anyone who wants to enter the competition this year?

Try to frame your business pitch like a realistic story and highlight the innovations and strengths. Put yourself in the shoes of customers, investors and judges. Then, fill the application and make sure you meet the five crucial criteria in the evaluation form.

Mahdi Bokhamsin

Central Region Chair – MITEF Saudi Alumni Council Network
Operations Director – Fruits360 Powered by Quant

1) What encouraged you to enter the MITEF Saudi Startup Competition?

We've heard of many competitions prior to this one, but very little of them in Saudi had the kind of track record that MITEF Saudi had. And when we applied, their application form reflected how serious they are in understanding the applicants' companies and ideas. So we got a strong impression from the get-go that this would be a very beneficial competition and our expectations since then have been exceeded.  

2) How did the pre-competition activities help you prepare for the big event?

We've been fortunate to engage in a number of great sessions covering numerous aspects in entrepreneurship that are vital to focus on while developing the pitch. That's in addition to the countless times we were provided with the opportunity to present practice pitches to the mentors before the formal pitch. This reflected positively, of course, on our confidence and ability to present the pitch within the required time-frame, which we wouldn't have been possible to comply with hadn't it been for all this preparation.   

3) What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned from the advice and mentorship embedded in the competition? How did you apply them to your startup?

We received great input on a wide variety of topics from numerous coaches, mentors, judges, and even fellow entrepreneurs. Some of these takeaways being: investment pitches and how to best develop and present them, market penetration and the most effective ways to develop our marketing approach, the best practices for SaaS products, especially to scale rapidly yet effectively. 

4) Aside from the prize money, what are your key takeaways from the whole experience?

The competition certainly helped raise our marketing exposure, develop networks and gain exposure to regional and international practices in entrepreneurship and investment. That's beside the intangible values gained from the workshops and bootcamps and how that helped us fine-tune many aspects of the product.

5) Tell us some of the milestones you've achieved since winning.

We've been very fortunate to have achieved a number of milestones, some of which being: launching a blog for Fruits360; enhancing the back-end of the product by leveraging a better technology alternative and added features for the users; providing online and phone customer support channels; developing integration partnerships with additional POS systems and an e-commerce platform and hired additional staff to further expand the capacity of Fruits360's operations.

6) What's your advice to anyone who wants to enter the competition this year?

We advise you to fill in the application form in the best presentable way possible because this is a competition that you as an entrepreneur wouldn't want to miss out on. The added value gained from this initiative is unlike any other entrepreneurship competition we've ever entered before and we were very fortunate to have gained the opportunities, knowledge, and networks that this competition has given us.

Mohammed Domais

Western Region Chair – MITEF Saudi Alumni Council Network
CEO, CTO & Co-Founder – Jaleesa

1) What encouraged you to enter the MITEF Saudi Startup Competition?

The MIT brand and the prize money – as a startup in its early stage we rely heavily on grants to fund our business.

2) How did the pre-competition activities help you prepare for the big event?

These events took place in KAUST, which is really the perfect place because of their long experience, experienced mentors, and collaborative environment. We've attended multiple workshops that helped us to enhance our metrics, approaches and pitching skills. We had a great experience overall by meeting other startups and different people with a large variety of skills and backgrounds.

3) What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned from the advice and mentorship embedded in the competition? How did you apply them to your startup?

The advice we were given by mentors came from another perspective that we can't always see, and that led to the tiny little tweaks in our business model that boosted our sales. They’ve also helped us connect with other startups that added great value to our business.

4) Aside from the prize money, what are your key takeaways from the whole experience?

Connections with other startups and good relations with Bab Rizq Jameel who are well known in Saudi Arabia for their social impact and support.

5) Tell us some of the milestones you've achieved since winning.

As a company, we hired more people and enhanced the technologies that enabled us to reach our third major milestone which was launching our service after validating the market.

6) What's your advice to anyone who wants to enter the competition this year?

You have nothing to lose by participating, but you'll win new connections, skills and maybe even money.

Asma Alhamati 

Western Region Chair – MITEF Saudi Alumni Council Network
CEO – Artboards

1) What encouraged you to enter the MITEF Saudi Startup Competition?

One of the hardest parts of starting a new business is getting enough traction to get it off the ground. The MITEF competition was a great avenue to tell others about my business, gain some limelight and even new customers, get guidance and counseling from professionals, and networking with brilliant people from different industries and various background.

2) How did the pre-competition activities help you prepare for the big event?

The process of entering a competition, attending the bootcamp and workshops forces you to put your business on paper, organise your ideas and update any information about your business you might have which leads to pitching your business ideas like a professional.

3) What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned from the advice and mentorship embedded in the competition? How did you apply them to your startup?

Taking into consideration the customer's problems and the solutions they need, and creating services and products based on those needs, not what we think is proper for them. I’ve started to shift the services we provide to be able to cover gaps in the market.

4) Aside from the prize money, what are your key takeaways from the whole experience?

The opportunity to develop my pitching skills and network with various people, meeting with business advisors and investors.

5) Tell us some of the milestones you've achieved since winning.

I got several investment opportunities from angel investors and also signed annual contracts with a number of clients to obtain our services.

6) What's your advice to anyone who wants to enter the competition this year?

Getting attention to your business, raising funds and finding customers willing to pay for what you are offering doesn't come easily, but entering a startup competition can be a great experience for any entrepreneur to get exposure and professional coaching by qualified mentors. 

Mohannad Aalouh

Medina Region Chair – MITEF Saudi Alumni Council Network
COO – Ghallah

1) What encouraged you to enter the MITEF Saudi Startup Competition?

Being a part of a leading startup community was the goal that encouraged us to apply for the MITEF Saudi Startup Competition and to keep chasing our dream of making the world a better place using the skills and ambition of our team.

‏2) How did the pre-competition activities help you prepare for the big event?

The pre-competition activities were the best part of the experience for Ghallah; being in KAUST and getting the training by the leaders in this field in Saudi was amazing.

3) What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned from the advice and mentorship embedded in the competition? How did you apply them to your startup?

The wisest advice for Ghallah was that we don’t need to be perfect, we only need to be impactful, and this is what we are doing.We work on the simplest solution for a huge problem. Our motto is now: “We never need to reinvent the whole wheel to solve a problem.”

‏4) Aside from the prize money, what are your key takeaways from the whole experience?

The most important takeaway from Ghallah’s experience is the networking opportunities that made a huge impact on us. We met bright minded entrepreneurs and mentors who were by our side and helped us throughout our journey.

‏5) Tell us some of the milestones you've achieved since winning.

We have developed our technical solution a lot and made use of all the suggestions that were provided by the mentors and the judges. We kept testing our solution and reached out to segmented customers.

‏6) What's your advice to anyone who wants to enter the competition this year?

Never fear failure and keep chasing your dream, no matter the outcome! Most importantly, network with other startups and mentors to benefit from the experience.

Osama Almatrafi

Medina Region Chair – MITEF Saudi Alumni Council Network
CEO – Waste Turn

1) What encouraged you to enter the MITEF Saudi Startup Competition?

I came up with the for Waste Turn idea in May 2019, and I entered the MISK bootcamp in Medina. I took first place and began looking for a similar bootcamp to keep building up my knowledge. I found the MITEF Saudi Startup Competition and was compelled by the strong programming. Of course, the prizes were attractive too.

2) How did the pre-competition activities help you prepare for the big event?

Even filling the application was helpful because I identified what I'm missing in my startup and pitch. Then, my startup was chosen to compete in the semi-finals and I attended mentorship sessions and got great advice from experts in different fielda.

3) What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned from the advice and mentorship embedded in the competition? How did you apply them to your startup?

The programming helped me identify the real needs of my customers and improve my business model. I constructed my startup as a more sustainable business, especially financially. Through the process, I realised that it’s easy to get absorbed in searching for investors rather than focusing on implementing your business. I learned what the investors are looking for and how to efficiently pitch in front of them.

4) Aside from the prize money, what are your key takeaways from the whole experience?

One of the takeaways was networking. Also, presenting my idea in front of the visitors in the exhibition and getting the opportunity to pitch my startup business in front of the investors on stage at the Start Smart Conference.   

5) Tell us some of the milestones you've achieved since winning.

We launched our business website in July 2020 and since then we won our first corporate partner, the Saudi Chemical Company, and more than 300 users are registered on our website. We collected more than a tonne of e-waste from consumers, covering six cities in Saudi Arabia.

6) What's your advice to anyone who wants to enter the competition this year?

It's simple: if you want to explore the possibilities in your idea or startup, I encourage you to participate. 

Abdulaziz Bin Taleb

Central Region Vice Chair - MITEF Saudi Alumni Council Network
CEO – SYAG 

1) What encouraged you to enter the MITEF Saudi Startup Competition?

We entered the competition with the hope of experiencing this opportunity and building our network within the entrepreneurship community.

2) How did the pre-competition activities help you prepare for the big event?

The pre-events helped us perfect our pitching style and advance our business tactics.

3) What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned from the advice and mentorship embedded in the competition? How did you apply them to your startup?

I learned the importance of having a strong business model and being able to pitch my idea in a way that I can preach the exact message I want to preach.

4) Aside from the prize money, what are your key takeaways from the whole experience?

The importance of familiarising the concept of entrepreneurship within our culture.

5) Tell us some of the milestones you've achieved since winning.

Our product is now established and running and our members have doubled to 2000 members around Saudi Arabia. We’ve provided 20,000 hours of training and internships, and have partnered with over 60 entities. We’ve also been accepted into the Taqadam Accelerator and the Tasamy Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator. 

6) What's your advice to anyone who wants to enter the competition this year?

Enjoy and indulge in the opportunity as a whole and take it all in.

You can apply for the latest edition of MITEF Saudi’s Startup Competition until the 10th December 2020. Find out more here




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