His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research
Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, an independent, research-driven graduate-level university focused on advanced energy and sustainable technology, partnered with Abdul LatifJameel (ALJ) Community Initiatives and theGlobal Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) for the launch ofthe fifth MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Business Plan Competitionin Abu Dhabi, in the presence of His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
The MIT Enterprise Forum of the Pan Arab Region is one of the 11 international chapters of the MIT Enterprise Forum Global that is headquartered in Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. It has a proven record in promoting MIT-style entrepreneurship by organizing and managing each year the MIT-Enterprise Forum Arab Business Plan Competition in partnership with ALJ Community Initiatives and a joint initiative with GIST.
In his keynote speech, His Highness Sheikh Nahyanbin Mubarak Al Nahyanthanked all sponsors and urged the students and participants to move forward in supporting such important events that would help maintain the competitive entrepreneurial spirit of the Arab community through intense cooperationfrom all stakeholders.His Highness Sheikh Nahyanespecially commended Masdar Institute’s supportin bringing the competition to Abu Dhabi.
Hala Al Fadel, Chair of MIT Enterprise Forum of the Pan Arab Region, welcomedtheArab business leaders, policy-makers, students, budding entrepreneurs as well as previous competition participants. She expressed special gratitude toHis Excellency Sheikh Nahyan, while thanking all sponsors and the speakers.
Dr. Fred Moavenzadeh, President, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, and Dr. Steve Griffiths, Executive Director at the Office of Masdar Institute Initiatives, were present on the occasion as were many Masdar Institute faculty and students.
The launch event on 29 September kicked off the fifth edition of the MIT-EF Arab Business Plan Competitionwith a brainstorming session highlighting the current state of entrepreneurship in the Middle East, including its shortcomings and growth opportunities as well as a panel showcasing the experiences of previous winners.
Dr. Fred Moavenzadehsaid:“Masdar Institute takes great pride in partnering with renowned institutions, social organizations and industry leaders on such community-oriented initiatives. These initiatives encourage innovation and regional entrepreneurship while contributing tremendously to empower youth. We are delighted to support such meaningfulprograms that support local economic development while also reaching out to students and graduates.”
Hala Al Fadel said: “Last year the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Business Plan Competition, received a record total of 3,800 applications from 17 Arab countries, a 100% increase. Over 11,000 entrepreneurs have been involved in the application process in 2010, and since the competition’s inception we have trained a total of 360 semi-finalists – as well as find some truly inspirational entrepreneurs. Now is the time for people to follow their passion, and this competition provides them with the necessary environment to do it! At the end of the initiative, young, budding entrepreneurs from the Arab world will have everything in their hands to start a company. And they do it! To date, we have helped approximately 40 companies develop in the Arab region and they now employ hundreds of people.”
Thepaneldiscussionstitled‘Current situation of entrepreneurs in the Arab world: Are we any good?’ was moderated by Frederic Sicre, Partner of Abraaj Capital, while the session on ‘Winning the MITEF Arab Business Plan Competition Experience: What’s next?’ was led by Armen Vartanian, Director of Crescent Investments.Dr. Inas Khayal, Assistant Professor of Masdar Institute, moderated the session on‘Assessing the capabilities of Arab entrepreneurs: What’s lacking?’
The event featured high-profile speakers including Fadi Ghandour, Founder of global transportation and logistics services company Aramex, Ihsan Jawad, Vice-Chairman of leading Middle East business information company Zawya,SamiKhoreibi, Founder and CEO of the Abu Dhabi-based developer of solar-generated power plants Enviromena Power Systems, Habib Haddad, Founder and CEO of Lebanon’s Yamli that offers an Arabic search engine and smart Arabic keyboard,Elie Khoury, founder and CEO of Lebanon’s technology startup Dermandar, and Marwan Chaar, Co-Founder of FuGu Energy - The Hub, a global community of people from every profession, background and culture working at 'new frontiers’.
Dr. Steve Griffithssaid: “Business plan competitions such as this one are critical to entrepreneurship and new enterprise development as they successfully nurture start-ups poised to go on to contribute to the local economy. These competitions create a platform for those with innovative ideas to demonstrate their capabilities and provide an example of the entrepreneurial spirit required for the type of economic development that Abu Dhabi seeks...Masdar Institute is pleased to collaborate with the organizers of the competition and support the fifth edition of the MIT-EFArab Business Plan Competition, which compliments innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives that the Institute is developing.”
Dr. Inas Khayal said: “It is extremely important for the community to understand the critical capabilities lacking in Arab entrepreneurs. One of the critical concerns is in an entrepreneur’s fear of failure: a capability having a personal, societal and academic root. At Masdar Institute we strive to allow students to explore their full potential by realizing that trial and error is part of the learning process.”
The deadline for submitting the applications is 10January, 2012.
The eligibility criteria for participation calls for at least three team members for each application entry, at least two of themmust be Arab nationals, business ideasmust have the potential to grow regionally and internationallyand should be implemented in one of the Arab countries.
Accounting for only 5-6% of applicants four years ago,the green sectorhas increasedits tally to 20% last year and is expected to show a significant rise for the forthcoming edition. Last year, many among the finalists were green companies.
The winning team receives US$50,000 prize money, while US$10,000 and US$5,000 are granted to the first and second runners-up respectively. The winning teams need to present a proof of their incorporation into a registered company andall shareholders need to be identified in the ‘Engagement Letter’ submitted with the business plan.
Applications reflecting the best proof of concept ideas or projects are selected and 30 teams will proceed to the next phase which will choosenine teamswith full business plans for innovative, scalable and impactful projects.In the last stage,finalists need to convince the jury of their passion and their ability to sell the project idea. The business plan and the oral presentation account for 50% each for the final grade.
The MIT Enterprise Forumof the Pan Arab Regionorganizes and manages the annual Arab Business Plan Competition in partnership with ALJ Community Initiatives and a joint initiative with GIST that is now running in its fifth edition. The competition has shownremarkable success over the past four years, receiving over 2,000new business plans from 17 Arab countriesevery year.