The World Economic Forum and the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) have selected the 100 most promising Arab start-ups of 2019. This initiative aims to further integrate the Arab world’s most promising start-up entrepreneurs into a national and regional dialogue on pressing challenges. Selected entrepreneurs will participate in the official programme of the upcoming World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa where they will engage with industry and government leaders to discuss the future of their industries and how to add value to society.

“The Arab world will need its private sector to address youth unemployment, the current skills gap for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the inclusion of women in the workforce. Start-ups, and the entrepreneurs building them, are key to a strategic public-private dialogue on these issues and to creating corresponding new opportunities in society,” said Mirek Dusek, Deputy Head of the Centre for Geopolitical and Regional Affairs, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum.

Among the selected start-ups are: the world’s first halal investment platform (Wahed, UAE); a biotech company that uses camel milk to develop antibodies (MonoJo, Jordan); a company that uses augmented reality for surgeons to contribute remotely to clinical procedures (Proximie, Lebanon); an app that reinvents public transport with fixed fares and booking (Swvl, Egypt); a platform to meet fellow football players and book pitches (Malaeb, Bahrain); a production company shaping its country’s cultural landscape (Akkasa, Oman); a bracelet that detects epilepsy seizures and sends alerts to care-givers (Epilert, Tunisia); the first coding booth camps for the Arab world (Coded, Kuwait); an app for civic engagement (Clean City M3kod, Morocco); and a company conducting a range of mapping including that of cultural heritage sites with autonomous drones (FalconViz, Saudi Arabia).

“Across the Middle East, entrepreneurs are devising increasingly innovative ways to tackle the evolving societal challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution with novel applications of technology. These efforts need to be encouraged, recognized and supported by investors, business leaders and policy-makers. The 100 Arab start-ups initiative is not just a platform for recognizing promise but a way to bring great minds together to discuss the limitless possibilities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the next breakthroughs that the regional ecosystem can deliver. The Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) is proud to partner with the World Economic Forum on the search for the 100 Arab start-ups shaping the future,” said Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive of the EDB.

The initiative welcomed back start-ups selected in 2017, including: Elves (Egypt), an AI concierge service; Daraty (Syria), a toolkit for children to learn electronics; and Careem (UAE), the Arab world’s first unicorn company recently sold for $3.1 billion.

With a 31% increase in investments compared to 2017, a new record was reached for regional start-up funding last year, according to data from Magnitt, a company twice selected among the 100 Arab start-ups initiative. Foreign investment remained stable in 2018 with 30% from outside the Arab world, while FinTech took over e-commerce as the top industry as a result of an 8% increase in deals since 2017.

Selection committee

A selection committee of experts on the start-ups ecosystem in the region worked with the World Economic Forum and the EDB to screen and select the 100 start-ups.

  • Abdulrahman Tarabzouni, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Saudi Technology Ventures (STV)
  • Ahmed El Alfi, Founder and Chairman, Sawari Ventures
  • Amir Farha, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Beco Capital
  • Areije Al Shakar, Director and Fund Manager, Al Waha Venture Capital Fund; Senior Vice-President, Bahrain Development Bank
  • Hala Fadel, Founder and Managing Partner, Leap Ventures
  • Khaled Talhouni, Managing Partner, Wamda Capital
  • Mirek Dusek, Deputy Head of the Centre for Geopolitical and Regional Affairs, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum

With the full support and presence of Their Majesties King Abdullah II and Queen Rania Al Abdullah, the meeting will convene over 1,000 key leaders from government, business and civil society, as well as leaders from Gulf Cooperation Council countries, the Levant and North Africa, and key international stakeholders from East Africa, Europe and the United States. Building on the Forum’s Annual Meeting in January in Davos-Klosters and its theme of Globalization 4.0, the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa will take place under the theme, Building Platforms of Cooperation.

For the full list of the 100 Arab start-ups, visit wef.ch/100arabstartups19

For more information on the meeting, visit: http://wef.ch/mena19

Ghadeer Alaradi

Ghadeer Alaradi

A writer and content producer for StartUp Bahrain who enjoys uncovering stories of founders who are making a difference in their communities, successful women, passionate youth, and change-makers who strive to make the world a better place.

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