Judges at GITEX ‘Strut-Up’ Pitch Competition were impressed by the quality of innovation and drive of entrepreneurs who contended for $160,000 in prize money at one of the highlights of GITEX, the GITEX Global Startup Movement ‘Strut-up’ Pitch competition.
With four cash prizes on the line, competitors had just five intense minutes each to convince a panel of high-profile judges coming from as far away as Silicon Valley that their idea would be the next big thing in technology. Pitches took place over three days and the competition saw more than 38 startups compete across more than 50 pitches, each round moving the winners one step closer to the grand prize.
With the hard earned experience of their own successful startup journeys, the judging panel made up of highly successful tech founders from around the world did not hold back their criticism as they moved the winners to the final round. The competition awarded a grand prize of $100,000 for GITEX Global Startup Winner and $20,000 each in categories for Best Millennial, Arab and Woman entrepreneurs.
“The decision was incredibly difficult because they were all so different in terms of technology, so it was an interesting challenge to compare them,” said judging panel member, Darius Moeini, Director of Lab and Venture Development at the German Tech Entrepreneurship Center. “The startups were on such a high level that we were fighting over who should win the prizes, so it was not an obvious choice and was a very close call for all the categories.”
Dubai’s own Acacus Technologies, winner of the$100,000 GITEX Global prize provides comprehensive fleet management solutions that optimise fleet dispatch and improves fleet safety. Recently awarded a contract for Dubai Taxi, Acacus installs in-vehicle driver cameras and sensory devices to capture eye movement, head tilt and driving behaviour in real time.
“Winning the Global Startup of the Year award at GITEX means everything to us. Besides winning the competition, being part of the ecosystem created by the whole Startup Movement in Dubai has been an amazing experience,” said Talal Ben Halim, managing director of Acacus. “This week has allowed us to network and explore new ideas and opportunities. It means much more than winning the prize, it’s everything that being here has done for us as a business.”
In the Best Arab startup category, Saudi’s Sawwagy was awarded $20,000 for an app designed to help Saudi families communicate with private driving services. Features include pinpointing a destination for the driver to travel, and notifications on progress and arrival, without the driver needing to read messages or answer calls while on the road.
“We’re very proud of winning the Best Arab Startup award at GITEX Technology Week 2016! After months of hard work and sleepless nights, it feels great to receive recognition for our work and more importantly for the idea,” said co-founder, Sebastian Dietzel. “We believe our product makes both families’ and drivers’ lives easier. Fingers crossed this will be just the first step in our journey to having the Sawwagy app used by every family in Saudi.”
Hailing from Dubai but serving the world’s educational needs, EdTech Solutions won the competition’s USD 20,000 Best Millennial Startup award with their Teach Me Now education platform, which provides virtual classrooms for teachers and students to enrich their learning experience. Thea Myhrvold, the company’s founder and managing director, describes the site as “the Ebay of private tutoring” with the goal of making education accessible to everyone. Teach Me Now’s first ever lesson saw a professor in Venezuela teaching a student in the Middle East.
“The startup scene in Dubai is growing really fast, and there is so much potential here,” said Mhyrvold, a former Dubai resident who moved back to the city to start her company TeachMeNow.com. “What is really great is the government in Dubai and the UAE, how they support entrepreneurs, and also encourage female entrepreneurship. I moved back to Dubai to be a part of this change and create more positive stories for this region.”
Akoustic Arts took home USD 20,000 as the winners of the Best Woman Startup, with founder Myriam Marcetteau traveling from France to pitch at the Strut-up Competition. Akoustic Arts has created the « A » speaker – the world’s most advanced directional speaker. Already gaining steam on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, the invention creates a narrow beam of sound allowing the user to direct sound to the listener from across the room without anyone else hearing it.
“The recognition this gives us is very rewarding,” said Myriam Marcetteau. “We also appreciate the recognition of female entrepreneurs at GITEX, and that the organisers understand the importance of supporting female entrepreneurs in achieving their goals.”
“We are very delighted that the winners emerging from the Dubai intensive pitch sessions over the last three days of the ‘Strut-up’ competition come from around the world – from Lebanon to Canada and beyond. It shows the globalness of the innovative talents attending the event. More importantly it highlights the opportunity for interaction and engagement amongst the startups from around the world with expert judges that have come to Dubai with the experience, guidance and strategic expertise from as far away as Silicon Valley.
Over five power-packed days of pitches, mentorship workshops, face-to-face meetings and more, we have been impressed with the confidence and creativity of the young tech founders at the GITEX Global Startup Movement,” said Trixie LohMirmand, Senior Vice President, Event Management, Dubai World Trade Centre.
Over 420 startup companies have participated in the GITEX Global Startup Movement this week, hailing from over 60 countries. In its first year, it has already become the most global weeklong startup showcase in the world.