Students develop unique startup ideas in intensive 10-day program.
Looking for an avenue to harvest creativity in innovation, young minds from across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe have gathered in Qatar to participate in the Arab Innovation Academy.
Organized in collaboration with Qatar Science & Technology Park and the European Innovation Academy, the Arab Innovation Academy (AIA) is a 10-day intensive program – the largest of its kind in the pan-Arab region. It guides young entrepreneurs through the authentic experience of developing and launching new tech ventures under the guidance of leading global tech startup mentors from such organizations as UC Berkeley, Stanford and Google.
Not only am I hoping to learn how to build my own startup but I’m hoping to make some long-lasting connections that will be mutually beneficial in the future.
Hilal Al Kindi, an Omani student from Sultan Qaboos University, heard of AIA from friends who had participated in previous editions. “What struck me the most was how global the program is. It features mentors and participants from different countries and creates a really unique network.
“Not only am I hoping to learn how to build my own startup but I’m hoping to make some long-lasting connections that will be mutually beneficial in the future,” he said.
Participants in the program work together in teams to identify challenges and propose an idea that could potentially help solve the problem. Turkish student Doğukan Aksu said he came to Qatar specifically for AIA for the second consecutive year and thinks there isn’t a program like it in the world.
I am learning under the guidance of some great mentors, and hopefully I can turn our idea into something concrete.
“I wish to establish a startup, and before the program I didn’t know how to. Now I am learning under the guidance of some great mentors, and hopefully I can turn our idea into something concrete,” he said.
Aksu’s teammate, Büşra Mete, also from Turkey, came up with the idea of creating an app to help connect citizens directly to the municipality to help raise awareness about community concerns in crowded cities.
“Back in Istanbul, there are several problems that communities face that the government is unaware of due to the large numbers of people. I noticed this, and vowed to create a solution, which is exactly what I plan on doing with the help of AIA,” she said.
Like Mete, teams have used personal experiences to identify and tackle challenges facing communities around the world. Moroccan student Ihssane Srhayri’s team came up with the concept of a wearable device that alerts hearing impaired people whenever someone tries to get their attention or talk to them. They thought it was appropriate because often in the Arab world people maintain cultural boundaries when it comes to physical contact, which makes it harder to interact with the hearing impaired from a distance.
“Our CEO had an experience with a family of six who were all hearing impaired. He found that it was quite challenging for them to communicate, and eventually conceptualized this device to help combat this issue faced by most in the hearing-impaired community and decided that AIA was the best platform to pursue it,” Srhayri said.
Nora Al Fraih, a Kuwaiti student who joined the program in the hope that she would be able to meet people from different cultures and backgrounds, is also working on a similar idea with her team. They decided to develop a solution for the hearing impaired using augmented reality (AR). The idea revolves around creating AR glasses that will use speech-to-text technology to display real-time subtitles as a person speaks.
The teams will continue to develop their ideas until the Grand Pitch on January 20, which is when they will present them to investors.