MENA tech startups get chance to bag $1m growth funding in MiSK initiative

Fifteen technology firms will be given the opportunity to participate in a three-month program of bootcamps aimed at fast-tracking promising young entrepreneurs to achieving their business goals through Saudi MiSK Foundation initiative. (Pixabay/apriltan18)
Updated 10 July 2019
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MENA tech startups get chance to bag $1m growth funding in MiSK initiative

  • 15 successful applicants will join in three bootcamps and demo day in Riyadh
  • Each company selected to take part in the project will receive an initial $100,000

ARAB NEWS JEDDAH: Innovative business startups in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region could receive cash injections of up to $1 million as part of a newly launched growth initiative.
Fifteen technology firms will be given the opportunity to participate in a three-month program of bootcamps aimed at fast-tracking promising young entrepreneurs to achieving their business goals.
The non-profit Misk Foundation has launched its growth accelerator scheme for MENA technology startups in partnership with innovation investor organizations Seedstars and Vision Ventures.
Each company selected to take part in the project will receive an initial $100,000 with the chance of a follow-up $1 million. The business accelerator program, which will run from September to December this year, is targeted at startup ventures with product/market fit that are looking to expand.
The 15 successful applicants will join in three on-site bootcamps and a demo day in Riyadh, allowing them to stay close to customers while receiving constant coaching from in-house and external growth experts.
Seedstars, a global organization with a mission to impact people’s lives in emerging markets through technology and entrepreneurship, and ​Vision Ventures, a renowned venture capital firm investing throughout the MENA region, will jointly pump $100,000 into each of the initiative’s participating startups and will then consider follow-on investments.
Kais Al-Essa, founding partner and CEO of Vision Ventures, said: “​Being entrepreneurs ourselves, we know how founders suffer in their journey toward success. Our role is to try to add light and direction to the roads ahead of them.
“The co-investment model in this program gives startups two great institutions on their capitalization table, access to a strong local and regional network, and knowledge of Vision Ventures, in addition to the global Seedstars platform.”
The focus of the growth program will be to help startups with product/market fit to implement a process in order to deliver consistent high growth.
“​Startups often have a misconception that growth comes from hacks, while in fact it’s a process. Growth is a culture, a mindset and a methodology that needs to be implemented, and that’s the main goal of the program​,” said Charlie Graham-Brown, CIO of Seedstars.
Program participants will also receive coaching on other key topics such as talent management, leadership and fundraising strategy.
Applications are now open and will be accepted until July 21. To qualify, applicants must be tech startups from any sector in the MENA region, have raised funds of between $250,000 and $1 million, have more than $10,000 in monthly recurring revenue, and have product/market fit.
The growth accelerator aims to build on the existing work of startup ecosystem enablers in the MENA region.
​Osama Al-Raee, entrepreneurship growth director at Misk Foundation, said: “Misk Innovation has been supporting early stage startups through various initiatives such as e​vents, bootcamps and acceleration programs. We now see a need to help startups make the jump to become ready for series A round.
“We believe that the combined program of investment and know-how can make a real difference. This is all part of how we support Misk’s wider mission of empowering youth to become the architects, not tenants, of the future economy, by unleashing their huge entrepreneurial potential.”


Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 13 min 18 sec ago
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Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


EVENTS WATCH

1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.


The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.