Eaman Al-Roudhan with Zain’s 11 entrepreneurs and the company’s team

KUWAIT: Zain, the leading digital service provider in Kuwait, successfully concluded the fifth edition of its Zain Great Idea (ZGI) tech startup accelerator program. The conclusion came during the company’s Zain Demo Day event, through which Zain’s 11 entrepreneurs met Kuwait’s investment community at Four Seasons Hotel with the presence of their families, the local entrepreneurial community, and Zain officials.

The event witnessed the attendance of Zain Kuwait’s Chief Executive Officer Eaman Al-Roudhan, Mind the Bridge Founder and CEO Marco Marinucci, Zain Kuwait’s Chief Technical Officer Nawaf Al-Gharabally, Zain Kuwait’s Chief Enterprise Business Officer Hamad Al-Marzouq, Zain Kuwait’s Chief Commercial Officer Meshal Mohammed, Zain Kuwait’s Chief Corporate Communications and Relations Officer Waleed Al-Khashti, Brilliant Lab Founder Neda Al-Dihany, as well as representatives of investment companies and the local entrepreneurial community.

Zain Demo Day came after almost four months of continuous hard work exerted by 11 bright entrepreneurs developing and accelerating their tech startups: Faisal Al-Basri – founder of Mezan, Yousef Al-Husaini – founder of Baims, Abdulwahab Al-Refaei – founder of Cybersys, Reem Al-Farhan – founder of CTC, Rawan Al-Sabah – founder of The Capital, Mishari Amin – founder of Touch point, Noor Asad and Dalal Al-Qattan – founders of That Designs, Fahad Al-Baghli – founder of The Wish List, Majed Al-Hamlan – founder of Blue Outdoors, Mohamed Al-Raqem – founder of Wellbii, and Altaf Al-Thekair – founder of Circle.

During her opening speech, Zain Kuwait’s Chief Executive Officer Eaman Al-Roudhan said: “first, I would like to welcome all our guests and thank our ZGI alumni. Lately, the number of entrepreneurs looking for quick business success has increased. They reached the conclusion that increasing the value of startups depends on many factors: business development continuity, catching valuable opportunities from large corporations, continuing as an individual business rather than an incorporated one, and finally: the key dependency on innovation and new technologies”.

Al-Roudhan explained: “the entrepreneurship wave has invaded international markets during the past decade in particular, and the technology revolution has contributed to raising this wave. Thus, a new generation of entrepreneurs was born thanks to tech startups, and they are leading the growth of the world’s digital economy today”.

Al-Roudhan continued: “we have witnessed lately how the region’s markets adopted this direction, and worked to spread the freelance mentality within entrepreneurs in all areas, while increasing awareness about the influential role of startups in economic and social development. The connection in supporting entrepreneurs is greatly dependent on the value of innovations and ideas, and what these innovations and ideas can introduce to the business ecosystem. Business growth is linked with necessity, and necessity is the mother of invention”.

Al-Roudhan added: “in spite of these efforts and initiatives across international, regional, and local levels, many entrepreneurs still face challenges like high capital costs of new technologies, cybersecurity and protecting data, lack of needed skills, need for a variety of specific skills, as well as the ability to build integrated partnerships or ecosystems to support their businesses”.

Al-Roudhan further explained: “10 years ago, and as part of our Corporate Sustainability strategy, we at Zain innovated many initiatives to support and empower the youth and fuel the spirit of innovation within them. Throughout the years, we developed ZGI to make it what it is today; an academy that prepares and graduates promising talents”.

Al-Roudhan continued: “this journey witnessed so much: we received over 1500 applications to take part in ZGI, trained over 350 participants in our bootcamp program, accelerated over 80 startups, had nearly KD 6 million in investments, and created 250 job opportunities. Today, we are executing an integrated strategy to support entrepreneurship and innovation in line with the New Kuwait 2035 vision. Being a leading national company in the private sector, we have put forth three pillars to achieve this strategy: inspire innovation, support entrepreneurship, and enrich creativity”.

Al-Roudhan concluded: “The ZGI journey will go on, and we will continue to develop this accelerator program in line with our strategy and the New Kuwait Vision, because we believe that our support to entrepreneurs and startups – especially tech ones – will ensure us business continuity and growth”.

Throughout five successful editions, ZGI empowered, trained, and invested in hundreds of creative and driven Kuwaiti youth, of which many now own thriving and active Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) to this day. Zain Great Idea has been one of the most successful initiatives Zain presented to the Kuwaiti market as part of its comprehensive innovation and entrepreneurship strategy, with the aim of offering Kuwait’s entrepreneurial community the chance to take their startups to entire new levels.

ZGI is established by Zain in association with Brilliant Lab, a startup Accelerator Service from Kuwait, and Mind the Bridge, a global organization bridging the world through entrepreneurship education for startups, enterprises and investors to succeed in global markets. Mind the Bridge is based in Silicon Valley with offices in US, London, Italy, and Spain.

During the first phase of ZGI, participates took part in the Bootcamp phase in Kuwait, which featured a carefully designed comprehensive academic program that lasted for three weeks. Participants learned the essentials of accelerating their tech startup at the company’s main headquarters in Shuwaikh, led by world-class instructors from a selection of the best regional and international academic institutions, including Stanford University, IE Business School, Venture Capital firms, entrepreneurs, and more.

In the second phase, nearly 100 ambitious entrepreneurs pitched their projects and ideas to the judging panel, who in return selected 11 finalists that took part in the third phase; the international accelerator program in collaboration with Brilliant Lab and Mind the Bridge. During the third phase, the finalists travelled to San Francisco, where they presented their tech startups to Mind the Bridge’s top management, headed by Founder and CEO Marco Marinucci, who shared his strategic experience in business and entrepreneurship with them. Throughout an entire day, the finalists also met many local entrepreneurs in San Francisco, who shared their success stories and mentoring advice.

During the second week of their stay in San Francisco, Zain’s entrepreneurs gained invaluable experiences to develop and accelerate their tech startups by visiting the headquarters of the world’s biggest technology leaders. The trips featured visits to the main headquarters of Google, Microsoft, Pinterest, and venture capital firm 500 Startups in Silicon Valley.

ZGI 5’s finalists also took part in a seminar presented by Tesla cofounder Marc Tarpenning, which took place at Stanford University, the world’s first-ranked university in entrepreneurship. Zain’s entrepreneurs also presented their tech startups to a number of Silicon Valley investors and specialists, who provided valuable feedback and insights with the aim of developing and accelerating their startups. The presentations were supervised by Mind the Bridge’s consultants and mentors

ZGI was first launched in 2010 as a Corporate Social Responsibility initiative designed to support the youth into making their entrepreneurial dreams come true. Zain was the first in the region to launch such a comprehensive program of this kind. Then, throughout nearly 10 wonderful years, the company embraced over 500 entrepreneurs, travelled to 4 countries, and helped nearly 80 of the brightest Kuwaiti minds accelerate their ideas into active and thriving SMEs in the market.

The latest edition of the program features an all-new phase to the program: Co-developing. After Zain Great Idea is over, finalists will get full access to Zain’s cross-functional team to help them get the most out of their newly accelerated startup. ZGI’s entrepreneurs will be able to get consultations, mentoring, deals, tactics/strategies, and more from Zain specialists in various areas that are essential to any business, including sales, marketing, communications, legal, networks, IT, and more.

Zain is well aware of the crucial role played by private sector organizations in supporting social and economic sustainability projects. Springing from its growing commitment towards practicing its social responsibility, the company is committed to printing a positive print through all its activities. This has led Zain to embrace the most influential issues in the community, including the support of youth, entrepreneurship, and innovation.