By Tamara Pupic
GITEX ‘Strut-Up’ Pitch Competition awarded $160,000 of prize money to start-ups.
Acacus Technologies, a Dubai-based start-up that provides comprehensive fleet management solutions, has won a grand prize of $100,000 at the GITEX ‘Strut-Up’ Pitch Competition.
GITEX ‘Strut-Up’ Pitch Competition awarded a grand prize of $100,000 for GITEX Global Startup Winner and $20,000 each in categories for Best Millennial, Arab and Women Entrepreneurs.
The competition took place over three days during which more than 38 start-ups competed across more than 50 pitches, each round moving the winners one step closer to the grand prize.
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.
“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 start-ups 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.”
Acacus Technologies, the GITEX Global prize winner, was 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 Start-Up 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 Start-up 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 $20,000 Best Millennial Start-up 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 start-up 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 $20,000 as the winners of the Best Woman Start-up, with founder Myriam Marcetteau traveling from France to pitch at the Strut-up Competition.
The start-up 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.”
Over 420 start-up companies participated in the GITEX Global Startup Movement, hailing from over 60 countries.