By Tamara Pupic
StartUp reports from the finals of the first Startup MENA GCC Pitch Challenge.
A Dubai-based secure payment platform won the first Startup MENA GCC Pitch Challenge, a part of the EU-GCC Trade and Business Cooperation Facility project.
Bridg, a secure payment app that can also be used offline, was chosen from 12 semi-finalists from six GCC countries due to its profitable business model and social impact, a judging panelist said at the event held at Dubai Internet City.
Moussa Beidas, the founder of Bridg, received prize funds of €20,000 ($21,300), a free ticket to participate in the Pioneers Festival in Vienna, and an opportunity to pitch at the MENA Angel Summit in Bahrain.
Supported by the Federation of GCC Chambers, BUSINESS EUROPE and Confederation of Danish Industry, and funded by EU Commission, the Startup MENA GCC Pitch Challenge held semi-finals in Oman, Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
All of the 12 semi-finalists pitching at the Dubai event won the opportunity to have their applications to any start-up bootcamp accelerator in Europe, Asia or the US automatically fast-tracked.
“This is a big win for financial technology,” Beidas told StartUp after the finals.
The 30-years-old Palestinian, who was born and raised in the UAE, looked at solving a challenge of how to reduce the number of people going to bank branches and facilitate their usage of digital banking services.
He came up with Bridg, a secure payment app that can be used both online and offline.
The ability to use the app without internet access on a smartphone and/or without possessing a bank account and credit card makes it an ideal solution for emerging markets.
“We are still figuring out which market should be targeted in order for us to be able to benefit those markets the most,” Beidas said a few days before the finals when StartUp met with the two UAE semi-finalists and Jakob Kistorp, the founder of Startup MENA, and a co-founder of event organisers Venture Scout.
Beidas added: “We are not necessarily sure that the Middle East is the right market for us.
“The markets like India, Pakistan, and Indonesia we are more interested in. However, there are specific use cases here, as well in Europe and the West that could benefit from solutions as ours.”
Prior to the Dubai event, Bridg was also the only Middle Eastern startup pitching at The Next Web Conference Europe 2015 in Amsterdam, which is considered to be Europe’s leading technology conference.
Under the first phase of Startup MENA's EU-GCC programme, Kistorp will be leading a series of workshops and events on how to open up businesses in Europe and the GCC as well as how to enhance cooperation between start-ups and large corporations in the two regions.
The Startup GCC project, developed for an EU start-up wanting to expand to the GCC, is planned to include workshops in Brussels, London, Rome and Berlin.
Similarly, the EU GCC Connect project, designed for corporates interested in doing business with SMEs, will be held in London, connecting EU start-ups with GCC corporates, and in Dubai, connecting GCC start-ups with EU corporates.