ArabNet Kuwait Highlights Developments of Kuwait’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Held under the patronage and with the presence of HE Khaled Nasser Abdullah Al-Roudan, Minister of Commerce and Industry and Minister of State for Youth Affairs, the 2nd edition of ArabNet Kuwait returned after its major success in 2016. The conference gathered over 70 speakers and 800 attendees including government leaders, enterprise decision makers, regional/international digital professionals, entrepreneurs, and investors to connect and discuss the latest trends and opportunities to leverage technology in Kuwait and the GCC.
The conference was launched on October 17th, with an opening speech by H.E. Khaled Nasser Abdullah Al-Roudan, stating that the ArabNet Kuwait conference focuses on the developing ICT sector and shares entrepreneurial success stories, providing the Kuwaiti youth with the opportunity to benefit from the global and regional experiences, and learn about the latest developments in the digital business industry, to spur the growth of the knowledge economy in alignment with the public and private sector efforts in Kuwait and with the Amiri vision to position Kuwait as a global financial and commercial center, in which the digital sector plays a vital role.
He added that the Kuwaiti government is taking strides to encourage the youth and support their initiatives. It has begun developing the educational curriculum in schools and universities, creating incubators, securing funding, providing infrastructure to support the advancement of social and economical development, creating new job opportunities for the youth, as well as the issuance of regulations and legislations supporting youth projects, including the recent micro-enterprise resolution, substantially reducing commercial licensing procedures, and their electronic issuance in record time.
ArabNet Founder and CEO, Omar Christidis highlighted in his welcoming speech that: “The Kuwaiti entrepreneurial ecosystem has witnessed tremendous developments in the last year, with Delivery Hero acquiring food delivery platform Carriage barely 14 months after its founding, and Faith Capital Holding acquiring cleaning services marketplace Masbagti, now renamed JustClean. A number of new funds, accelerator programs and support institutions have also launched and are already investing in promising Kuwaiti and regional startups. Meanwhile, Kuwaiti businesses across the spectrum - from banks to retailers to agencies - are aggressively investing in upgrading digital capabilities, growing online transactions and developing innovative online content and campaigns.”
The Kuwaiti market has witnessed a surge in institutions supporting innovation in the past 3 years, including new VC funds, co-working spaces, training and acceleration programs. Kuwait has tremendous potential to develop a thriving innovation economy, with a robust national digital payment gateway, as well as internet, smartphone, and social media penetration rates all above 90%. However, there are still a number of challenges facing innovators in Kuwait - from funding to culture and skills. The opening panel, which consisted of the Undersecretary of the Ministry of State for Youth AffairsSheikha Al Zain Al Sabah, Director of Finance and Investment at the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS) Firas AlOda, and Chairman of Markab Capital Ahmad Alomani, discussed the challenges and opportunities, as well as the role that the public and private sector can play to build an innovation-driven economy in Kuwait.
The first day of the conference consisted of the Investment & Innovation Forum that included additional regional and international stellar speakers Waleed Al Ballaa Partner at STVentures, Omar Almajdouie Founding Partner at Raed Ventures and Rashid Sultan Founder and Managing Partner at Savour Ventures. The speakers discussed the Kuwaiti startup ecosystem highlighting the progress and challenges faced, shared investment strategies, best practices for fundraising, and more.
As ArabNet plays a key role in supporting the most promising regional innovators, and matching them with the right investors through two of ArabNet’s signature competitions, Ideathon and Startup Battle. The Startup Battle, sponsored by KuwaitNet, is a competition in which entrepreneurs pitched their local startups to a jury of investors and the audience. The results will be announced on the 2nd day, and the winners of the Startup Battle will get to compete at the ArabNet Startup Championship to compete against the best startups in the region. In the ideathon competition aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their great ideas of to the enthusiastic crowd of investors, incubators, media and digital professionals, and connect them with the latest developments in the digital world.
ArabNet Kuwait continues for another day, featuring its the Digital Commerce Forum and the Ad Tech Forum, roundtable, as well as the award ceremony of the Startup Battle and Ideathon competitions. ArabNet Kuwait is also sponsored by The Kuwait National Fund (KNF), Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS), Gulf Bank, Nabad, Bayt.com, JustClean, KNet, Social Entrepreneurship Enterprise Development (SEED), DBS Digital, Wataniya Airways, VIVA Telecom, Careem, MEC Global, DarisniME, and Boubyan Bank.