Under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander, Chairman of the Economic Development Board (EDB), StartUp Bahrain Week, the community-led festival of startup events, returned to Bahrain for the second time from 3-10 March. Startup delegations were able to attend a variety of talks, pitch competitions and practical workshops aimed at supporting startups and entrepreneurs from across the region – and beyond. Founders rubbed shoulders with investors, incubators, accelerators and educational institutions to learn, network and scale. The StartUp Bahrain Week was held in partnership with the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) and Tamkeen.
Headline events included Unbound Bahrain, a two-day innovation festival which hosted over 100 influential speakers in the fields of AI, FinTech, blockchain, sustainability, investment, digital health and more. Attendees explored themes such as tech disruption in the Gulf and brand storytelling, heard what keeps a venture capitalist up at night, and joined in hackathons and a lunchtime pitching session. There were also panel discussions and workshops on diversity in the workplace, and the role of women in the innovation and entrepreneur ecosystem.
There was plenty of advice for founders who are looking for support to take their ideas to the next level but are unsure how to navigate the ecosystem. An ‘Ecosystem Tour’ allowed founders to meet key members of the Bahrain startup scene, such as StartUp Bahrain, EDB and Tamkeen. At the GCC Startup Meetup, major players in the GCC startup scene gathered to discuss common problems, exchange expertise, compare products and services, and help local startups access regional markets. Founders were also able to attend the Flat6Labs Demo Day and meet the latest cohort of startups as they pitched on stage. Flat6Labs provides its startups with seed funding, mentorship, space to work and business training, aiming to make the startups it selects investible within four months.
There were numerous opportunities for attendees to further understand the latest developments in transformative technologies. Events included a three-day bootcamp with the Bahrain Deep Tech Program, which saw researchers, entrepreneurs and experts share cutting-edge technologies, and explore how to turn these into commercial business opportunities. Amazon Web Services also hosted ‘Immersion Day’ workshops, enabling startups to learn about their services as well as how global organisations such as McDonald’s, Airbnb, Expedia, Snapchat, and Netflix make best use of them.
The events featured international speakers and commentators alongside those from across the region. They included H.E. Shaikh Salman bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa, the Minister of Finance & National Economy who was the honorary speaker at Startup MGZN’s Startup Evenings. Other awesome speakers included Khalid Al-Rumaihi, Chief Executive of Bahrain EDB; entrepreneur Badr Ward, founder and CEO of Lamsa; Leena Al Olaimy who has more than 15 years of experience in social innovation; Tom Goodwin, Head of Innovation for Zenith Media.
Ms. Pakiza Abdulrahman, Manager – Business Development – Startups at the EDB said: “Here in Bahrain, we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of innovation, and we are always looking to see how we can do more to help startups succeed. StartUp Bahrain Week 2019 was a real community effort, packed full of inspirational events for entrepreneurs and investors that will encourage innovation and growth in the startup ecosystem – not just here but across the region”.
Ms. Safa Sharif, Director of Investment at Tamkeen said: “We realize the importance of giving startups the business opportunities they deserve, and we are excited to have been part of Startup Bahrain Week that does so much to encourage this dynamic startup culture. We found the
Startup Bahrain Week is just one element of a comprehensive network of support available to startups in Bahrain and the wider region, which as well as EDB and Tamkeen also includes StartUp Bahrain, Al Waha Fund of Funds, accelerators such as Flat6Labs and Brinc, and Bahrain’s biggest FinTech incubator in the region, Bahrain FinTech Bay.