August 4th, 2020
On the heels of the first-ever Online Startup Weekend in Saudi Arabia: Unite to Fight COVID-19 in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, 101 teams comprising more than 800 attendees (with a regional record of 66.8% female participation) have come up with ideas aimed at presenting the kingdom, and the world, with viable solutions to the challenges posed by the pandemic.
Ranging from home fitness apps to EdTech platforms, to virtual biology innovations, the ten winning teams were: Cash Sanitizing Machine, CEE, Virtual Biology Sections, Azouf, ChillLearn.
Tryout, Jawwala, Smart Ein Yamama, Talaqa, and Aqqamna [We Sanitize].
The weekend, made possible through a unique partnership between Techstars and the Saudi Ministry of Education, kicked off July 8, 2020. At a virtual opening ceremony, remarks and introductions were made by the Ministry’s Deputy for Research and Innovation, Prof. Nasser Al-Aqeeli, and Techstars’ own co-founder and CEO David Brown.
Each keynote speaker spoke about the importance of staying a step ahead in these trying times and the invaluable role entrepreneurship must play in tackling challenges presented by COVID-19.
Throughout the 54-hour action-packed virtual event, many of the contestants produced solutions that were viable, sustainable, and adaptable to a global scale, beyond Saudi borders.
During the weekend, the teams enjoyed fine-tuning their ideas and were at times even challenged on them. 54 mentors from around the world, and from across diverse industries and specializations, coached teams on ideas related to the specific sectors of focus for the event; education, health, business, and entertainment, and tourism. The ten winning teams not only represented all four sectors but, in some cases, even addressed more than one.
A prime example of this was The Cash Sanitizing Machine team which was particularly resonant as it tackled the pandemic through a public health lens. he idea put simply, is to help curb transmission of the virus and intercept cross-community infections by sanitizing currency; an everyday material that is exchanged widely among people.
The Azouf team focused on the health sector with the idea of using sensor technology to detect social distancing adherence using AI in real-time. Innovative technology was also utilized by winning team ChillLearn, who created a distance tutoring platform for the education sector. The platform brings together a smartboard with screen and file-sharing capability. Team Jawwala tackled the tourism sector in KSA with A platform that guides tourists through their journey by planning their trip roadmap based on their preferences.