LEAP23 set to spur startup ecosystem

LEAP23 set to spur startup ecosystem

LEAP23 will host two competitions with a prize purse of US$1.54 million, as well as a welcome a raft of global celebrities and tech industry luminaries ranging from music icon will.i.am and FIFA World Cup winner Carles Puyol to Amin H Nassr, CEO of Aramco, and Jae Sook Evans, Chief Information Officer at Oracle.

LEAP23 is set to run from February 6-9 at the Riyadh Front Exhibition and Conference Centre and will be the setting for the inaugural LEAP Rocket Fuel Startup Pitch Challenge, powered by Saudi Arabia’s National Technology Development Programme (NTDP). The initiative is a collaboration between the Kingdom’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), the MiSK Foundation, and NTDP.

Ninety global startups will fight for the chance to be one of the 15 nascent businesses selected to pitch before a judging panel consisting of Shark Tank India’s Ghazal Alagh, Baroness Karren Brady, aide to The Apprentice’s Alan Sugar, Saudi angel investor Tala Al Jabri, and Dragon’s Den stars James Caan and Steven Bartlett.

The judges will present the LEAP Award and its accompanying US$250,000 main prize to the outstanding startup, while US$150,000 will go to the best early stage startup, the most innovative startup pioneered by women, the new business that best embodies the LEAP spirit, the most impressive startup occupying the Metaverse and Web 3.0, and the pitch that represents the most exciting, ground-breaking use of Artificial Intelligence.

On the show’s final day, LEAP23 will also host the winners’ ceremony of the ongoing Alibaba Cloud Saudi Hackathon, which comes with its own prize pool of US$532,000. Organisers said the response to the four-day hackathon, which started on January 29, was huge. The winning solutions and ideas implementors – those that have made the best use of Alibaba Cloud technology to facilitate deployment, development, scalability, and fast go-to market solutions – will be presented with their awards on February 9.

LEAP23 is set to welcome 920 scheduled investors, including Sequoia Capital, Octopus Ventures, 500 Global and many more. Between them, they control an unprecedented US$1.9 trillion in assets under management. And with more than 5,000 potential meetings bookmarked, the four-day show promises to be the event where decisions are made and deals get done.

As well as pop superstar will.i.am and former Barcelona and Spain legend Puyol – both now entrepreneurs within the Metaverse – the latest batch of tech heavyweights and international celebrities set to speak at LEAP23 include Séan Garnier, CEO of Urbanball and world freestyle football champion, Gary Sorrentino, Global Chief Information Officer at Zoom, Helen K Pan, General Manager at Apollo Autonomous Driving – Baidu, Jim Deluca, CEO of Ceer, Hatem Dowidar, Group CEO at e& Group (formerly Etisalat), and a host of other C-suite thought-leaders from major global technology companies.

LEAP23’s newly released roster of tech talent also highlights the Saudi convention’s ability to connect East and West, with Selina Zhang, President of Alibaba Cloud, and Wu Eddie Yongming, Co-founder of Alibaba Group confirmed alongside Sheikh Talal Said Marhoon Al Mamari, CEO at Omantel, Saleem AlBlooshi, CTO at Du, Sheikh Bader bin Rashid Al Khalifa, Chief Communications and Sustainability Officer at Batelco, and Charles Li, ex-CEO of Hong Kong Exchange and Chairman of Micro Connect.

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