To Inspire is to Empower
InspireU is the Saudi Kingdom’s first corporate Incubator and Accelerator for startups addressing ICT/Digital innovation across MENA aimed at promoting, supporting and developing entrepreneurship & digital innovation in the region.
Mr. Nasser A. Alsaadon, GM Business Development and Innovation at STC speaks to Teletimes International in an exclusive interview at GITEX Technology Week 2015.
Interview – Gulraiz Khalid
Gulraiz Khalid: What is InspireU?
Nasser A. Alsaadon: InspireU is the Kingdom’s first corporate incubator/accelerator for start-up’s focused on ICT/digital innovation. Aimed at promoting, supporting and developing entrepreneurship and digital innovation in KSA and the MENA Region, InspireU is a program based around a professional incubation center for digital startups that provides the startups with a value-based chain that entrepreneurs need to grow and become successful. It involves an initial competition to shortlist the best startups who then become a part of the program where STC helps them execute their ideas to their best potentials.
GK: What will be the biggest benefit to the participants from this program?
NA: Our participants will benefit a lot from this program as we will not only support them in creating their own solutions and products but the biggest benefit will be that we will give them access to real world telecommunications customers and a business environment to operate in. STC’s networks, value chain, strong partners and its infrastructure will provide a great benefit to any incubatee that wishes to connect to this industry in the future.
STC is not only providing resources to the InspireU program members but also providing them infrastructure, guidance, support services, mentorship and access to the technology ecosystem. We also provide mentorship from senior executives within STC who advise these start-ups and help them build strategies for their businesses leveraging the experience and knowledge of STC executives, as well as mentorship from serial entrepreneurs who have practical experience to transfer their knowledge and experience to the incubates.
GK: Specifically, what are the facilities/support you are providing to the incubatees?
NA: The support we provide includes the following:
- Office space
- Logistic support, such as; facilitating work visas, a business license, and software needs, among many more.
- Mentorship and hands-on training, allowing you to learn from leading experts in the region
- Seed funding of SAR 75,000 to get you started on your new venture
- Access to a wide range of investors that will financially support you on your journey
- Access to STC infrastructure and user base in order to test /improve and scale your digital product
- Access to international exchange program in order to scale your company beyond the kingdom of Saudi Arabia
- Customized curriculum to enrich your knowledge in building state of the art digital products and global companies
NA:We are not limited to any one country origin for the startups. We entertain all digital & ICT startups from all over the region and we aim to take all our winners international and let them operate in the global markets.
GK: What type of companies is STC looking to incubate in the InspireU program?
NA: We focus on digital & ICT related startups. We have started the first phase of our program and we have entertained all types of participants including e-commerce, health, gaming etc.
In the first phase of our program, we had 300 applicants who applied through our portal and went through a selection process. We do the program twice a year and announce it publicly through website, press releases and social media and so on.
GK: How many incubatees do you plan to take within a year?
NA: Right now, we are running the program once a year and we pick out at least 4 startups through the competition. We are planning to run the competition twice a year in the future. Therefore, in later stages we are looking at 8 startups every year in the future.
GK: What is the selection procedure for InspireU?
- Based on pre-determined selection criteria, the Top 30 applications proceed to the next stage
- Selected teams go through a one-on-one interview and are required to submit a 1 minute movie allowing us to know them better
- An internal review, of the interviews and movies shortens the list of applicants from 30 to 10. The Top 10 teams are invited to our two-day bootcamp event
This two-day event helps them structure the idea from both a business and technical perspective through a set of workshops. The first day workshop, conducted by highly skilled mentors is aimed at adding value to the idea and preparing the final pitch. The second day focuses on all teams pitching their ideas in front of 5 judges and answering questions and inquiries.
Winners are announced after the pitching and right after the bootcamp, InspireU initiates the on boarding activities with the winners to help them relocate, sign the agreement and be ready to embark in a 6 months program.
GK: How is InspireU supporting STC’s vision for the Saudi economy?
NA: STC is committed to build any programs and initiatives that could develop the Kingdom’s economy and help achieve the digital vision of the country.
STC has launched this initiative for the Saudi Youth and to develop the economy of the country by creating a strong base and platform for young entrepreneurs to rise and develop their own ventures. It is one of STC’s digital & innovation initiatives within our pipeline to boost and foster the technology and digital market in Saudi.
GK: How is the InspireU program in line with the “Scalable Solutions” approach of STC?
NA: STC is aiming towards “Scalable Solutions” and the InspireU initiative is aligned with this strategy. The InspireU is highly scalable and is aimed at supporting and assisting the young entrepreneurs in creating solutions. As an incumbent operator, we have a large variety of all types of solutions ranging from voice, to landline to mobile data and business solutions.
With initiatives such as InspireU, we are going beyond and taking a step forward moving into the digital arena. Together, with the youth, and the creative minds of the region, we will create more solutions and build them on top as a layer above the capabilities of an incumbent operator.
GK: Does STC have any partners involved in the InspireU program?
NA: STC has brought some of its partners such as IBM, Ericsson, Amazon, CISCO, ERICSSON and Strategy& to come and join the InpireU program in order to create more value for the participants and enhance the knowledge base that is participating.
Bringing in more partners from the industry will make the program more comprehensive, practical and create better industry-based learning experience for the start-ups.
InspireU also has a complete range of partners in the area of research and universities, funding and investment with well-known ventures capitals, innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.
GK: Do you think InspireU can help other startups that apply and do not win the competition?
NA: InspireU gives a lot of benefit to all participants, even to those who do not eventually win. The bootcamp helps create a clear vision ahead for the company and the judging processes bring the participants to practical criticism that enables them to think beyond their current state, it gives them exposure to the industry and sometimes this exposure can lead to various synergies and opportunities.
Actually, InspireU will also help & support those potential digital startups that are not even incubated in the program. We will help those startups through focused acceleration-weekends that will drive value and knowledge for them to boost their ideas and projects.