Aqar-Estate – the online real estate platform founded by TechWomen alumna Hanan Khader – won first place as the company with the best pitch at the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) boot camp and “Demo Day” in Amman, Jordan. Held between December 16 and 18, 2013, thirty early-stage companies representing disparate sectors, including real estate, mobile payment systems, e-commerce, and online education, participated in GIST’s two-day boot camp led by visiting mentors Faysal Sohail, General Partner of CMEA Capital; Chuck Eesely, Assistant Professor, Stanford University Department of Management Science; and Kari Hanson, Former Project Director of Stanford’s SEED Design Lab. The best 15 companies pitched their products and solutions to local business leaders and the visiting mentors in a December 18 Demo Day.
Audience questions posed during a public panel on Demo Day revealed challenges facing young entrepreneurs in Jordan and the region. Audience members judged that there is generally a need for closer links between academia and industry. Eesely observed that universities and businesses usually forge closer ties naturally as markets become increasingly competitive and demand for new technological innovation grows. Responding to a question about difficulties bringing venture firms to the Middle East, Sohail estimated that there is growing investor interest in the region. However, international and local angel and venture investors wiGISTll more readily fund start-ups and early-stage companies when the path to profitably exiting investments is clear.
NGO CRDF Global, in partnership with local business incubator Oasis 500, the Embassy, and the U.S. Department of State’s Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Bureau organized the GIST boot camp and Demo Day.