Startup Weekend in Abu Dhabi – From Start to Finish

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startup weekend abu dhabi
A workshop conducted during the Startup Weekend, a 54-hour-long event. Photo - Startup Weekend Abu Dhabi

For a few of us in Abu Dhabi, it was a “No Talk. All Action” weekend.

Abu Dhabi hosted its first ever global Startup Weekend in Abu Dhabi from 23 to 26 May in the newly developed Saadiyat Gallery on the scenic Saadiyat Island.

What is Startup Weekend?

If you are a programmer, designer, marketer or a startup enthusiast, Startup Weekend is an event that you must attend.

Here’s what the Startup Weekend website says:

“Startup Weekends are 54-hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups!”

“Startup Weekend’s motto: Build Community. Start Companies. No Talk. All Action. Together, we are our own community of passionate entrepreneurs on a mission to help other entrepreneurs and facilitate innovation.”

The Startup Weekend brings together innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem under one roof. The ‘No Talk, All Action’ mantra helps talented individuals launch a startup. The intense 54-hour event focuses on building a web or mobile application, which could form the basis of a credible business during the course of the weekend.

Participants engaged in teamwork and polishing their ideas. Photo -

Benefits of attending a Startup Weekend event 

Education: Learn as you do! Put your idea to test.

Networking: Meet some amazingly talented people which may not be possible for you otherwise. You could be meeting your co-founder or an angel investor.

Acquire new skills: Be it programming or designing or even making a sound business plan.

Hear from Industry Experts: Top companies leaders too participate in the event as mentors and judges. What better chance to get one-on-one time with the movers and shakers in your community.

Join a global community: Join over 30,000 Startup Weekend alumni, all on a mission to change the world.

Investors and incubators: Startup Weekend provides the ultimate opportunities for investors and incubators to connect with innovative entrepreneurs.

How does it work?

1. First day, Thursday morning: Presenting the Idea in 60 seconds to inspire others to join your team

2. Friday & Saturday: Design and develop business plans while constantly streamlining the startup’s vision.

3. Final day, Saturday evening: A demo of the prototype developed, feedback from judges and win prizes (if successful)!

How it all worked!

The UAE version of Startup Weekend concluded its last day event in Abu Dhabi with the announcement of the first three winning teams on Saturday 26th May 2012. The event organisers Innovation Machine in collaboration with Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development presented the awards.

Fifty-three pitches were presented on the first day of the competition, for technology startup ideas and projects. After that, twenty seven teams were formed to work on the best ideas. On the third day, after the final pitch of ideas, the judges selected three winning teams.

first winner startup weekend
Winners of the Startup Weekend event. Photo - Startup Weekend Abu Dhabi

The winning teams were HEALTH MILES, who came in at 1st place (AED20,000/$5,444), – an application to motivate and reward Healthy Lifestyles. Second place was for MONGO (AED10,000/$2,722) – an online shopping experience collecting unique designed items by undiscovered artisans. Third place (AED5,000/$1,361) was for SPEAKING PAPERS, – an idea to give voice to the global newspaper, and enable you to listen to your favourite newspaper wherever and whenever you decide at your fingertips. The prizes were meant to support the teams in establishing their companies and forming a solid foundation for their future businesses.

Startup Weekend, with its 3rd edition that happened in Abu Dhabi, received a lot of interest from the local youth community in the UAE, with almost 400 registrations, where participants shared their innovative ideas. Startup Weekend is designed to bring together business and community leaders with entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts to inspire, educate and empower.

The Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, Chief Executive H.E. Abdullah Saeed Al Darmaki, said:We are very proud to have been an important part in making this initiative happen in Abu Dhabi for the first time; it has truly unveiled the creative hidden side of the local youth”. He added: “It’s with no doubt the Information technology sector is the most promising investment sector in the region, despite the high competition, and that the Khalifa Fund will provide all necessary support for the success on any technical project that complies with the requirements and conditions of the Khalifa Fund financing.”

the startup weekend team
H. E. Abdullah Saeed Al Darmaki, Chief Executive Officer of The Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development (extreme-left), along with Ms. Sara Falaknaz, Ms. Deem Al Bassam and Mr. Kamal Hassan (extreme right) – the founders of Innovation Machine, a Dubai based organisation that promotes local and regional entrepreneurship and innovative startups. Photo - Startup Weekend Abu Dhabi

The projects submitted and discussed during the event reflected the advanced level acquired by the young entrepreneur generation and the participants in specific. He also stressed that the Fund will present all forms of support to projects compliant with the policies and funding directed to the citizens of the state only.

Photos: See more photos from Startup Weekend Abu Dhabi here.

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