Staff Writer Ahmed Budalama speaks to Latifa Al Khalifa, the mastermind founder of
“It is in this spirit that Clever Play was founded. We lend our stimulating and supportive environment right from early childhood to encourage young students to explore and embrace the possibility of pursuing a college degree and eventually a career in STEM,” explains Al Khalifa on how she gave birth to her entrepreneurial child.
Thus, Clever Play was born. Today, it is here so that kids, from where they are, could meet science, mathematics, engineering, arts and math as intertwined parts of the fascinating world we live in. Latifa’s mission lies in the strong belief that STEM/STEAM is the new code for future-oriented education, as she works to spark, inspire and nurture kids’ interest in STEM/STEAM in order to build a pipeline of talent and address generational sustainability of skills through child-friendly training in the fundamentals of the 21st Century economy.
As a startup, Cleverplay’s combined engagements rocketed their reach to over 6,000 children on their pilot year alone. Their first efforts were acknowledged when they landed as Startup of the Year Finalist in the GESS Education Awards [Global Educational Supplies and Solutions] held in Dubai last February 2019. Additionally, a big stride that was recently achieved was Cleverplay being announced a National Winner in the Entrepreneurship World Cup held during the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Bahrain in April 2019. The Entrepreneurship World Cup is a comprehensive and multi-dimensional platform for up and coming start-ups; an ongoing competition participated in by over 100,000 participants from 184 countries across the globe. Outside Bahrain, they are currently doing a summer engagement with the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, Ithra in Saudi Arabia, to further expand and explore franchise opportunities to bring our services to the wider MENA Region.
“We serve with engaging programs and workshops that adapt international best practices. We use methods that kids enjoy so they learn to love learning and grow to be adequately skilled for future challenges. We target learners 3-14 years of age to introduce critical skills at a stage when learning attitudes and behaviours are in the formative stage. We apply the arts as the creative route to science and math encouraging learners to engage their imagination in STEM projects, entrepreneurship and innovative making,” explains Latifa on what enrolling in one of Cleverplay’s programmes entail.
For elementary graders, Clever Play provides reinforcement to classroom instructional setting by linking classroom knowledge with real-life application. Beyond educational services, Clever Play is also venturing into educational products. Among their practical achievements was the creation of SEEK – a STEAM-focused magazine designed to foster interest in space science and inspire kids ages 7-12 in Bahrain and beyond. The magazine is endorsed and backed by the NSSA – Bahrain [National Space Science Agency].
However, a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor, which is little to say about the challenges Latifa faced when first creating her startup. Traditional mindsets and conventional parental expectations about education and achievement are some of the things they are challenged to handle, as they continually strive to demonstrate that their methods are effective, even though learning is not readily nor immediately visible or observable.
“We take it upon ourselves as a mission, to reshape perceptions and convince parents that explorative play is a life-long pathway to skills-building and that the benefits of project-based learning are to be reaped over the long term,” states Latifa. According to Cleverplay’s market research, in 2017, only 20% of Bahraini adults had pursued degrees in STEM. Most children are bored with classroom science even though they are naturally curious about bubbles and rockets, which is why Cleverplay is injecting a shift in paradigm for STEM with Arts to grow in the hearts of children.
“Education is the key to sustainable development. It is here that we strive every day to serve best. Our commitment is far-reaching and our mission is future-relevant. A better way to make a difference – this is the reason we are reaching out and scaling our startup in meaningful ways. This is the enduring value that guides us as we approach this venture of spreading the message, expanding our mission and sharing the opportunity to serve the next generation,” shares Latifa detailing the core message and motivation behind what she aims to achieve with her platform.Latifa believes that the children’s superpower lies in the creative, authentic and lifelong engagement in the fundamentals of STEAM, which is why she is dedicated to promoting interest in these fields in the spirit of playful, creative, fun and interactive learning. Cleverplay’s particular niche, which also distinctly categorizes their brand of service is early childhood. At Clever Play, education is not a mechanical process but an organic craft, providing a deeply and uniquely personal experience for every child.
Another critical aspect of Cleverplay’s mission is bridging the gender gap in STEM, which is how Clever Girls Club was born as a learning meet-up of little girls to explore ways of playing and learning that depart from their traditional toys and activities.
“We raise their self-belief to diversify their career options. We open up their awareness towards the possibilities of STEM and their innate capabilities to excel in STEM fields encouraging a balanced academic achievement and a gender-balanced future workforce,” states Latifa.
To honour her efforts, the Clever Girls Club’s most recent initiative involves putting together girls-only coding initiatives as they aspire for an inclusive digital culture where there are equal opportunities for progress among girls and boys alike, to fuel her inspiration for the great potential for gender innovation in technology. Furthermore, Cleverplay are in the process of putting the final touches on a national movement that will start after summer that aims to teach 1,000 Bahraini girls aged 8-14 to learn to code. The workshop event will take place from October 2019 to February/March 2020, and is sponsored by the Supreme Council of Women and Zain Telecom.
To support her business venture and propel to new heights, Cleverplay has started key partnerships in various sectors and is currently undertaking growing collaborations and expanding activities with government and corporate entities in Bahrain. In partnership with the Ministry of Education in Bahrain, Cleverplay actively works towards STEAM/STEM in-School integration to develop hands-on, innovative skill-building enrichment programme that entitles participants to benefit from a certified STEAM curriculum written by STEAM experts, teach up-to-date STEAM knowledge and promote real-world learning through concepts related to the everyday things and the experiences they represent.
Cleverplay aims to disrupt the startup ecosystem with their continuous efforts at nourishing relationships and creating partnerships with all relevant stakeholders in the education-focused sectors such as The Ministry of Education in Bahrain, and The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Saudi Arabia, to increase their reach and platform, essentially creating a life-long pathway towards STEAM excellence. Their mission goes beyond in-hub services, as they create the groundwork for a STEM/STEAM ecosystem in Bahrain through a community of creators, collaborators and changemakers advocating for Generation STEM. Their goal is not only to bring specialized activities into schools, but to establish an alliance of STEM/STEAM schools, systems and institutions in order to progressively build a STEM/STEAM fuelled educational and professional ecosystem.
“We are steadfast in our mission to reach, engage, inspire and develop as many students and youth as can be reached, collaborating with national and regional learning ecosystems to shape STEAM-excellent generations to come,” says Latifa highlighting her efforts to solidify her foundations as she puts up her craft out there for others to take up through franchising.
Being pioneers of STEAM education in the region, Cleverplay are the only curricula designers and developers in the local scene, and possess the experience of running an educational venture using these curricula. With their combined knowledge of practical and technical skills, their efforts ensure to propagate their brand of 21st century innovative education.
Saudi Arabia: Supercharging Startup Opportunities
As the Kingdom amps up its business-friendly credentials and welcomes a new wave of entrepreneurs, Kais Al Essa, Founding Partner and CEO of venture capital firm Vision Ventures, talks opportunity and accessibility
Supercharging opportunities for foreign startups is a high-profile focus for Saudi Arabia. While our nearest neighbours have historically been the go-to hubs, in future a much higher percentage of entrepreneurs are expected to venture into the Kingdom.
Programme to foster cooperation between startups, corporates in Dubai
Dubai Startup Hub, an initiative of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has unveiled its revamped Market Access programme which pairs leading companies in the UAE with startups that offer innovative solutions addressing their key challenges.
Details of the new Market Access features were announced at a launch ceremony in Dubai and was attended by members of the business community, including previous corporate and startup participants who shared their experiences and success stories. Among the additional benefits provided to companies participating in the programme are: one-year membership, specialised workshops and access to a wider network of solutions, in addition to the ability to list multiple challenges on the Market Access interactive and smart online portal where they can also communicate and collaborate with startups. Startups that are selected to participate in the programme can benefit from training and pitching workshops, access to lucrative business opportunities, as well as a platform to boost their market exposure and build their brand reputation.
Misk Innovation & 500 Startups Reveal Joining Accelerator Program
The Misk 500 Accelerator program – a collaboration between early-stage venture fund and seed accelerator 500 Startups and Misk Innovation, the Saudi non-profit foundation devoted to developing Saudi youths – have recently revealed the 20 participating companies in the program’s second cohort.
Currently underway in Riyadh, the program’s ‘Batch 2’ comprises a diverse group of startups that span the MENA region, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Jordan. Those startups are building technologies and products that impact B2B, B2C, E-Commerce, FinTech, EdTech, HealthTech, IoT, robotics, artificial intelligence, SaaS, and messaging services.
A Lebanese Student Came Up with the Solution to the Apple Crisis in Lebanon
Have you ever thought about preventing the oxidation of fruits by extending their shelf life? Biology student Richardos Lebbos found a solution for the apples’ problem in Lebanon, seeing the extent of the damage done to the apple produce in 2017, where tons of Lebanese apples were thrown on the ground after being banned in several countries.
“I remember hearing about the crisis of apples being thrown because of the high price of cold storage and other problems. I was in a taxi at the time, and I had an idea to do something that would preserve the shelf life of the apples,” Lebbos told Berytech, a dynamic environment for Lebanese startups, fostering innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.
It all began in the university lab in USEK, which Lebbos had full access to as an employed student. He started working on creating a starch-based liquid that acts as a bio-coating for fruits and vegetables and extends their shelf life. Starch, in scientific literature, is known to be a natural polymer that is used in many industries.
What Lebbos wanted to do was create a liquid that could turn starch into an invisible layer that is transparent on fruits, and that would consequently act as a barrier to oxygen and bacteria, and hence a barrier to the oxidation of fruits.
“Fruits that are not exposed to oxygen, and therefore do not have oxidation taking place, have more than twice the shelf life without cold storage,” Lebbos explained.
The liquid was invented for businesses such as big farmers and retailers that import and export fruits. These retailers usually have a wax line where they polish the fruit with a chemical to make it shiny. “I plan to replace this chemical with the Startchy liquid” said Lebbos. “Once you spray the fruit with the liquid and dry it, it will be ready for shipping without cold storage.”
While working at the lab, Lebbos met pharmacologist Kayssar Eid and agricultural engineer Tony Barcha, both USEK students. They came together on that one vision and aim and founded Startchy.
With the support of Berytech, Startchy was registered in the US, which allowed the team to test their product with Stemilt, the biggest exporter of apples in the US and one of the biggest in the world.
“We did a test with Stemilt on their apples, where we coated them with our Startchy liquid, and it worked! We saw an extent of the shelf life twice and more. They gave us a letter of intent, and now we are working together,” boasts Lebbos and for a good reason.
And that wasn’t all. The creation of this product has come to be of benefits to other countries as well.
Döhler, the German producer of technology-based natural ingredients, invested in Startchy a total of $600,000. Maersk, the Danish growth (incubation) program for international startups worldwide selected Startchy among 30 other shortlisted global startups.
After 30 grueling days with Maersk in Copenhagen, Startchy was selected along with one other startup for a cash investment of $500,000!
The Startchy team is now finalizing the industrialization of their product by partnering with Dohler, and they’re working on getting the certification to enter different markets, beginning with the US market.
In addition, Lebbos and his two partners have started this month (September) running pilot trials with big suppliers and customers. “Hopefully, we will hit the market soon, beginning of 2020,” commented Lebbos.
WEEK IN REVIEW : MENA startups under scrutiny – WeWork’s IPOs failure: $3 billion in cash needed to get through 2019 despite $12 billion in investments!!!
WeWork needed $3 billion in cash to get through 2019. Despite $12 billion in investments, i
Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy news pertaining to startups and venture capital.
Three main headlines last week but my favourite is still the completion of Amazon mega merger with SOUQ.com – In a press release it says it has completed its acquisition of e-commerce firm Souq.com, which was first announced at the end of March and sees the U.S. retail giant enter the Middle Eastern market.
Amazon paid $580 million in cash for Souq, according to filings. Bloomberg previously reported that Amazon was in discussions over an investment at a valuation in excess of $1 billion but, amid rivalry from Emaar’s ambitious Noon.com project and others, an acquisition agreement was reached. The two companies said today that they have completed an initial integration that allows customers to log into Souq.com using their Amazon account credentials.
Next is our headline on Middle East StartUps and Silicon Valley Guru look for common synergies http://www.startups.news/?p=7761
In 2018, a record number of investments – 366 of them – were made in the Middle East and North Africa region, Magnitt 2018 MENA Venture Investment Report found. More widely, it detailed that more than 155 institutions invested in the region’s startups in 2018, 30% of which were from outside the region.
These developments, coupled with efforts seen in the past year – such as the establishment of Egypt’s first venture-capital fund focused on investing in fintech, the $100m for startups in the Bahrain-based Al Waha Fund of Funds, and Tunisia’s startup act – are giving the region’s startup scene unprecedented momentum. With record levels of investment, interest from tech watchers and interesting new ventures launching all the time, the region’s startup scene looks like it’s going to get even hotter.
The region itself covers a total of some 50 million consumers across several countries, as well as a relatively untapped market: only about two percent of all retail spend today is made online, according to a report from McKinsey.
Lastly we look at we work our story http://www.startups.news/?p=7770 focuses on the downturn of the company following the failure of its IPO.
As of the most recent funding round’s valuation, WeWork would be the second-largest IPO of 2019, trailing only Uber.
WeWork has copied an old business model, slapped some tech lingo on it, and suckered venture capital investors into valuing the firm at more than 10x its nearest competitor.
The company also burns tons of cash, carries huge risk factors in a recession, and sports some of the worst corporate governance practices we’ve ever seen. WeWork – now rebranded as The We Company (WE) – filed its initial S-1 on Aug. 14, and the company reportedly plans to go public in September. We don’t have official pricing information,Continue with Free Trial
WeWork’s eccentric CEO/founder Adam Neumann stepped down this week amid pressure from board members (SoftBank) to exit the C-suite. Wall Street doesn’t think Neumann is fit to be CEO of a public company and if you don’t know why, read this WSJ piece.
What’s next for Peloton? International growth? Doubling down on original content? New hardware? Tell me what to write.1069:13 PM – Sep 26, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy62 people are talking about this
I particularly like an opinion piece on Wework by Japan times https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2019/09/30/editorials/wework-ipo-didnt-work/#.XZHptuJMRPY
nitially, investors were intrigued. Softbank’s Masayoshi Son provided more than $10 billion in funds, calling WeWork “his next Alibaba” — a reference to a $20 million investment that paid back $50 billion when it went public. As WeWork began preparations to go public, initial valuations reached $47 billion.
The prospectus for that offering was eye-opening and deflating. The company was a huge landlord, but that created sobering operating expenses — $50 billion in lease commitments — and no guarantee of revenue from armies of freelancers that could not afford long-term commitments of their own. The figures were not reassuring: WeWork’s revenue increased to $1.8 billion in 2018, but the company lost $1.6 billion that year. According to projections, WeWork needed $3 billion in cash to get through 2019. Despite $12 billion in investments, it had never reported a profit.
In addition to financial issues, there was the problem of Neumann himself. The prospectus noted that he ensured his continued control of the company through a special class of shares and the power to fire the board of directors; he had used some of his WeWork stock to secure a $500 million personal loan; he owned four buildings that WeWork was paying him to lease; and he was paid nearly $6 million for the trademark “We,” which the company had recently adopted. (Those funds were returned after the resulting uproar). In addition, there were tales of adolescent behavior that raised questions about his judgment. Hanging over it all, however, was a board that did not rein him in.
The furor that greeted the prospectus prompted the shelving of the IPO, the slowing of expansion plans, the prospect of layoffs of as much as one-third of the company’s workforce and Neumann’s decision to step down and his replacement by two co-CEOs.
The WeWork failure is not unique. It follows similarly lackluster IPOs by ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft, and that of Peloton, the stationary bicycle manufacturer that considers itself a technology platform as well. Neumann is another “bad-boy founder” like Travis Kalanick, who was forced to step down as head of Uber after reports surfaced of his abusive behavior. Yet for all the flaws in WeWork’s ambitions, the system worked. Public scrutiny laid bare the gap between WeWork’s aims and its reality. WeWork is, despite the hype, a real estate arbitrage, and should be valued accordingly.
Egypt’s Homemade Food Market Mumm Launches Meal Subscription Service For Companies
Egyptian food-tech startup Mumm has just added a meal subscription service called Mumm Office Club in Cairo to their line of services. Mumm’s kitchen-to-delivery online marketplace has been offering homemade food cooked by partners to users for over three years, but the Mumm Office Club sources a large variety of meals and different cuisines from central kitchens throughout Cairo specifically catered to companies.
Within their operations, Mumm partners with companies from a variety of sizes to offer ‘nutritious meals’ at a discounted rate to its employees, where both companies and employees can save up on costs and receive food on a daily or monthly basis. Once the company partners up with Mumm, their employees are allowed to subscribe to receive food on working day, pick the meals they receive daily or monthly, and have a free deducted from the employee’s salary or pay directly upon receiving.
After piloting last month with several companies varying in sizes, Mumm’s CEO Waleed Abdelrahman watched fellow business owners realise the difference ‘Mumm Office Club’ has made on the overall productivity of their employees in only a few weeks. “Across the board, the employers witnessed a general decrease in wasted office hours and the spread of a positive outlook on company culture,” says Waleed Abdelrahman, CEO and founder of Mumm.
Mumm Office Club is a comprehensive food programme offering over 15,000 unique dishes from a variety of international and Middle Eastern cuisines, giving employees full control over their daily orders by allowing them to set their own dietary restrictions and get information on the nutritional value of each meal. Since its official launch this month, Mumm’s new service managed to gather over 700 paying subscribers at 10 companies and startups ranging in size, including Swvl, Robusta, Harmonica, BasharSoft, and Bel using the subscription service.
Golden Scent First Startup to obtain SAGIA Trading License
Leading beauty e-commerce platform celebrates a remarkable achievement in 2019 with a huge boost to its regional position
Following its four years of continued success, Golden Scent, the leading Saudi Beauty E-commerce Platform, announced that it has been granted the first commercial license by the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), without the minimum capital requirement.
The company’s excellent reputation, class A investors and customer loyalty all combined to ensure the company could be exempted from the SAGIA’s Minimum Accepted Capital requirement.
The news, which was announced during the 7th Arabnet Riyadh Conference, marks a great achievement in 2019. As Golden Scent has expanded to new GCC markets, by entering the UAE and Kuwait, and exceeding over 3 million app downloads. The E-commerce platform increased its product portfolio by 250%, added new logistics warehouses, and continued to grow its manpower – both quantitatively and qualitatively.
Supporting start-ups has always been a key element for SAGIA’s mission, attracting and retaining investors and establishing Saudi Arabia as a world-class investment destination. As a result, Golden Scent has been granted the commercial license as it represents a perfect example of how Saudi entrepreneurs, supported by foreign capital, can make a significant contribution to developing a sustainable, diversified national economy – a key objective of Saudi Vision 2030.
Founded in 2000, SAGIA is the foreign investment license provider for the Kingdom. Alongside its legislative role, SAGIA works with government entities to create, develop and market business opportunities; offering specialized consultations to companies in different sectors. Through its five business centres, SAGIA provides most of the government services by facilitating the necessary steps for clients to start and maintain business.
Golden Scent is rapidly growing stronger since its launch in 2014 and continues to address and anticipates its clientele needs with special offers and discounts, with more surprises and additions in the pipeline to make 2019 yet another unforgettable year for the platform and its ever-growing client base. As Malik Al Shehab, Co-Founder and CEO of Golden Sent said: “We are very proud of the achievements we have accomplished till now, and receiving the commercial license from SAGIA. And we would like to thank all the supportive parties involved in Golden Scent’s journey in becoming a leading platform and a trusted brand in the Middle East market.”
Egyptian B2B e-Commerce Marketplace, MaxAB Closes Landmark $6.2 Million Seed Round
Led by Egyptian and Libyan entrepreneurs Belal El-Megharbel (previously at Careem) and Mohamed Ben Halim (Previously at Aramex), the 270-strong MaxAB team has built a stock list of over 600 products [including groceries, beverages, dairy, confectionery and non-food products]. Using technology to close the gap between traditional retailers [over 400,000 in Egypt] and FMCGs, the Cairo based start-up leverages technology to connect brands to retailers via its Android app. It is working to automate and simplify Egypt’s $45bn FMCG food retail market and has recorded 50 percent month-on-month growth, with 9,000 activated retailers on the platform already.
Brands using MaxAB have access to real-time demand monitoring and business intelligence tools, which improve end-to-end supply chain control, and better forecasting. Retailers in remote and under-served areas will have access to a wide variety of products, the convenience of ordering stock online in addition to second day deliveries not to mention the added benefit of access to credit facilities.
Belal El-Megharbel, Co-Founder and CEO at MaxAB, says: “Nobody has addressed the underserved retailers before; retailers are faced with a limited assortment of products, the hassle of dealing with multiple wholesalers and restricted access to credit facilities. At the other end of the supply chain, the FMCGs have limited visibility on market trends, demand patterns and retailers’ business needs – leading to losing potential revenue opportunities.
“We are using data and analytics to understand purchasing and retail behaviours, as well as make the end-to-end process of brands seamless and convenient. This will enable FMCGs to make informed decisions about their purchasing, which will ultimately have a positive effect on their bottom line and catalyze one of the biggest markets in Egypt. This investment round will allow us to accelerate our growth plans and develop new products and services throughout North Africa using the first of its kind B2B ecommerce platform”.
Yousef Hammad, Managing Partner at Beco Capital, says: “This is Sparta” was the first impression I got when I met this team of warriors, battling one of the biggest inefficiencies on the country’s balance sheets. By leveraging technology, MaxAB is redefining the grocery supply chain in Egypt to fit the requirements of the micro retailers who make up 90% of the grocery market. The metrics they have recorded in such a short period are impressive, and we expect to continue to see double-digit growth as they scale.”
Peter Orth, co-founder and Managing Partner at 4DX Ventures, says: “We’ve been consistently impressed with how Belal and the rest of the team have executed, and achieved significant traction in a very short period of time. We believe that their B2B e-commerce model is the right way to serve this significant market, and we’re really excited to partner with the team to drive the next phase of growth.”
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