Startup competitions seeking founders in the Middle East

Steven Loeb · August 8, 2019 · Short URL:

They include MIT Arab Startup Competition and Harvard Arab Weekend Startup Pitch

If you're a startup seeking opportunities to get funded, educated or connected, startup competitions are a great resource.

Vator has been holding its own competitions, using VatorX, to find and filter for the best startups. We've had some very successful and notable winners in the past that have gone on to raise big funding rounds including Thumbtack, DogVacay, Pokitdok, Grovo, Udemy and Apartment List, to name a few.

Anyone can list their program as VatorX is one of the most comprehensive listing guides to startup competitions, challenges, accelerators and programs. Click here to list your program!

As part of our weekly series, we'll look at top competitions with big cash prizes, as well as competitions that have teed up the most promising startups, to finding popular startup competitions you need to know about. 

Here are some of the startup competitions seeking LGBTQ founders:


ASC Logo

Description: "MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition (ASC) is a yearly competition initiated by the MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab since 2006. This annual competition is designed to empower entrepreneurs and foster an eco-system of innovation and entrepreneurship in the Arab Region. ASC pits entrepreneurs in three different tracks: Ideas, Startups and Social Entrepreneurship Track."

Prize: The winning teams are awarded 160K USD in equity free fund and benefit from a range of other activities including top tier trainings, mentorship, coaching, media exposure and great networking opportunities.

Previous winners: Mashvisor, Repzo, Furnwish, Quadra, CanBank


Arab Conference at Harvard 2019

Description: "Arab Conference at Harvard is hosting the 8th edition of the Startup Pitch Competition to promote growth of entrepreneurship in the Arab world. It is a pillar event of the conference that offers 6 pre-selected startups the opportunity to present a short pitch, receive feedback, and network with high-profile figures in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, including venture capitalists, angel investors, prominent entrepreneurs and industry experts. A student organizer committee will select the startups based the eligibility criteria highlighted below."

Prize: $30,000

Previous winners: WhiteLab


Description: "The best of the best startups in the region - 3 winners from each participating country – will have the opportunity to compete at a regional level, and go global!"

Prize: $20K, a 3- week acceleration program in Silicon Valley by TVLP (full expenses covered), and other in-kind prizes.

Previous winners: Nabta Health, Sadeed, Sadeem, Labayh, Cherpa


Description: "More than an event - GITEX Future Stars is THE startup hub connecting over 750 of the world’s boldest startups from 75 countries, 400+ big-ticket investors and global accelerators, across 19 tech sectors."


  • Supernova Champion US$ 100,000 – Ultimate prize for the most innovative global startup solution
  • Best Emirati Startup US$ 10,000 – For our UAE resident startup founder(s)
  • Best Social Impact US$ 10,000 – Startup innovation/solution addressing social & cultural issues
  • Best Environmental Impact US$ 10,000 – Startup innovation/solution answering environmental issues
  • Best GCC and MENA Startup US$10,000 – Top startup from within the GCC and MENA region
  • Best AI Startup US$10,000 – Startup innovation/solution incorporating AI
  • Best Scaleup US$ 10,000 - Startup that has received USD 3 Million & over in funding and has a developed product
  • Best International Startup US$ 10,000 - Startup with founder(s) residing outside the Arab world
  • Best Youth Startup US$ 10,000 - Startup with founder(s) who are 30 years old or younger  
  • Best Female Led Startup US$ 10,000 - Startup founded by a female entrepreneur(s)  
  • Best Gen-Z Startup US$ 10,000 – Startup founded by someone born after 1995 (24 and below)

Previous winners: Spike Diabetes Assistant, Aura Lab, Khayati, Oliv


Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival 2018

Description: "You won't need any slides. Just show up on time and speed-pitch you startup to a panel of independent judges in front of a live audience. If they like your startup, you'll move to the finals the following day. The best pitch receives AED 100k."

Prize: $100,000

Previous winners: SmartCrowd

Description: "As part of its mission to scout the globe for promising startups and in addition to AIM Startup’s online portal designed to attract and accept applications from disruptors world-wide, the AIM Startup team will travel to several locations in December 2018 & January 2019 within the GCC and Levant to hand-select startups making the biggest waves, disrupting industries. Setting up pitch competitions in each region, the winning startups will have the opportunity to participate at AIM Startup 2019 annual event in Dubai, where they will be met by investors, corporates, government officials and other innovators from across the world. The platform will serve as a hotbed to exchange ideas, to seek funding and partnership and to promote emerging businesses and technologies from around the world. The top 5 startups from each location will be given the opportunity to exhibit at AIM Startup 2019 and pitch on stage in front of investor judges, academics and media for free."

Prize: Not specified

Previous winners: Not specified

RiseUp Summit

Description: "50 of MENA’s best startups will go head-to-head on the biggest stage in the Middle East for this year’s edition of the RiseUp Pitch Competition. The Pitch Competition is only open to pre-seed Startups. With pitches under 3 minutes, expect to be wowed as each startup calls for your attention to show off their product against the clock for the chance to win some incredible prizes!"

Prize: Not specified

Previous winners: The Doodle Factory, Arngineering 

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