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Students pitch their startup ideas for Darwazah Contest Awards
5/24/2017
Jennifer Muller  |  Office of Communications  |  media@aub.edu.lb  | 

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The fourth edition of the Samih Darwazah Center’s Innovation Gathering and Contest Awards was held on May 22, where eight finalists pitched their startup ideas to a jury of experts. Two first-place winners each received an award of $10,000 to help further develop their business plans and hopefully bring them to fruition.

Months of preparation preceded this final event. The contest began with an ideation session to help students come up with startup concepts or enhance existing ideas. An initial jury scrutinized the 80 applications received and whittled them down to 17 semi-finalists who got the opportunity to attend workshops to further hone their plans. After the teams submitted refined business models, the jury chose eight finalists who received training in how to pitch a startup.

Teams of students made their final pitches in front of a new jury at the contest’s concluding event, held at the Suliman S. Olayan School of Business (OSB). On hand at the ceremony were OSB Dean Steve Harvey and Dr. Bijan Azad, Director of the Samih Darwazah Center for Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship. The Darwazah Center was established in 2011 by the Darwazah family to focus on the pivotal domain of organizational renewal and wealth creation through creative enterprise.

Dean Harvey praised the Darwazah Center’s student contest, “for both supporting and promoting student entrepreneurship initiatives,” and noted that this is now an established institution at OSB and AUB. Dr. Azad also explained the contest procedures, remarking on its growth over the years.

“The quality of the startup pool has been going up steadily over the past four years,” said Dr. Azad. “This year, half of the finalists had already been working on their ideas even prior to the contest.” 

Representing the Darwazah family was May Darwazah Murad, an AUB alumna and daughter of the late Samih Darwazah, the dedicated philanthropist and successful entrepreneur who founded Hikma Pharmaceuticals. She spoke directly to the students about what she learned from her father about entrepreneurial success.

“What he taught us—my three siblings and myself—is that you need to work hard and believe in what you do, even if the future is uncertain, and to do so patiently,” said Murad. “Working at something in a sustained fashion…despite the odds and difficulties you encounter, is part of being an entrepreneur and builds your character and personality—this is Dr. Samih’s legacy!”

The first place award was given this year to two outstanding startup ideas. One was Night Owl (Mariam Dabbousi, Carine Saad, and Nour Khouzami), which is a mobile app to deliver real-time information on nightlife events and parties around Beirut. The other first-place winner was CartilaGene (Waddah Malaeb), which is a multi-parametric tissue engineering bioreactor. The first runner-up was CalMetrum, a mobile application that calculates the calories in food based on images; and the second runner-up was Thabet, an online platform to harmonize the relationship between employers and employees through incentivized education.

In addition to the student pitches and awards, the event featured a keynote address by Maya Farah, a product development director at Zynga, who spoke about the challenge of balancing a fulltime job with working on a startup. A panel discussion was also held with regional entrepreneurs Jalil Allabadi, managing partner from AlTibbi; Ray Dargham, cofounder and CEO of STEP Group; and Tarek Jaroudi, a Darwazah Contest winner from 2015 who is cofounder and managing partner of Moodfit.  After the ceremony, participants gathered for a reception and networking session with representatives from leading companies across a wide range of sectors.
Story Highlights
  • ​​The fourth edition of the Samih Darwazah Center’s Innovation Gathering and Contest Awards was held on May 22, where eight finalists pitched their startup ideas to a jury of experts. 
  • Two first-place winners each received an award of $10,000 to help further develop their business plans and hopefully bring them to fruition.
 
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