The three-month online C3 Social Impact Accelerator Programme - powered by HSBC, concluded on Thursday, August 20th, with Clever Play, Bahrain named the winner of the 23 participating finalists. Yalla Give, UAE in second place and Joon, Turkey in third.
The top three finishers received a total of $60,000 in equity-free cash prizes from HSBC in addition to consulting support from Bain & Company and a total equivalent of 90 hours of legal support from Al Tamimi & Company. In addition, Amazon Web Services (AWS) provided AWS promotional credits as part of the AWS Activate programme, which also gives startups technical support and training to help grow their businesses. Thanks to the partnership with CNN Arabic, the programme and final event got thorough media coverage including interviews with the winners. The prizes were increased this year for better support and continuous commitment to the startups in light of COVID-19.
This year, the intensive programme attracted 645 applications from 8 countries in MENAT, compared to 87 applications from 4 countries in 2019. All the participating startups are contributing significantly to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, are revenue-generating, and are profitable or have a clear profitability path.
C3 Social Impact Accelerator Programme powered by HSBC focuses on integrating key sustainability metrics at the roots of the social enterprises’ business models. The aim is to maximize their social impact, support their growth, and help them become investor-ready.
Medea Nocentini, Co-Founder and CEO of C3, said: “Founders of companies that create positive change are on a mission: this year, our finalists have shown us that no pandemic or lockdown can stop their impact journey. The winners of this year's Pitch Competition provide a glimpse of the diversity of the 2020 cohort, in terms of business sectors, types of social mission, nationality and gender, and it is humbling to see how they pursue their dream of changing the world with the same grit and resilience.”
Sabrin Rahman, Regional Head of Corporate Sustainability, HSBC, MENAT, said: “I am proud that we have been able to equip all the finalists of this year’s C3 program with the right tools and knowledge needed to thrive in a globally diverse economy. We hope that this gives them the opportunity to not only scale their businesses but also have a more present impact on their communities. Social entrepreneurs are agents of positive change and it’s vital that they embed sustainability in the roots of their business models.”
The programme that was initially supposed to be one week of in-person activities in Dubai, was converted into a three-month online experience. It kicked off in June with four weeks of intensive teaching by international trainers on general business and impact-related topics. In July, the finalists shared their growth strategies and business plans with panels of investors and industry experts during the Board Meeting Simulations, which provided them with invaluable and practical advice to drive their business in the right direction.
The main highlight of the programme this year was the resilience of the startups despite the difficulties they faced in light of the current global pandemic. They didn’t only survive these difficult times but some of them thrived and significantly grew despite all the challenges. In addition, the investors and experts embraced the fully virtual edition with commitment and flexibility. This culminated with the competition’s judging panels, which included professionals and investors from highly reputable organizations such as Mubadala, Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Ventures, STV, 500 Startups, Venture Souq, Global Ventures and Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group.
The programme concluded with a fully virtual, interactive, and immersive event where each startup designed and built its virtual booth, and the event’s participants got a chance to attend live sessions as well as virtually mingle and interact with the entrepreneurs and with fellow investors and experts in specific networking lounges.
Latifa Al-Khalifa, Co-Founder & CEO, Clever Play, Bahrain: “Coming at this particularly tumultuous time, we humbly take the trophy as a testament of trust and unparalleled support for our mission to innovate learning for 21st century life and work, no matter the odds. Our deepest thanks to C3 and HSBC for continuing to inspire and invest in the capacity of young entrepreneurs to scale in service impact. This honor will serve generations to come.”
Despite the challenges that pivoting the programme online posed, the benefits for the entrepreneurs were intensified by stretching its activities over three months. Having the training sessions extended over four weeks gave them more time to absorb the training materials, and the virtual office hours with the trainers ensured they had access to focused, uninterrupted time with them.
Moreover, the online Board Meeting Simulations gave investors a chance to interact more closely with the finalists ahead of the pitch, and an opportunity to get to know them better over the course of the weeks leading up to the competition. It is also worth noting that having the final event running online allowed for higher participation of overseas experts and investors, who would have been unable to attend if the event were held physically in Dubai.
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