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At Vivatech, Arab start-ups seek for investors

VivaTech 2019 kicks off today. As every year, start-ups and world leaders are meeting at this global exhibition dedicated to technology and innovation. Today more than ever, the Arab world, through its presence at the show, reaffirms its interest in the innovation sector and showcases its know-how.

Entrepreneurs, leaders, investors, tech aficionados and other curious people… Everyone has been waiting for this moment for months. On Thursday, May 16, VivaTechnology 2019 opened its doors to them for three days of exhibitions, conferences, workshops and other demonstrations on technology and innovation.

As every year, Arab Tech, its start-ups and representatives have taken up residence there, proving the Arab world’s interest in the technologies that will shape the world of tomorrow, and proving above all the presence of driving forces in the region in a sector largely dominated by the United States, Europe and Southeast Asia.

“Reaching new markets”

Anis Sahbani is one of this forces. This forty-year-old from Tunisia founded Enova Robotics, “the first start-up in Africa that manufactures its own brand of robots”. “Enova Robotics is essentially known for its safety robot,” he says. Anis describes his successful robot as “a patrolman”. It calculates its own trajectory over a given area, makes its rounds, is equipped with thermal cameras and recorders, identifies abnormal behaviour and sends all the information collected to a command post.

Anis Sahbani
Anis Sahbani

Former professor at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, Anis embarked on this adventure for the sake of risk but also to “develop technology in Africa”. At VivaTech, the entrepreneur hopes to “meet investors to reach new markets” after a record fundraising in Tunisia of 1.5 million euros.

“A cheap development environment”

Like him, Mahmoud Abdulaziz is on the hunt for investors in Paris. CEO of DevisionX, a Cairo-based start-up specializing in deep learning and machine vision, the 30-year-old Egyptian, who looks like a first in the class, considers VivaTech as “a step towards the expansion” of his company.

Mahmoud Abdulaziz

Here, he hopes to “create partnerships with major groups like Vinci” and “show them [his] innovations and [his] solutions”. “We are 100 million people in Egypt, we have many engineers and talents in technology, and a very cheap development environment. The challenge now is to find funds and investors,” he explains.

“Achieving our goals and aspirations”

This mission is precisely that of organizations such as Saudi MiSK Foundation. Present at VivaTech, with a delegation of Saudi start-ups, the institution, which is very influential in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, offers the few young Saudi entrepreneurs it sponsors in Paris the opportunity to shine internationally. “Bringing young Saudis and their startups and exposing them to partnership or investment opportunities is a big advantage for them,” says Deemah AlYaha, Executive manager of MiSK Innovation. We cannot achieve our goals and aspirations without these partnerships.”

Deemah AlYahya
Deemah AlYahya

The initiative is welcomed by several observers, including American Jonathan Ortmans, president of the Global Entrepreneurship Network, an organization that connects entrepreneurs around the world. “In the Middle East and Saudi Arabia there are so many assets and potential,” he insists. “In Saudi Arabia, institutions like MiSK, Monshaat and universities like KAUST have reached out to the world, listened to, observed and learned how to unleash the power of innovation. Hopefully, through this 2019 Vivatech edition, Arab innovation will find an echo in the West….