Last month – in partnership with Microsoft – TechWadi hosted a team of three Palestinian students and their faculty advisor from Bizreit University–winners of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup Pan Arab Semifinals – for a weeklong immersion and training program in Silicon Valley.
Winning the national competition and traveling earlier this year to Bahrain to compete in the Microsoft’s Pan Arab semifinals among 36 other teams, the students took home the trophy in the Innovation category for their technology that uses EEG (brainwave) signals to translate into robotic movement. Their intended use for their invention is to integrate with prosthetic limbs to allow amputees the ability to control artificial limbs with their brainwaves. Their prize: an all expense-paid trip to participate in Microsoft’s worldwide Final in Seattle, followed by a weeklong acceleration program organized and hosted by TechWadi.
The TechWadi team developed a customized program for the visit, which included day-long financial and business trainings with mentors from the TechWadi network, as well as exploratory visits and tours of Silicon Valley institutions including Google, Twitter, Microsoft Ventures, and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. The team also met with key stakeholders at leading accelerators including 500 Startups, Plug & Play, and NestGSV, and even had the chance to pitch their project to senior investment partners for feedback.
“We work with a wide array of start-ups from all over the MENA region, but opportunities to connect with entrepreneurs from Palestine has proven to be very limited,” said TechWadi Program Manager Christina Ashtary. “BCR has some really impressive technology, and while the competition was not necessarily designed to directly lead into a business model for the students, the experience the team had here in Silicon Valley really provided a lot of exposure to the entrepreneurial opportunities that exist with unique technology like theirs.”
Building bridges between Silicon Valley and the Arab world to strengthen tech entrepreneurship in the region, TechWadi provides mentorship opportunities and immersion and acceleration programs with leading technology professionals from the diaspora community who want to give back to the region’s most promising entrepreneurs. While much of TechWadi’s focus in 2015 has been on the acceleration of high growth regional startups, this program with Microsoft marks the establishment of a “MENA forward” approach to work more closely with local ecosystem partners and reach a larger number of entrepeneurs through traveling TechWadi mentor roadshows, Silicon Valley exchanges and immersion programs, and increased oportunities to connect with key tech players in Silicon Valley through virtual meetings and discussions.
About Brain Controlled Robot
Supervised by faculty advisor Wasel Ghanem, the team is made up of Muhammad Atiq, Ayham Jaradat, and Hassan Bakr, who formed the project at while at Bizreit University, Palestine’s oldest university with a focus on informational technology and engineering. The team’s participation earlier this year in the Imagine Cup Pan Arab Semifinals in Bahrain marked their first ever journey outside of Palestine. The team then went on to participate in the Seattle finals, before coming to Silicon Valley as their first trip to the U.S.
“Microsoft Imagine Cup is not just about winning, it’s about the experience,” said Hassan Bakr, who shared the harsh difficultities the team encountered in securing visas from Israel to leave their home country for the first time.
“Winning the Imagine Cup Pan Arab Finals was a great start for the BCR team,” says Amintas Lopes Neto, Microsoft Middle East and Africa Technical Audience Business Lead. “With help from TechWadi, we have taken them to the next level by providing them with a unique opportunity to experience Silicon Valley and start a successful business. This was a priceless experience and we hope to scale these efforts in future programming.”
“BCR is proof that the Imagine Cup allows innovative students to dream the impossible and make it possible,” added Lopes Neto.
TechWadi’s Most Valuable Asset: Our Network
TechWadi relies heavily on our incredible network of mentoring members and their desire to give back and help us support high tech entrepreneurship in the MENA region. We would like to thank our mentors Sharif El Badawi (Google), Karim Samakie (former Oasis500), Zafer Younis (500 Startups), Mohannad El Khairy (Vyv), Sherif Kassatly (Stanford GSB), Ibrahim Okuyucu (Twitter), and Marwa Mabrouk (Google) As well as community partners NestGSV, Google, Plug & Play, and 500 Startups for help making this a truly impactful week for the BCR team.