Developing a business model, raising capital, and landing your first client is not easy. Those that receive help navigating the initial steps of starting a business are much more likely to succeed. CEED Morocco partnered with the IBM Innovation Center to work with high potential start-ups and early stage companies in order to do just this: give these start ups a leg up as they launch their companies. From January-May CEED Morocco and IBM hosted pitch sessions for promising young entrepreneurs to get feedback from local investors and international mentors such as CEED Advisor, Jeff Hoffman, Founder of Priceline and Color Jar accelerator. Each month a winner was selected to join the CEED Go-To-Market boot camp. The pitch sessions are open to the public and media in order to promote entrepreneurship at large and to inspire young people to consider starting their own business in a market where youth unemployment is high.
The Pitch: Winning a Spot at CEED’s Boot camp
Each candidate had 15 minutes to pitch their idea/company and convince a 5-member panel to select them as the winner of the pitch contest. According to Ahmed Assalih , Director of Advyteam Morocco, and a panel member, “Through these pitch sessions we have seen original projects, rigor, and motivation.” CEED Morocco is committed to developing the start-up ecosystem and its partnership with IBM is one way it has demonstrated its commitment. “This is an interesting concept where both the public and panel members take part. It is the first time that I attend such a competition in Morocco, it is hugely beneficial for the young people with great ideas”, says Chafik Sabiri, HP-CDG Director. 10 promising teams distinguished themselves during the competition and won several prizes : mentor sessions with CEED mentors, $12,000 worth of access to the cloud Softlayer, access to CEED’s networking platform for one month, a spot at IBM Innovation Center’s co-working space and a spot in CEED Summer Boot camp.
The Boot camp: The Hard Work Begins
The boot camp was held from May 29th to June 1st at IBM Innovation Center-Casa Nearshore. More than 10 CEED mentors with experience working, advising and investing in high-growth startups facilitated workshopss, networking sessions and pitch feedback sessions. The entrepreneurs go invaluable feedback and connections to resources needed to grow their businesses. “The program was amazing! We met experts and discussed many topics, so that we had a solid overview about how to improve our business and avoid common mistakes. We also made connections with other entrepreneurs. It was great,” says Cédric Plane, Founder of O’MyJobs.
“A different approach was presented to us, the financial workshops was especially interesting. And the mentors were available to answer all our questions. It really pushed my thinking and was challenging, but it was a great opportunity to explore new ideas and learn from the experts.” adds Ibrahim Bennouna, Founder of Twiyar.
On June 1st an “INNOV-A-THON” was held, giving the entrepreneurs an opportunity to get feedback from active domestic and international investors from Womena, Réseau Entreprendre Maroc and Turn8, a business accelerator program initiated by DP World. According to Kamal Hassan, CEO and Founder of Turn8 “There is a lot of potential in Morocco. There are great entrepreneurs and I think these startups are off to a great start but need more development and support and I’m glad to see CEED is doing this. The teams that came out in pitch were great teams and the ideas were good. I think over the next years, we will see more and more interesting teams in the MENA region. Our experience in Casablanca was great, we are very pleased and we look forward to coming back again.”