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Star-studded LEAP23 offers $1.54m prize pool in Startup Pitch Challenge and Cloud Hackathon

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Star-studded LEAP23 offers $1.54m prize pool in Startup Pitch Challenge and Cloud Hackathon


Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank judges among those involved in LEAP23 Rocket Fuel Startup Pitch Challenge between February 6-9 in Riyadh; winners’ ceremony for ongoing Alibaba Cloud Saudi Hackathon set for final day; music icon will.i.am and Barcelona legend Carles Puyol join C-suite thought-leaders from Aramco, Zoom, Google, Oracle, SAP, and NEOM, among others.

LEAP23, the world’s most visionary and valuable technology event, will host two competitions with a prize purse of US$1.54 million, as well as welcome a raft of global celebrities and tech industry luminaries ranging from music icon will.i.am and FIFA World Cup winner Carles Puyol to Amin H Nassr, CEO of Aramco, and Jae Sook Evans, Chief Information Officer at Oracle.

LEAP23 is set to run from February 6-9 at the Riyadh Front Exhibition and Conference Centre and will be the setting for the inaugural LEAP Rocket Fuel Startup Pitch Challenge, powered by Saudi Arabia’s National Technology Development Programme (NTDP). The initiative is a collaboration between the Kingdom’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), the MiSK Foundation, and NTDP.

Ninety global startups will fight for the chance to be one of the 15 nascent businesses selected to pitch before a judging panel consisting of Shark Tank India’s Ghazal Alagh, Baroness Karren Brady, aide to The Apprentice’s Alan Sugar, Saudi angel investor Tala Al Jabri, and Dragon’s Den stars James Caan and Steven Bartlett.

The judges will present the LEAP Award and its accompanying US$250,000 main prize to the outstanding startup, while US$150,000 will go to the best early stage startup, the most innovative startup pioneered by women, the new business that best embodies the LEAP spirit, the most impressive startup occupying the Metaverse and Web 3.0, and the pitch that represents the most exciting, ground-breaking use of Artificial Intelligence.

On the show’s final day, LEAP23 will also host the winners’ ceremony of the ongoing Alibaba Cloud Saudi Hackathon, which comes with its own prize pool of US$532,000. Organisers said the response to the four-day hackathon, which started on January 29, was huge. The winning solutions and ideas implementors – those that have made the best use of Alibaba Cloud technology to facilitate deployment, development, scalability, and fast go-to market solutions – will be presented with their awards on February 9.

LEAP23 is set to welcome 920 scheduled investors, including Sequoia Capital, Octopus Ventures, 500 Global and many more. Between them, they control an unprecedented US$1.9 trillion in assets under management. And with more than 5,000 potential meetings bookmarked, the four-day show promises to be the event where decisions are made and deals get done.

As well as pop superstar will.i.am and former Barcelona and Spain legend Puyol – both now entrepreneurs within the Metaverse – the latest batch of tech heavyweights and international celebrities set to speak at LEAP23 include Séan Garnier, CEO of Urbanball and world freestyle football champion, Gary Sorrentino, Global Chief Information Officer at Zoom, Helen K Pan, General Manager at Apollo Autonomous Driving – Baidu, Jim Deluca, CEO of Ceer, Hatem Dowidar, Group CEO at e& Group (formerly Etisalat), and a host of other C-suite thought-leaders from major global technology companies.

LEAP23’s newly released roster of tech talent also highlights the Saudi convention’s ability to connect East and West, with Selina Zhang, President of Alibaba Cloud, and Wu Eddie Yongming, Co-founder of Alibaba Group confirmed alongside Sheikh Talal Said Marhoon Al Mamari, CEO at Omantel, Saleem AlBlooshi, CTO at Du, Sheikh Bader bin Rashid Al Khalifa, Chief Communications and Sustainability Officer at Batelco, and Charles Li, ex-CEO of Hong Kong Exchange and Chairman of Micro Connect.

In connecting the most influential players from the East and West, LEAP23 will be the stage for announcing strategic alignments and large-scale business deals that will impact the tech community globally. Last year, more than US$6 billion worth of investments were announced and organisers are confident this year, with an increase in investors, exhibitors, and attendees from around the world, will surpass that figure.

With more than 900 exhibitors confirmed for this year’s second iteration, LEAP23 will host more than 700 speakers, including billionaire investors, astronauts, and athletes-turned-tech investors across its 15 conferences. A host of Saudi Arabian heavyweights such as STC and NEOM will be accompanied by an international cadre of the biggest names in tech, such as Snapchat, Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Visa, Alibaba Cloud, Ericsson, Huawei, and Nokia.

Taking place alongside LEAP23 is the inaugural DeepFest, which will explore the global AI eco-system and showcase life-changing, multi-sector initiatives and innovations related to clean tech, the Metaverse, and women in technology.

LEAP23 has garnered support from numerous leading government and private sector organisations. Strategic partners and sponsors include NEOM, STC, Saudi Aramco, Mobily, IBM, Microsoft, Ericsson, Huawei, and Najm Insurance. The 2023 edition will also host country pavilions from the United Kingdom, Finland, Japan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Oman, and India.

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) is powering LEAP in conjunction with Tahaluf – a strategic joint venture co-owned by Informa PLC and the SAFCSP.


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