Entrepreneur Mohamed al-Kilany says winning Challenge 22 has provided a platform to showcase Arab innovation to the world – and it’s an opportunity he’s determined to capitalise on.
Al-Kilany, a Palestinian-Jordanian, is the chief executive officer and founder of SnapGoal. He was speaking at the end of a week-long Challenge 22 winners’ visit to Doha.
He and his team had won the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy’s (SC) flagship innovation award with SnapGoal, an innovative social media platform, in 2017.
It has been a busy time for the entrepreneur. SnapGoal was recently selected among 10 other startups for the Techween acceleration programme in Oman, while they were also voted as one the most exciting 22 SportsTech startups worldwide by SportsTech Qatar, sc.qa reported.
Al-Kilany said winning Challenge 22 brought a great degree of opportunity, but also responsibility.
“After winning Challenge 22, the dream became bigger and I felt our responsibility also became bigger,” he said. “This feeling has been reinforced after meeting with the secretary-general, who said we need our young talented people from the region to be the engine for the World Cup.
“I firmly agree with him. We need to match these talents with opportunities. It is a wonderful thing that organisations like the SC are there to help open the door and provide a unique chance to really take our ideas to the next level. I appreciate these opportunities more than words can express. That’s why I work day and night to make this dream come true.”
Inspired by Snapchat, SnapGoal is a social media platform for football fans, allowing them to view and post photographs and videos up to 15 seconds long. It's the first social app for football enthusiasts in the Middle East, helping fans in the region share their passion for the sport, the report states.
In addition to winning Challenge 22, SnapGoal was a finalist in the MIT Arab Startup Competition and the World Summit Awards.
According to al-Kilany, the boost his company has received since winning the award 18 months ago has been both invaluable – and multifaceted.
“To be working with the organisation in charge of arranging the 2022 World Cup was a very important moment,” he explained. “The exposure is something we are very grateful for.
“Everybody respects the fact that we have such a credible partner in the SC, and they know that we are serious about what we do – and that we know how to take this prototype and turn it into something meaningful in the future.”
Winning Challenge 22 teams each received a $15,000 cash prize and benefit from expert inputs from business leaders across the region. In addition, they are also eligible to receive $100,000 in funding to develop their idea to the proof of concept stage.
In addition to the funding and mentorship, winners are also given other benefits – such as networking opportunities. Which, according to al-Kilany, have been another major benefit of his association with Qatar 2022.
“Without the SC, if I needed to meet these partners it would take me many months, may be more,” he said. “Four years ago, I tried to meet with one of the companies I’ve met this week.
“After one year of trying and trying I could not get anywhere. It is understandable as they thought of us as a small company. In five days here in Doha this week, we have met every single potential partner it was possible to think of. For an entrepreneur, this really is a dream scenario.”