Communitech makes new friends from Saudi Arabia – April 2015

For a startup entrepreneur, it doesn’t get much better: a pitch before an audience that is not only interested and influential, but also from back home.

On Friday (April 24), Kamal Aman handed out one business card after another to a delegation from Saudi Arabia that had included the Communitech Hub on its day-long itinerary for Waterloo Region.

“Pitching to a delegation from my home country added an interesting twist,’’ said Kamal, systems architect for Majik Systems. “I was certainly keeping in mind some of the cultural differences while I was speaking, and I felt lucky to be familiar with Saudi manufacturing.”

A young company that helps manufacturers do a better job of tracking production, Majik was one of three startups introduced to the Saudi group.

“I was happy to get so much face-to-face time with some great new contacts,” Aman said.

The delegation also met Smartad, which uses facial-measurement technology to deliver demographically targeted advertising through video displays. Vidya Consulting presented a software solution that speeds up the planning-and-approvals process for land development.

All three companies are clients of Communitech’s Startup Services Group.

They belong to an ecosystem that counted 500 new startups in 2013, drawing $100 million in investment, the Saudis were told. Communitech, they were also told, is supported by government funding, private sponsorship and a deep commitment on the part of established entrepreneurs in the region to help new businesses.

The delegation’s stay in Ontario included stops in Ottawa and Toronto. About 20 Saudi business and government representatives made up the group.

Most of them, representing interests ranging from information technology to agriculture, travelled to Waterloo Region.

“We’re not just oil and gas,” said Marwan Mohamed Almutlaq, a Saudi engineer and farmer. “There are many fields where we can engage in, and our governments can engage in. Whatever you can think of, Saudi Arabia needs or wants.”

How the delegation came to visit the region goes back to talks in December between local entrepreneur Shawky Fahel, through his Canada-Middle East Connections initiative, and Emad A. El-Dukair, who heads the Saudi Canadian Business Council.

Led by Fahel and Hussam Ayyad, Manager of the Startup Services Group, the delegation headed to Waterloo after the Communitech tour, to visit Aeryon Labs and Intelligent Mechatronic Systems (IMS). IMS develops connected-car technology that improves driver performance. Aeryon builds small, unmanned aerial drones.

The trip may already have produced at least one potential export — the Communitech model.

“This is definitely one of the most exciting stops because of what Communitech is adding to the community,’’  El-Dukair said in an interview as the group left the Hub. “Hopefully we will be able to somehow get its assistance in duplicating this.”