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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

GCC entrepreneurs pitch ideas to UK's Prince Andrew at Pitch@Palace

The first round of the competition saw 15 GCC entrepreneurs pitch project ideas, such as an app to help save camels from traffic accidents

The UK's Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, at Pitch@Palace on Sunday. Chris Whiteoak / The National
The UK's Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, at Pitch@Palace on Sunday. Chris Whiteoak / The National

A device that helps camel owners track their wandering herd and a game that draw attention to the looming plastic crisis are among the inventions of young Gulf nationals that were presented to the UK's Prince Andrew on Sunday.

Fifteen entrepreneurs from the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia pitched projects ideas in Abu Dhabi as part of Pitch@Palace GCC, a platform to amplify and accelerate the work of entrepreneurs, with this year's themes being "technology serving humans".

The competition was launched by Prince Andrew in 2014 to give entrepreneurs an opportunity to showcase their projects and gain the connections they need to move it forward. This year it has been expanded to welcome participants from across the Gulf.

On Sunday, contestants gathered at Khalifa University’s innovation centre for the Pitch@Palace boot camp to present their ideas in front of a judging panel before the main competition, which will take place on Wednesday at Emirates Palace.

Abdulla Al Gahtani from Saudi Arabia presented Camel Mate, a solar-powered tracking device that when placed on a camel’s back can alert the owner and the authorities via an app if the camel approaches a rural road or a highway.

“We are losing the animal that we love to collisions with vehicles.”

Similarly, many human lives have been lost as a result of the collisions — “three of which were my relatives,” he said.

Sajad Hameed from Bahrain pitched The Stories Studio, which he cofounded with his wife to create video games with social impact. One of the games, Deep Blue Dump, has the user playing as a guardian spirit in an ocean journey to save the sea from plastic pollution.

“There is an 'act now' section, where users can make changes in the real world, such as donating to concerned organisations,” he said.

“We are trying to showcase what Abu Dhabi and other countries in the GCC are doing. My advice is to use the network that we have to your advantage,” said Prince Andrew to the contestants before hearing their pitches.

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As the UAE government ramps up efforts to get young people to follow their passions when it comes to career choices, rather than relying on high paid government jobs, initiative like Pitch@Palace can help diversifying the market.

“Some of that diversification is going to come through people learning to start businesses and create opportunities for themselves,” Prince Andrew told The National.

Of the event, the Duke of York said that they were giving a platform to ideas and helping people to meet each other.

“We are simply fitting into the [start up] eco system that is already in existence here, and just showcasing some of the really great ideas coming out of the entrepreneur system.

“We plan who is invited to be in the audience and the entrepreneurs. We put the two together and then suddenly you find someone who says I know exactly how to help,” said the prince.

The three top winners of Pitch@Palace GCC will go on to pitch for funding at a global final on Dec 12 at St James Palace.