The Arab region is full of unique ideas – ideas that could change the world.
To identify the very best Challenge 22 ideas, it takes a discerning, creative mind that can see the full potential of an innovation. It requires people who understand what separates a great concept from an innovation that can work in the real world.
Our judging panel is made up of people who have made ideas work: leading entrepreneurs, strategists and technologists. Using their years of hands-on experience, these experts selected the winners of Challenge 22’s second cycle from the hundreds of exciting entries we received.
Nabil Abu-Issa, Vice-chairman, Abu Issa Holding
Nabil Abu-Issa took over the family business when he was young, after the passing of his father. From a retail operations business, the company grew to become one of the most distinguished groups in the Middle East, with more than 165 stores in the Gulf region, Turkey, South Africa and the USA employing over 4,000 people. Ashraf Abu-Issa and his brother Nabil achieved strong regional expansion through their strategic and world-class partnerships and their determination to set the highest standards of excellence.
They have built one of Qatar’s most diversified and progressive groups, controlling and operating companies in various sectors, including retail, distribution, telecommunications, IT, energy and engineering, investments, real estate and other operations. He also offers consultancy to large multinational companies seeking to promote business in Qatar in the areas of energy, infrastructure, construction, utilities and event management.
Nabil supports the overall economic development of Qatar, through continued investment in public sector business, and support charities such as Qatar Cancer Society, where he is an honorary ambassador. He is also a board member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) in Qatar, a member of the Qatari Businessmen Association and the President of the Basketball Operation at Al Sadd Sports Club.
Bassem Bouguerra, CEO, IntilaQ
After graduating from California State University in 2005, Bassem became a creative developer at AKQA, where he earned multiple awards for his work. He then joined Yahoo! as a senior software engineer, before founding the Tunisian Institutional Reform NGO in 2011.
Two more startups followed: Tunpixel, which builds software for autonomous drones, and Jobi.tn, the leading Tunisian job board for IT professionals.
He is now helping startups get off the ground as CEO at IntilaQ, a prominent Tunisian startup investor, and is also a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington DC-based think tank.
Naoufal Chama, President, Startup Maroc
Naoufal started his career as a software engineer at Digimind Morocco in 2006, after graduating from the Institut National des Postes et Télécommunications in Rabat.
He worked his way up at Digimind, going from project leader to project officer, and then head of R&D to CEO. He juggles his CEO role with leading StartUp Maroc – the largest organisation supporting entrepreneurs in Morocco – and representing Morocco in the Global Entrepreneurship Congress.
Naoufal also plays an active role in organising events, having set up TedX Rabat, the International Collegiate Programming Contest world finals in Morocco and several other events for developers and entrepreneurs.
Dr Maher Hakim, Managing Director, Qatar Science and Technology Park
Dr Hakim holds a BS in Civil Engineering from Damascus University, an MS in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a PhD in Computer-Aided Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.
Between 1994 and 2012, Dr Hakim lived in Silicon Valley, founded five technology startup companies and served in various management and leadership roles at large software companies such as Infor and Autodesk. In total, he has amassed 20 years of experience as a tech entrepreneur and a corporate executive in IT.
He is currently the managing director of Qatar Science and Technology Park, associate professor of entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University Qatar (CMUQ) and has served as the head of CMUQ-AlFaisal Innovation Entrepreneurship Center. He is also on the council of the European Innovation Academy.
Faisal Hakki, CEO, Oasis500
Following his graduation from the University of Sunderland in the UK with an MBA in finance, Faisal began a career in accounting and financial research.
In 2010, he became senior investment associate at venture capitalists Accelerator Technology Holdings, before initiating his own e-commerce startup and joining the Arab Advisors Group as general manager. Then, after being on the Oasis500 board of directors for four years, Faisal became CEO of the startup accelerator in mid-2016.
With such varied experience, Faisal’s knowledge base covers a wide spectrum of investment functions at different stages of business growth.
Abeer Al-Hammadi, IP Commercialization Manager and Manager of IP & Technology Transfer, Qatar Foundation Research & Development
Abeer joined Qatar Foundation as a senior research analyst in 2008, following two years of intensive research management training with the Qatar Science Leadership Program.
In her dual role at Qatar Foundation Research & Development, she manages intellectual property assets and visits technology transfer offices around the world, building bridges between these offices and Qatar.
An alumna of Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar and Cardiff University, she is currently studying for an executive MBA at HEC Paris.
Yousuf Al Harthy, CEO, Oman Tech Fund
Holding two bachelor's degrees in IT, and a master's in IT from RMIT University in Australia, Yousuf has been a technologist and an entrepreneur for over 20 years. He has founded three startups, including IT consultancy business Infoshield, which he ran for 11 years until 2016.
Having also been an advisor to the Oman Investment Fund and a board member at the Al Raffd Fund for aspiring entrepreneurs in Oman, he has built up an intimate knowledge of the startup landscape in his home country and the surrounding region.
He is currently CEO of the Oman Technology Fund and a trustee at the Modern College of Business & Science in Muscat.
Amin Matni, Program Manager, Qatar Business Incubation Center
After gaining a BA in Graphic Design from the University of Notre Dame in the USA, Amin set up two marketing consultancies – one in Lebanon and another in Qatar.
In 2009, he began studying for his master’s in design studies from Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar, where he was already an adjunct assistant professor imparting his design knowledge. At the same time, he began working at Qatar Foundation, establishing the social innovation programme.
Following an eight-year stint coaching contestants on the televised Stars of Science innovation contest, he is now a program manager at Qatar Business Incubation Center. In all, he has helped more than 250 startups to grow, and is currently working on a third startup of his own.
John McEntire, Director of IP Commercialization, Qatar Foundation Research & Development
Subsequent to gaining a bachelor’s degree in Japanese / Asian studies and business from Brigham Young Universityin the USA, John took up a position as director and partner of the UMI Japan consulting boutique, helping American businesses establish themselves in Japan.
From there, his varied career took him into management, technology transfer, copyrighting and commercialisation. He counts the Japan Patent Office, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (where he gained an executive MBA), Washington State University and Battelle Memorial Institute among his former employers.
As director of intellectual property commercialization at Qatar Foundation's Research, Development & Innovation division, he now develops strategy and policy for protection, marketing and licensing of the intellectual property developed by the division and its associated universities.
Rabih Nassar, CEO, element^n
After completing the first of his two bachelor’s degrees from Université Saint-Joseph in Lebanon, Rabih co-founded the DigiSys IT solutions provider.
In 2000, he co-founded Super11.net, which grew into one of the largest Latin American internet and application service providers and portals. Two years later, he was setting up his third company, element^n, which is both an IT solutions provider and a startup accelerator.
From element^n came both apstrata and scriptr.io, platforms that facilitate the creation of mobile apps and internet of things applications, respectively.
Mahmoud Qutub, Senior Advisor SPO, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy
Mahmoud completed both his undergraduate degree (BA in International Studies) and his postgraduate degree (MA in International Transactions) at George Mason University in the USA. He later received his MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.
He began his career in the Washington DC area, undertaking asset management for Mitchell & Titus and The Metec Group, before working in management roles at Bearing Point. He accumulated vast experience in public and private sector development, advising clients on business strategy, organisational effectiveness and operational execution.
During Qatar’s bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup™, Mahmoud was a senior advisor, a role he now holds again at the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy as he manages special projects, provides strategic research, and guides planning and execution.
Dr Hisham Sabir, Director – Technical, Qatar National Research Fund
Dr Sabir graduated as a mechanical engineer from Cairo University, Egypt, in 1981. He then worked as a researcher for the Renewable Energy Research Institute, in his home country of Sudan.
In 1986, and while working for RERI, Dr Sabir obtained a master’s degree in renewable energy technology, jointly from the University of Khartoum, Sudan, and the University of New Mexico, USA. In 1993, he obtained his doctorate degree in the field of thermodynamics from King’s College London.
Between 1994 and 1997, Dr Sabir conducted research at the University of Sheffield and the University of Nottingham in the UK, and then joined Kingston University, also in the UK, as a senior lecturer in thermodynamics and other energy-related topics.
In 2010, Dr Sabir joined the Qatar National Research Fund as a program manager, before taking up his current role of technical director.