It’s Thursday, 24th of February, 15:25PM, the Moroccan public workers are on a strike which means happiness and no class for me. It also means that I get to sit comfortably in my dorm room, celebrate by making a chocolate bar disappear, and write to you about the event I attended yesterday; The 18th edition of the Pitch Lab! What is the Pitch lab you ask? The Pitch Lab is the flagship event of the New Work Lab, a Casablanca-based co-working space that is engaged to empower the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Morocco. The event has as a goal to offer Moroccan startuppers a scene where they can showcase their enterprise, make themselves known, get feedback and why not their first customers. How does it work? It’s 5 startups per edition, and each startup gets 10 minutes; 5 min to pitch the idea and another 5 min for Q&As. The Q&A part is very important as it challenges the pitcher and translates a will to make it as interactive as possible as Fatim-Zahra Biaz, Founder of NWL explains that for her and her team “ it’s extremely important that everybody plays the game today. So if you spot a startup or someone that you would like to support, step in for them! Not just by voting today but also on the long term. If you are a journalist offer them visibility, if you are a college student go to them for internships and work opportunities, if you are a designer offer your services, etc…”. The event took place in a venue called “ Moultaka El Ajial “ near Casa Port and was a bit special given that a bunch of municipality officials and executives were invited to attend among which was the president of the Casablanca region. To put it to you in brief : this Pitch Lab is where you should have been to witness video games and smart cities matters being discussed in front of state executives.
Mustapha Bakkoury, the president of the Casablanca region was solicited for a brief opening remark that he seized to thank Fatim-Zahra for her contribution to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. He then explained that training and employment are among the top priorities of the new prerogative of the Casa region and that him, attending this event, is one of the ways he is taking on this responsibility. Furthermore, he stated that he, and the state entity he represents, will have succeeded only once their presence will no longer be felt, rather than how it is negatively presentimented today. He goes on to explain that “ The state has to be present through the time and effort it spears to the entrepreneurs.” And that “ The road that leads the entrepreneur to his client has to be the shortest possible and, also, the most enjoyable! as entrepreneurship is a passion first of all.”
The pitches then started. The first Pitcher was Beekast; it consists in a solution to dynamize keynotes and conferences and make them more interactive through an app that provides advanced interaction between the speaker and the audience through Q&A, votes, private chat between members of the audience, among other services. The market is estimated up to 500 million euros in France and 25 Billion worldwide. BEEKAST has already fundraised 1.2 Million euros.
The second pitch was for The Wall Games; Video Games based on Moroccan pop culture developed by a programming agency with a team that has over 13 years experience in the field of game development and that has worked on worldwide known games such as Just Dance. Their first game, inspired by Casablanca’s traffic frenzy will be called “ Z7am ”, will be launched on the Android Playstore on the first of march. Save the date!
When asked about why choose to limit the games for the Moroccan context while they could go big by making it universal, Yassine Arif answered brillantly by giving the example of two pure Moroccan products that took advantage of the uniqueness of their culture, that are now MENA region success stories and that are soon to be exported worldwide : Saad L’mjarred; a morroccan pop singer and “ L’boulevard”; an underground music urban festival.
The third pitcher was Mozaic Parking; the prototype of a platform that connects between a sleeping offer of empty parking spaces and the massive demand on parking lots in metropoles. Basically how it works : you leave your parking lot at 8am to go to work, users of the app have access to it with certain conditions among which is leaving before you come back. The offer is also expandable to hotels, malls and other strucutres with avaible parking lots. When asked about having the user of the parking lot stay past time, the pitcher responded that they believe in the good will of the users but they also foresaw it as an eventuality and planned a penality for such cases. And to the question about the security of the vehicule he stated that his solution does not add more insecurity to the usual scenario of a parked car.
The 4th pitcher was Manageo, a management dashboard platform for very small and small structures. When asked about the difference between the open source ERPs and Manageo he stated that it has a vertical approach integrating all the functions, that it’s considerably more cost effective –thus suitable for TPE and PME- and does not require any specific knowhow in opposition to the implementation of the usual ERP.
The 5th and last but not least pitch was for ALGO Group; an e-mo9ata3a* and an e-m9adem*! It’s a PPP e-gov solution that you should already know as i’ve wrote to you about it in the Africa Startup Summit report. You have no memory of that you say? Ok, Here is a recap : “ Its an e-government solution that promises to make your struggle with Moroccan bureaucracy and your wait for “l’m9adem” to show up a vague memory by providing you with a total of 22 documents online. …contrary to the rest of e-gov solutions, it has a bottom up approach : it’s based on the citizen’s needs, and its given freely for the government, it’s the said citizen that pays for it.”
* These are the names of the apps developped by the startup
As soon as the last pitch ended, tablets started going around to pick up votes for the 5 startups in order to choose the 18th pitchlab edition winner. I personally voted for Algo Group not because of the quality of the pitch but just because it’s the most courageous idea of all in my opinion; as facing the Moroccan bureaucracy as a user is hard, let alone enterprising to revolutionize it!
Moments of networking later, the results went up : The Wall Games won the February startup title! And with that was the wrap-up of another successful edition of the Pitch Lab. To next month!