Neda Aldehany is a big man with a brilliant idea
Neda Aldehany wants to create the largest entrepreneurial hub in the Arab world serving Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, collectively known as the Gulf Cooperation Council, or the GCC.
“We believe we have a plan and a journey ahead that will take us to become the largest entrepreneurship center in the GCC,” said Aldehany, 35 year-old managing director of Brilliant Lab (BL), a Kuwait-based provider of startup accelerator services he founded in 2011 that works closely with Mind the Bridge toward establishing a global entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Working together with Mind the Bridge, Zain mobile services provider, IE Business School, and the Kuwait Ministry of State for Youth Affairs, Aldehany (Brilliant Lab) is on a mission to realize his vision. In early March, Brilliant Lab sponsored 12 participants from Kuwait, joined by four participants from Italy, representing a wide range of startups. The highly motivated and impassioned “start-uppers” are attending MTB’s three-week Startup School, learning how to effectively communicate their value proposition, tell their company story, and validate their business model. And answering the perennial business question from investors, potential partners, and ultimately, customers — “Why you, why now?”
This is the second group of Kuwaitis that Aldehany (Brilliant Lab) has brought to MTB’s entrepreneurship program. “At Startup School, our participants are benefiting tremendously from the hands-on workshops and exposure to Silicon Valley culture,” he said.
I recently interviewed Neda to better understand his vision and, in a region where oil and natural gas is king with billions in assets, why it needs entrepreneurship?
“Early in my career I realized you need more than money to create innovation and economic growth, especially in Kuwait and the greater GCC where we need to build a tax base and economic foundation before the oil reserves run out,” he explained. “There’s a major demand for international, cross-cultural experience where business knowledge is exchanged and teamwork is fostered.”
Realizing he wasn’t a “finance guy,” in 2010 Neda completed his MBA at the Instituto de Empresa Business School in Madrid. A year later he founded Brilliant Lab “to get startups out of their comfort zone, expand their awareness with real-world experience and an international scope.” He not only got his startups to “get out of the building,” teaching them the fundamentals of Lean Startup methodology, he got them out of the country.
Aldehany recently partnered with Abdullah Alzanki, a former fund manager and now Corporate Social Responsibility Coordinator at Zain, to take his big idea to the next level. Together they are expanding Brilliant Lab into an incubator workspace in the Al Hamra Tower, Kuwait’s tallest building, where they will create a “Google environment.” Slated for completion this year, the Brilliant Lab facility will provide workspace, sponsor boot camps and business plan competitions, and support angel investments with its international partners.
As we wrapped up our chat, Aldehany (Brilliant Lab) underscored the value of entrepreneurship, and how Mind the Bridge and Brilliant Lab share a common vision toward empowering individuals as well as global economies.
“Entrepreneurship is a process that not only builds economic value, but it makes you an unbreakable person.”
Director, MTB Startup School