The Thinkers and Doers – Creating the Ideal Launch Pad for Bahrain’s Startups


Thinkers and Doers connects international leaders at Follow the Leaders in Bahrain

Last week in Bahrain we have given special attention to one of the engines of our future economic growth – the startup sector. During #StartUpBahrainWeek, we brought together entrepreneurs, startups, and major accelerators as well as investors, to discuss ways of maintaining Bahrain’s position as a leading place to start and grow a business within the GCC region.

At Follow The Leaders conference, held at the Shaikh Ebrahim Center for Culture & Research, we heard from some of the region’s most successful innovators about the opportunities they see ahead. The conference was jointly hosted by StartUp Bahrain and Thinkers and Doers, an international network of innovators and creatives.

Entrepreneurs are our lifeblood in today’s economic climate. Huge transformation is happening across global markets as new technologies disrupt almost every industry and fundamentally redefine traditional business models. Our brightest entrepreneurial minds, the thinkers and doers of today, will be the leaders of tomorrow

Enormous opportunities are being unlocked by these innovators right here in Bahrain. At the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) we choose to embrace this transformation, since we recognise that it brings a huge opportunity for us to lead the way in this new wave of industries, driven by the kind of bold and dynamic thinking we see every day.

90% of Bahrain’s enterprises are SMEs, contributing a crucial 30% to our GDP. The number of new Bahraini startups is accelerating fast, having grown 46% over the past three years.

So how do we best harness this entrepreneurial energy to power the kingdom’s economic future? At EDB, we’re focusing on bringing together branches of government and the private sector to support rapid growth in sectors like fintech, adtech and e-commerce. We call it our Team Bahrain approach.

Our job is to achieve the right balance between community and government support to ensure the most nurturing and conducive environment for startups and small businesses to thrive.

Bahrain’s position as the longest established financial center in the Gulf means its regulatory environment is well advanced and responsive to the needs of modern business. Last year the Central Bank of Bahrain launched a Regulatory Sandbox for FinTech companies which is a virtual space where they can test their innovative products and services before bringing them to market.

Major international players are arriving as well. Last year it was announced that Amazon Web Services (AWS) will base its first Middle East & Africa Region in Bahrain, bringing all the benefits of cloud computing and big data access to the startup and SME sectors.

AWS estimates that at least 10,000 data solution architects will be needed across the region in the next five years. For this reason, AWS has also launched the AWS Educate program and just in its first few months over 2,500 young Bahrainis have signed up for the training programme. A rate that even exceeds that of China and India.

Education and training are pivotal to creating an optimal startup ecosystem. More than half of the kingdom’s population is under 30 and tech-savvy. We want improvements and reforms that will address the skills gap and encourage our youth to innovate and be capable of taking on the opportunities of the future.

Tamkeen, Bahrain’s Labour Fund, is playing its part by providing training and technical support to entrepreneurs and businesses, and at the EDB we too are committed to ensuring the next generation of Bahrainis have access to the best traditional, digital and STEM education throughout their careers.

Programmes of events such as StartUp Bahrain Week and Technology Week remind us of the talent we have not just in Bahrain but across the GCC. I believe the openness of Bahrain, both economically and culturally, make it a natural choice for startups looking for an environment from which to launch and expand to the wider region.

For our part, we will keep doing all we can to keep Bahrain as a leading choice for the wealth creators today and household names of the future.

Find out more at:

Khalid Al Rumaihi

Chief Executive, Bahrain Economic Development Board

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