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Rocket Fuel

The Start-up Pitch Competition

About the competition

At LEAP 2023, we had 90 start-ups pitch their business ideas live, with the opportunity of winning a share of a lucrative prize pool. 

After 6 semi-final heats took place from 6 to 8 February, the 15 best pitches entered the Grand Finale on 9 February. Five start-ups were crowned category winners, and a sixth was crowned as the LEAP Award for the best overall start-up. All of this took place in front of seasoned judges, angel investors, tech experts and government stakeholders from around the world!

Meet Maqsam, winner of

the LEAP Award 2022!

Here's what they said...

"LEAP was one of the most amazing experiences for us as a company. Not just the energy, the exposure, the number of people who are interested. LEAP gave us the exposure to many partners, customers, and investors, who are talking to us today very seriously about growing the business."


LEAP's Rocket Fuel Start-up Pitch Competition had six different categories and an award for each one. The six awards divided the start-up entrants by size, scale, the impact they have had on society, amount of funding, years in business and number of employees. 

Successful applicants took the stage on 6-9 February 2023 live at LEAP to a panel of major global investors and entrepreneurs. The top competitors then entered the Grand Finale on the 9th of February, with six winners crowned in the categories below: 

LEAP Award

For the strongest, most outstanding startup across the whole competition.

Prize Fund: $250,000

Shooting Star Award

For the early stage startup beginning their journey. 

Prize Fund: $150,000

The Aviatrix Award

For the best, most innovative startup pioneered by women founders. 

Prize Fund: $150,000

Technology for Humanity Award

For the startup that best embodies the "tech for humanity" spirit of LEAP. 

Prize Fund: $150,000

The Into New Worlds Award

For the most impressive startup occupying the Metaverse and Web 3.0 space. 

Prize Fund: $150,000

The Artificial Intelligence Award

For the startup that presents the most exciting, ground-breaking usage of artificial intelligence. 

Prize Fund: $150,000


The semi-final judges

Our expert judges are coming from all over the world to find the most brilliant participating startups. From investors at top firms to seasoned tech entrepreneurs, they are looking out for outstanding candidates, ready to impress and achieve success! 

David Gram-hanssen 

Co-founder & Partner, Diplomatic Rebels 

Innovation Leader, Keynote Speaker, Former Venture Partner at Lego Ventures and Co-founder of Lxgo. 

Sonali Goila 

Head - Venture Capital & Private Equity, Panthera Capital Investments  

Sonali is a full-cycle, multi-stage investor, operator and business-builder with over 15 years of experience across emerging markets (Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia and India).

Minja Wu  

Principal Partner, SOSV

Minja manages over 20 software companies across logistics, entertainment, fintech, education, gaming, mobile, e-commerce, and real estate.

Dr. Sarah Saska

CEO, Feminuity 

3x Top 100 Powerful Women in Canada. 

Danielle Graham

Managing Partner & Co-Founder, Phoenix Fire  

Founder of the Fierce Founders Programs, the first female-focused accelerator and bootcamp series in Canada.

Tim Ringel  

Investor & Advisory Board Member, Adit Ventures

Tim's investment portfolio counts names like Adomni, AirBnB, Algolia, Animoca Brands, Astrocast, SpaceX and Spotify.

Padmaja Ruparal

Co-Founder, Indian Angel Network Fund 

She has been awarded as one of the ‘Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Business’ by Fortune India for 2017, 2018 2019, & 2021. 

Kinga Stanislawsa  

Managing General Partner & Co-Founder, Experior VC 

Founder of Europe’s first ever women-run VC company and named one of the Top 50 Women in Tech in Europe by Forbes.

Yasin Aboudaoud 

Chief Development Officer & Managing Partner, Brinc

His expertise in China in the last 10 years, has allowed him to connect people with products of every kind across the globe.

Walid Faza  

Partner & Chief Operating Officer, MSA Capital

Walid is responsible for investments, partnerships, and running operations for MSA in emerging technology markets.

Hamad Al Fahad

Managing Partner, Tajawoz

A technology leader with over 15 years of experience, growing companies in the telecommunications, security, and IT services industry. Hamad managed tech products with a cumulative online transaction value of $300m+, and 10,000+ active users.

Ateet Bhalla 

Startup Consultant, Technology Enthusiast & Futurist 

And the judges of

the Grand Finale

Ghazal Alagh
Co-Founder, Mamaearth & Judge, Shark Tank India

Co-Founder of well-known beauty brand MamaEarth, India's latest unicorn, and judge on the popular TV series, Shark Tank India.

Tala Al Jabri 
Board Director, Middle East Venture Capital Association 

Tala is a Venture Partner (previously General Partner) at HOF Capital, an early stage VC fund, and was an advisor at Turmeric Capital's GCC Asia Fund. Previously, she was an investor at SoftBank Vision Fund focusing on growth-stage ventures in MEA and working with portfolio company expansions into MENA. Tala is a member of Saudi Angel Investors (and a member of its IC) and was named Arabian Business' Woman of the Year in Finance in 2022. She regularly contributes to Forbes Magazine and Entrepreneur. She obtained her MBA from the Wharton School and MPA from Harvard University.

Baroness Karren Brady CBE
Vice Chairman of West Ham United Football Club

Baroness Brady of Knightsbridge CBE is one of the most influential, high profile and respected British female business leaders.

James Caan CBE 
Entrepreneur, businessman, investor & former Dragon on BBC’s Dragons’ Den

One of the UK’s most successful and dynamic entrepreneurs, James was also named LinkedIn’s 2nd most influential voice of 2017.

Steven Bartlett
Entrepreneur, investor, podcaster & current Dragon on BBC’s Dragons’ Den

Newest and youngest ever Dragon on BBC’s Dragons’ Den, and host of Europe’s most downloaded Business podcast.

The competition

Hall of Fame

Congratulations to our #LEAP23 Rocket Fuel Start-up Pitch Competition winners:

The LEAP Award


Plastus is a biotech start-up that converts organic waste into bioplastics (PHA) which is produced through the fermentation process of bacteria. 

Technology for Humanity Award

RiceAfrika is a tech-driven agriculture optimisation service provider in Africa. They provide a platform that connects smallholder farmers in Africa with Land preparation equipment, high-yielding seeds, quality herbicides and pesticides, affordable fertilizers, mechanised harvesting, extension services, and a structured market. 

Shooting Star Award


BAG is a digital platform that offers a wide range of employer tasks and challenges to help students better prepare for jobs.

The Into New Worlds Award

Wicrypt empowers you with the ability to mine Wicrpyt tokens while sharing high-speed internet access with your guests, customers or community for free, or at whatever rates you decide.

The Aviatrix Award


Takadao offers a halal insurance alternative powered by the blockchain for the new, global age. 

The Artificial Intelligence Award

Verofax offers CPG brands economic Digital twin solutions to turn every item interactive for unmatched brand metrics and operational excellence.