Leap is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC


Rocket Fuel Start-up

Pitch Competition

Start Up Page Image Web (500 x 700 px)

About the competition

LEAP is all about technology for humanity, and what better way to showcase this than by giving hundreds of attending start-ups the chance to pitch their solutions in front of regional and international powerhouse investors to secure recognition and all-important funding.

The start-up pitch competition will run across three days of LEAP and is open to all start-ups exhibiting at the Start-up Park. We will also have several exciting addresses from successful start-ups – including unicorns from the region and beyond – to motivate and inspire this year’s start-up cohort. 


LEAP's Rocket Fuel Start-up Competition will have four different categories and an award for each one. The four awards divide 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 will take to the stage on 1-2 February for 6 minutes (a 3-minute pitch followed by a 3-minute Q&A session) live at LEAP to a panel of major global investors and entrepreneurs. The top 10 competitors will go into the Grand Finale on 3 February, with four winners crowned in the categories below: 

Shooting star award

For the shooting stars beginning their start-up journey.

Prize fund: USD $100,000.

Technology for humanity award

For the start-up that best embodies the spirit of LEAP "technology for humanity".

Prize fund: USD $150,000.

The aviatrix award

For the most innovative start-up pioneered by women founders.

Prize fund: USD $150,000.

LEAP award

For the strongest, most outstanding start-up across the whole competition.

Prize fund: USD $200,000.

Meet the pitch

competition finale judges

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 female business leaders in the UK. Voted Business Woman of the Year, Ultimate Entrepreneur and rated among the 50 most inspirational people in the world, she is passionate about business and the promotion of women in business in the UK. Karren is CEO of West Ham United Football Club, one of the leading London Premier League football clubs and currently valued at £800,000,000. She has also previously been a key consultant for Syco Entertainment, a company jointly owned by Simon Cowell and Sony Music Entertainment. Lady Brady was made a life peer by the Prime Minister, entering the House of Lords in 2014 and received a CBE from the Queen for her services to business, entrepreneurship and women in business.

James Caan CBE
Entrepreneur, Media Commentator and Former Investor 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. James Caan established his private equity reputation in the recruitment industry before setting up Hamilton Bradshaw in 2003 to be the leading advisor for investment into UK recruitment and property businesses, including buyouts, venture capital and turnarounds.

In 2007 James joined the panel of Dragons’ Den, a hit BBC1 show where entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and hope to gain an investment. In his time on the show he made several high-profile investments including one that ended up being one of the most successful-ever pitches in the Den. A frequent commentator in the media, James was recognised in the 2015 New Year’s Honours list with a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to entrepreneurship and charitable services through the James Caan Foundation which he had set up in 2006.

Hattan Ahmed
Entrepreneurship Collaboration Manager at KAUST Entrepreneurship Center and award-winning entrepreneur

Hattan is the Entrepreneurship Director at KAUST delivering the university’s entrepreneurship vision. He believes in young people as change agents of the future and that universities play a key role in creating national economic impact. In his role as an advocate for innovation, Hattan works across the entire entrepreneurship ecosystem in the Kingdom, delivering entrepreneurship training, creating corporate innovation programs, and investing in startups that will contribute to the national transformation agenda.

Hattan has a diverse background in industry, startups and academia. As a startup co-founder, he brings a successful entrepreneurial background to his role, having navigated early stage growth to acquisition. He brings a rich background in Information Technology to his role, with experience in system design development and implementation within industries ranging from oil and gas, travel and retail. 

Steven Bartlett
Founder of Social Chain & youngest ever Dragon on BBC’s Dragons’ Den

Steven Bartlett is the 29-year-old Founder of the social media marketing agency 'Social Chain'. From a bedroom in Manchester, this university drop-out built what would become one of the world’s most influential social media companies when he was just 21 years old, before taking his company public at 27 years old with a current market valuation of over $600M.

He is the host of one of Europe’s biggest podcasts, ‘The Diary of a CEO’, and in 2021 Steven released his debut book ‘Happy Sexy Millionaire’ which was a Sunday Times best seller. At just 29 years old, he is widely considered one of Europe’s most talented and accomplished young entrepreneurs and philosophical thinkers, having joined BBC’s Dragon’s Den in January 2022, as the youngest ever Dragon in the show’s history.

H.E. Dr. Nabeel Koshak
CEO & Board Member of Saudi Venture Capital Company, investor, innovator and mentor  


H.E. Dr. Nabeel Koshak is the CEO and Board Member of Saudi Venture Capital Company (SVC). Nabeel is the Founder and Angel Investor at Athaal Angel Investor Group. He is a Board Member of Middle East Venture Capital Association (MEVCA). Nabeel is the Chairman of GEN (Global Entrepreneurship Network) Saudi. He is a member of the Executive and Investment Committee at the Cultural Development Fund. He is a member of the Investment Committee at KAUST’s Innovation Fund.

He is a start-up mentor at Endeavor Saudi Arabia. Nabeel is a member of the Saudi Venture Capital and Private Equity Association. He is a Member of the Executive and Investment Committee at Cultural Development Fund. He is a Board member of TCL (Tomouh Community of Leaders). As an entrepreneur, Koshak was the Founder and CEO of five tech start-ups.

Kelly Hoppen CBE
Interior Designer, Author, Entrepreneur and TV Personality 

Multi-award-winning designer Kelly Hoppen CBE is one of the most sought-after designers of her generation. Kelly’s ever-evolving style, defined by a subtle fusion of clean lines and neutral tones and intuitively balanced with an opulent warmth, has been honoured with numerous prestigious awards and accolades including a CBE for services to interior design in 2009.

Passionate about making her design ethos accessible to the masses, Kelly has authored 9 books, partnered with select brands to create a range of products for the home, and is often featured on numerous Television shows including ITV’s This Morning where she regularly shares her expertise with members of the public.

Michel Salgado
World-renowned footballer turned influential and successful tech entrepreneur

Michel appeared in 254 matches for Real Madrid from 1999 to 2009, helping the club win two UEFA Champions League titles and four La Liga titles. He was a member of the Spanish national team from 1998 to 2006. Since retirement, Michel has been a part of a series of successful ventures and built a career for himself as an entrepreneur. He runs the Michel Salgado academy in Dubai, the largest in the Middle East, and is the owner of UAE football club Fursan Hispania amongst a series of other businesses.

Get the dates in your diary!

Here is the competition timeline


Applications open – entrants answer a series of screening questions.

28 January 

Applications close – the judges will whittle the entrants down to a shortlist of 90.

29 January

Entrants that qualify for the shortlist will be informed and placed in a main award category.

1 & 2 February

Shortlisted entrants will have 3 minutes to pitch their start-ups and then 3 minutes for Q&As, live at LEAP in the semi-finals.

3 February

The 10 highest scoring start-ups overall will pitch again at the Grand Finale where the overall winner will be chosen. 

To apply for LEAP's Rocket Fuel Start-up Competition, you must secure your exhibition spot at the event. Get in touch with our team by clicking the button below.

If you have any other questions about the Rocket Fuel Start-up Competition or want to learn more, reach out to us on [email protected].