By Nicole Dow, CNN
Hayat Sindi is co-founder of Diagnostics for All and founder of the i2 institute, which is launching in Jeddah today. The views, expressed in a recent interview with Dow, are her own.
How did the idea for the i2Institute come about?
It mainly came from my journey, my experiences. All of my life, I’ve been trying to answer this question – through my journey, throughout my studies, my profession – what can I bring back to the region? How can I help the most talented inventors from the Middle East in the area of science, engineering…have the right atmosphere to be able to see their idea and show it to the community? What does it take? What does it take in terms of their education? What skills do they need to have? What information do they need to know? What action should they take? How can they approach investors? How do they understand a business model?
There is no right recipe [for entrepreneurship], no right program, no right instruction on how you can create an entrepreneur from that area. It can only happen by construction and working together and being hands-on.
There’s growing concern over a brain drain affecting the Middle East. Why is no one capitalizing on the young talent in the region? And why do you think so many young people tend not stay in their home countries to work?
[T]hey don’t have the belief in the talent of the youth. I don’t think they have in their heart, belief in their talent. If you do not have the belief inside you, nothing happens.
Brain drain affects every society…I left home [Saudi Arabia] at a young age because I wanted to make a difference in the world. And all my inventions relate to the Middle East somehow. I hope to find people who are like me, who understand, who are passionate about their own regions and who can open their hearts and minds to something like i2. Support it, encourage it, celebrate it. We are trying to figure out the right formula.
This is a purely non-governmental organization. No strings attached. The whole reason why I wanted it to be an NGO is for three reasons:
- The relationship between i2 and inventors is to be purely devoted to their personalities, to bring out their talents
- We are not going to choose inventors based on how they will make a profit for i2. Not looking for profit here. [We are] looking for talents that will have a social impact and a regional impact.
- To make it easy for the investors not to have nightmares sleeping, worrying about who is doing what.
I want all of the community to have an open mind about i2. We are going to collaborate with all of the universities, research funds, incubators. We are going to give the right education, the right program for inventors to meet their potential partners in the region.
What makes i2 unique in the Middle East?
We are the first NGO that is trying to set-up an ecosystem for science and technology in the Middle East. We want to set an example of creating something from nothing. I hope i2 is a blueprint for collaboration. In Arabic, we have a saying, “You cannot clap with one hand.”
Most people in the Middle East feel science is out of reach. They do not believe they are capable or have the talent. The blueprint for i2 is creating the right ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation. I want the atmosphere to be contagious [and to] engage universities, governments, civic organizations. Create an atmosphere of inspiration, determination, purpose and harmony.
How will i2 work with entrepreneurs and inventors?
There will be mentors assigned to each fellow. Mentoring is key – a friend, someone who inspires you. They will be taught business, management, leadership, communication and resilience skills. [They will be taught] how to create a marketing strategy, how to write a business proposal. This is unique, customized for the Middle East. We want it to be realistic and focused.
At the end of the year, each inventor will present his or her work to investors, and must make it interesting to investors who will see a solid return. We then match them with investors who will invest in their ideas
They will learn [what it takes] to create a start-up in the Middle East. What does it take to register an invention? And who do you go to for financial support? [We] don’t want them to live in a dream world. The message is that your idea is not about you. You have to understand what it takes. The dreamer also needs to be a doer.