Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award: The Finalists and I

I am now a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, billed as the first and only truly global award for entrepreneurs. If I win, I will have the opportunity to represent Saudi Arabia at the World Entrepreneur Of The Year awards this June in Monte Carlo.

On April 6, I will be attending a judging panel session at the Rosewood Hotel, followed by a gala dinner that evening at the Leyalty Ballroom from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. I appreciate your encouragement as I approach this big day.

What really adds to this experience for me is that I consider all of the finalists my friends, and have even done business with some of them. I feel honored to be competing with such accomplished individuals, who I will introduce you to now.

Rashid AlBallaa of N2V
Rashid, a Computer Science major with a love of all things tech, has been head of National Net Ventures for 5 and a half years. N2V is an Internet holding company that develops online and interactive Web-based ventures. Rashid aims to speed up the growth of the Arab Internet industry, bringing it to the international level.

Ahmed Hamdan of OTS
Ahmed, who holds a Master’s in Computer Sciences, is proof that ICT and business expertise combined are unstoppable. Since founding OTS Digital Communication in 2008, he has transformed his company from a local SMS reseller to a fast-growing regional digital communications provider that serves major clients like Al Jazeera and FedEx.

Lateefa Alwaalan of Yatooq
A champion of strong coffee and strong women, MBA grad Lateefa is the founder of Arabic coffee start-up Yatooq and co-founder of the CellA+ Network, a professional network aimed at empowering Saudi women. No stranger to the tech world, Lateefa also enjoys Web programming and design.

Kaswara Al-Khatib of Uturn Entertainment
Kaswara, a socially-oriented artist and marketer, left the cubicle life in 2002 to establish Full Stop Advertising, an independent communication agency that won Creative Agency of the Year in 2009. However, he may now be better known as Chairman and CEO of UTURN Entertainment, one of the first fully-fledged Saudi YouTube channels.

Loai Naseem of Lomar
After graduating from the Art Institute of Houston with a degree in graphic design, Loai made one of the most forward-thinking moves in fashion: going retro. His fashion brand, Lomar, has updated the traditional thobe for the modern Saudi gentleman.

Hazim Al-Dabbagh of SureFix
More than a decade into a successful management career, MBA grad Hazim changed directions by joining the team at SureFix, a customer-oriented facility management company that serves both commercial and residential locations. Today, Hazim is a Managing Partner at SureFix, helping the company achieve its vision of being the best facility management provider in Saudi Arabia.

Shadi Khawandana of Special Direction
From appearing in Forbes magazine as a “Leader Inspiring a Kingdom in the Business World” to winning the Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah International Award for Entrepreneurship in 2013, Shadi is already widely acknowledged for his 7-year leadership as CEO of Special Direction, a business consultancy house that provides human resources services and training programs. Also embracing risk outside of the boardroom, Shadi enjoys skydiving and horseback riding.

Shadi Zahid of Phenomenal PR & Events
Another Saudi entrepreneur named “Leader Inspiring a Kingdom in the Business World” by Forbes Magazine, Shadi founded Phenomenal PR & Events, a public relations firm launched and run by Saudis. Today, Shadi serves Phenomenal PR & Events as Management Director.

Naif Alqahtani of Logistics Solutions Services Company
A supply chain management expert, Naif is founder and CEO of Logistics Solutions Services, a storage and distribution solutions provider that has served clients such as General Electric and Saudi Aramco. He has also worked with Endeavor, an initiave focused on promoting high-impact entrepreneurship in growing markets.

As you can see, these entrepreneurs all deserve recognition. No matter who comes out on top, the people of Saudi Arabia will be the winners, for they will gain a representative that can show the international community what Saudis are truly capable of.
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