L’Oréal Middle East and Astrolabs unveil techquest challenge

In a landmark partnership, L’Oréal Middle East and AstroLabs have launched L’Oréal TechQuest, a breakthrough challenge for homegrown startups in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to develop meaningful and positive beauty technology for L’Oréal Middle East.

TechQuest, the first of its kind initiative in the region, and is the Middle East’s regional semi-finals of the wider L’Oréal Big Bang Beauty Tech Innovation Program, aimed at driving open innovation and co-creation of innovative beauty solutions by nurturing promising startups from South Asia Pacific, Middle East and North Africa region.  

TechQuest highlights the vital role of SMEs in driving the region’s economies through innovation, and the commitment of L’Oréal Middle East to foster collaboration, drive technological advancements, and support the growth of innovative solutions in the region.

In the UAE, SMEs constitute over 94% of all companies, while in Saudi Arabia, 99.5% of businesses fall into this category. As part of the TechQuest challenge, initiated earlier this year, L’Oréal Middle East aims to accelerate government efforts to enhance the competitiveness of the SME sector.

This year, 535 startup companies were identified, with 14 startups shortlisted to design operational solutions in areas such as Warehouse Optimization, Data Fragmentation, AI for Social Listening and AI in Regulatory Affairs.

From the impressive pool of startups, four innovators emerged as the TechQuest winners after going through a rigorous evaluation process. Exponential Solutions (10xDS) was recognized for their achievements in AI in Regulatory Affairs; Ahad Security Transforming for their contributions to Data Fragmentation; Yango Robotics for their advancements in Warehouse Optimization and Aim Technologies for their innovative work in AI for Social Listening. The innovators also had the unique opportunity to pilot their solutions with key decision makers and technical experts in L’Oréal, receiving valuable feedback, exclusive data and mentorship as well as support to accelerate the commercialization of their solution in the region.

The four chosen startups from TechQuest are in the running to potentially be advanced to the ‘L’Oréal Big Bang Beauty Tech Innovation Program’ Grand Finale that will be held in Singapore in October 2024, where they will get the chance to compete against other shortlisted startups from India and Southeast Asia. The startups will have the opportunity to develop their Beauty Tech innovation pilots in one of five challenge themes: Consumer Experience, Content, Media, New Commerce and Tech for Good. Those who prove successful pilots in SAPMENA could have the opportunity to work with L’Oréal globally.

Olfa Messaoudi, Chief Digital and Marketing Officer at L’Oréal Middle East, said: “L’Oréal’s overarching purpose is to create beauty that moves the world, and embrace technology as a catalyst for transformation. The Group has a legacy of pushing the boundaries of beauty innovation and continues to do so with avenues and initiatives that hone entrepreneurial and pioneering talent. SMEs are the backbone of a country’s economy and are often at the forefront of innovation. With L’Oréal TechQuest, we want to explore their agility, creativity and competitiveness to find beauty solutions that make a positive difference. Startups in UAE and KSA have an opportunity to shape the future of beauty technology in a supportive and dynamic environment.”

Roland Daher, Chief Executive Officer at AstroLabs, said: “We’ve always been about merging startups’ agility with the infrastructure and depth of established corporates to unlock transformation in key industries on the rise. The L’Oreal TechQuest exemplifies this commitment, offering regional startups fast-track access and the opportunity to validate and accelerate entry into the wider L’Oréal ecosystem. Bridging this gap ensures a seamless flow of market innovations into real-world applications for industry giants like L’Oréal Middle East.”

About L’Oréal Middle East

L’Oréal is the world’s leading beauty company with an established presence in the Gulf region since the 1960s. The company formally set-up operations in the region in 1998 as L’Oréal Middle East, and today has three entities across the GCC region, employing over 500 employees, with a diversified mix of 54 nationalities. L’Oréal Middle East created its subsidiaries L’Oréal KSA in 2011 and L’Oréal UAE in 2015 to serve its key markets. Headquartered in Dubai, L’Oréal Middle East offers an inclusive portfolio 31 beauty brands across four divisions – Consumer, Professional, Luxury and L’Oréal Dermatological Beauty.

In 2024, L’Oréal was named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies® by Ethisphere Institute for the 15th time in a row. It has also been recognized in 2023 as a global environmental leader with triple ‘A’ score by the CDP, for the eighth year in a row. UNIVERSUM has also ranked the Group in the top 10 most attractive employers worldwide, and number one in the UAE while ranked it second in KSA in the FMCG category.

For more information, please visit https://www.loreal.com/en/middle-east/

About AstroLabs

AstroLabs is an ecosystem builder that enables the growth of people, companies, and innovation capacities on a regional level. With 10 years of active building in MENA and a vibrant community across 3 coworking spaces in the UAE & KSA, AstroLabs is MENA’s trusted partner in solving the innovation challenges of tomorrow by navigating the entrepreneurial landscapes of today. 

Partnering with key industry shapers, including governmental entities, corporates & enterprises, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem, AstroLabs designs and facilitates ecosystem transformations through business expansion and market entry operations, SME ecosystem building, digital upskilling, entrepreneurship, and innovation programs, as well as value-focused talent recruitment practices. 

About L’Oréal Big Bang Beauty Tech Innovation Program in SAPMENA

The L’Oréal Big Bang Beauty Tech Innovation Program regional open innovation competition seeks to discover, support and nurture promising startups from across the South Asia Pacific, Middle East and North Africa region, from countries including United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. These startups will be given the opportunity to develop their pilots in Beauty Tech innovation in one of five challenge themes: Consumer Experience, Content, Media, New Commerce and Tech for Good. The top three SAPMENA Grand Finale winners will win a L’Oréal-funded commercial pilot opportunity and a year-long mentorship program with senior executives from L’Oréal and the program partners including Accenture, Google and Meta.

Startups who prove successful pilots in SAPMENA could have the opportunity to work with L’Oréal globally. With L’Oréal SAPMENA as a launchpad, startups could tap into an extensive network of partners and market insights.

The three regional online semi-finals for the GCC, India and Southeast Asia will culminate in an in-person SAPMENA Grand Finale. Up to ten startup finalists across SAPMENA will vie for the top prizes at the Grand Finale in Singapore on 23 October 2024. Judges will comprise senior executives from L’Oréal and the program partners.

For more information, please visit bigbang.lorealsapmena.com