The Arab Innovation Academy is the biggest entrepreneurship program in the Arab Region. Every year, more than 200 participants of 30 nationalities get together at Qatar Science and Technology Park with a great challenge: create a startup in only 10 days. 

This exciting challenge was what made Shaikha Alsubaey apply for AIA 2019. Now, almost one year after the experience, a lot has changed for her. From learning as a participant to serving as the designer of our official illustrated characters, Shaikha told us everything about the experience that has changed her life.

Hi Shaikha, it’s great to see you again! Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

I’m Shaikha Alsubaey, a 22-year-old self-taught Qatari artist/illustrator and an accounting graduate who loves to create meaningful content. I believe I can enrich people’s lives with my artistic skills by bringing a new perspective of books I read, podcasts I listen to, and experiences I live.


I strongly believe that innovation has nothing to do with age, work experience, or specialty; I think everyone should think outside the box and be brave enough to pursue their dreams.

What were your expectations when you joined AIA?

I was a bit scared after I applied. For a moment, I thought the program was too advanced for my knowledge and skill set. I had the idea that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with other participants, especially students with higher degrees—however, that was not what happened.

Illustration representing Shaikha Alsubaey at AIA 19

Of course, I struggled with some challenges, but those moments were when I grew the most. Let me give you a simple example: I’m a shy person, so you might imagine the real challenge that a program like AIA could be for someone like me. But, it was incredible to see that after a few days I was able to express my opinions full of confidence. 

Working with people from different experience backgrounds, educational levels, and skills taught me a lot about entrepreneurship. At the end of the day, we’re all meant to be different so we can complete each other. 

Can you tell us about your days at the Arab Innovation Academy?

AIA days were so special. Some days were all about fun, meeting people, and sharing ideas, but it was also about hard work and learning. I’m so grateful for all the people who helped me get the best out of this journey.

I can tell that my success was not limited to the 10 days at AIA, but also what I’ve been able to accomplish after the program. I’m extremely proud that I started as a participant in AIA 2019 and now I have the chance to have my illustrations and designs in the marketing campaign for the 2020 program.

Can you share your best #AIAmoment?

I had many great moments at AIA, but I have two very special ones. The first was when one of my teammates told me what a good listener I am, and good listeners always win. The second one was on the final day when our team (EYETALK) won the program; it felt like all our crazy effort had finally paid off.   

Moments of Shaikha at AIA 19

Can you explain what was your team’s startup idea?

Our project is called EYETALK. It is a software-hardware system that enables completely paralysed people to connect with the world using the blinking of their eyes. 

EyeTalk Project AIA 19

Any piece of advice for the next participants?

Believe in yourself and always create your own opportunities. Don’t wait for them to come. 

Can you share a quote that inspires you?

‘’If you can dream it, you can do it’’—Walt Disney

Click here to learn more about the AIA program.