Tech start-ups in Gaza get support

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gaza_startup_weekendStart-ups in Gaza now have the opportunity to get funding for their business ideas. Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG) is the strip’s first and only start-up accelerator is keen to promote the tech sector and start-up ecosystem in the West Bank and Gaza, supported by the non-governmental organisaiton Mercy Corps.

Google supplied a grant called the ADNI (Arab Developers Network Initiative) that was initially used to run start-up weekends and give grants to start-ups, says Iliana Montauk, GSG’s director.

“Google wanted a way to support the start-up ecosystem in Gaza […] In 2013, Mercy Corps saw a need for a real start-up accelerator in Gaza with the rigor of private investors. We also saw the opportunity in the region (that investors were looking for deal flow, and that we could bring them to Gaza). We proposed the strategic shift to use the funding to run a start-up accelerator. Google loved the idea.”

Mercy Corps has helped run Start-up Weekend (SW), the global grassroots entrepreneur movement aimed at generating early interest in start-ups and bringing teams together, in Gaza since 2011.

Headquartered in Seattle, SW has held over 1800 events in 120 countries around the world, with each one a 54-hour marathon of pitching, coding, designing, and critical feedback.

A Mercy Corps report from 2013 notes that the ICT sector currently employs three per cent of the Palestinian workforce across the West Bank and Gaza, with employees contributing more than eight per cent to overall Palestinian GDP. And for each new worker employed in ICT, three employment opportunities are created in other sectors that support the sector.

Despite Gaza’s political and security problems – and the fact it is effectively cut off from the rest of the Palestinian community in the West Bank – the same report nonetheless found that there was an “active ICT sector with several companies continuing to provide software services and applications for export, often through subsidiaries located outside of Palestine, but owned in Gaza.”

Still, the ecosystem is largely supported by civil society. A “Palestine Network of Mentors” has been developed to build bridges for a new generation of entrepreneurs, but there has been little interest in investment from within the Palestinian business community.

“GSG does not give aid money to start-ups because we do not believe that would be beneficial for the start-up ecosystem in Gaza,” says Montauk. “We connect start-ups to outside investors who invest in the start-ups for equity because they believe they will receive a return on their investment. These investors are looking for investment opportunities throughout the region and find the opportunities in Gaza to be very compelling.”

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Start-ups in Gaza now have the opportunity to get funding for their business ideas. Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG) is the strip’s first and only start-up accelerator is keen to promote the tech sector and start-up ecosystem in the West Bank and Gaza, supported by the non-governmental organisaiton Mercy Corps.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

gaza_startup_weekendStart-ups in Gaza now have the opportunity to get funding for their business ideas. Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG) is the strip’s first and only start-up accelerator is keen to promote the tech sector and start-up ecosystem in the West Bank and Gaza, supported by the non-governmental organisaiton Mercy Corps.

Google supplied a grant called the ADNI (Arab Developers Network Initiative) that was initially used to run start-up weekends and give grants to start-ups, says Iliana Montauk, GSG’s director.

“Google wanted a way to support the start-up ecosystem in Gaza […] In 2013, Mercy Corps saw a need for a real start-up accelerator in Gaza with the rigor of private investors. We also saw the opportunity in the region (that investors were looking for deal flow, and that we could bring them to Gaza). We proposed the strategic shift to use the funding to run a start-up accelerator. Google loved the idea.”

Mercy Corps has helped run Start-up Weekend (SW), the global grassroots entrepreneur movement aimed at generating early interest in start-ups and bringing teams together, in Gaza since 2011.

Headquartered in Seattle, SW has held over 1800 events in 120 countries around the world, with each one a 54-hour marathon of pitching, coding, designing, and critical feedback.

A Mercy Corps report from 2013 notes that the ICT sector currently employs three per cent of the Palestinian workforce across the West Bank and Gaza, with employees contributing more than eight per cent to overall Palestinian GDP. And for each new worker employed in ICT, three employment opportunities are created in other sectors that support the sector.

Despite Gaza’s political and security problems – and the fact it is effectively cut off from the rest of the Palestinian community in the West Bank – the same report nonetheless found that there was an “active ICT sector with several companies continuing to provide software services and applications for export, often through subsidiaries located outside of Palestine, but owned in Gaza.”

Still, the ecosystem is largely supported by civil society. A “Palestine Network of Mentors” has been developed to build bridges for a new generation of entrepreneurs, but there has been little interest in investment from within the Palestinian business community.

“GSG does not give aid money to start-ups because we do not believe that would be beneficial for the start-up ecosystem in Gaza,” says Montauk. “We connect start-ups to outside investors who invest in the start-ups for equity because they believe they will receive a return on their investment. These investors are looking for investment opportunities throughout the region and find the opportunities in Gaza to be very compelling.”

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