GIZ supports early-stage start-ups and investor networks to foster innovation, growth and job opportunities for the benefit of societies. Across the entire Middle East and North Africa region startup accelerators play a key role for achievements towards these objectives. Let us take stock.
Given the GIZ experience in Egypt, startup accelerators are a key lever for the provision of much needed trainings and investments which empower and enable emerging startups to scale with higher chances of success.
From Levant, over the Gulf, to the Maghreb the investment movement of accelerators witnesses steady growth in the startup landscape.
This mapping of the top MENA startup accelerators shall inspire further support of young entrepreneurship and startups across the region.
Since 2011, Egypt has been the fastest-growing entrepreneurship ecosystem in the MENA region, according to a report by Magnitt. The number of venture capital firms, accelerators, and incubators keeps increasing, and so do the number of quality of startups and ideas. Here are some of the prominent accelerators in Egyptian scene:
Flat6Labs Mittdle East is a region-wide program that was initiated from Cairo. It is from the country’s first accelerators that continues to attract some very promising startups. Their portfolio of startups include some of the country’s most successful such as: Hawaya, Chefaa and Instabug.
Having been there only for 2 cohorts, Changelabs Middle East has already proved a footprint in the market. The regional accelerator invests and trains seed-stage startups in many industries with a specific focus on impact and energy. They graduated companies like OTO Courses, Yospital and Protinea.
Falak Startups, is a government-backed startup accelerator that supports entrepreneurial teams to build high-growth businesses with their general and fintech tracks. They launched startups like Bypass, Paynas, and Passport.
The university-based startup accelerator AUC Venture Lab; it is a 16-week programme that targets early-stage startups, they also run a fintech-focused program. They graduated from companies such as Swvl and Mermaid.
Athar accelerator, an Upper Egypt-focused program, addresses the challenges that face startups in Upper Egypt. They provide the startups with the needed resources and opportunities to solve problems and kick start their businesses. They support startups through the Lean Startup Methodology.
It’s an emerging hub of digital innovation and entrepreneurship in the MENA region. In line with its Vision 2030 objectives, it is heavily investing in shifting economic growth from a dependency on oil, to support innovation and entrepreneurship as well. Major entrepreneurship entities have been allocating billions of dollars into high-tech infrastructure and launching funds with the aim to strengthen the digital sector. From their most prominent programs:
Misk500 is an accelerator of USD $50,000 worth of funds. It has invested in more than 19 startups from Saudi Arabia, to Egypt, UAE, Kuwait Palestine and Algeria. Their portfolio of startups cover many sectors like Agritech, e-commerce, Fintech, Edtech.
Inspire U is the Kingdom’s first corporate Incubator/Accelerator for startups addressing ICT/Digital innovation. They not only bridge funding gaps, they also connect Saudi entrepreneurs to Europe. Startups like Marsool and Nasaaj have graduated from the program.
Blossom: They position themselves as Saudi Arabia’s first female & industry focused accelerator with a clear mission of creating a more innovative and inclusive ecosystem giving entrepreneurs of all kinds equal accessibility to opportunity.
From business and financial developments, to government initiatives, the Jordanian entrepreneurship ecosystem has been emerging over the last decade, and here are the most important entities that support youth and innovation:
Oasis500 is Amman-based leading early-stage investor and accelerator. Since launching in 2010, it has invested $8.65 million in 154 creative and technology startups. They graduated famous startups from different MENA countries like Madfoatkon, Jamalon, Crowd analyzer and Tamatem.
iPARK hub specializes in enabling and accelerating the growth of startup companies through its incubation facilities, entrepreneurship programs, and matchmaking opportunities with investors. They supported startups like Blink, Baseet and Gradsgate.
Business Innovation Growth, or BIG by Orange is an accelerator that offers local companies access to a 120-day program that consists of mentorship, business development training, and a co-working space. The program focuses on supporting growth-stage tech companies. Their companies are Masmoo3, Play 3arabi, and Trevx.
United Arab of Emirates
The United Arab Emirates is renowned for being one of the most attractive locations for investment in the world. It is one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia and have created an appealing entrepreneurship environment that’s ripe for investment, leading to some of the biggest regional institutions establishing their headquarters in the UAE:
Sharja Advanced Industry Accelerator, is the region’s first Virtual Advanced Industry Accelerator that gives the opportunity to talented start-ups from across the world to pilot and scale in the UAE & MENA market. More than 500 companies from 57 countries joined for the program.
Hub71 is creating the optimal environment for transformative tech companies looking to maximize success, produce outstanding tech innovations and scale globally. Hub71 is a flagship initiative of the AED 50 billion economic accelerator program, Ghadan 21, which means “tomorrow” in Arabic.
Despite being in its development phase but is fast approaching an inflection point to become a fast-growing tech landscape in North Africa:
La Startup Factory is a Moroccan accelerator with a mission to accelerate collaboration between startups and corporates. They boost startups, enable corporate innovation, and catalyze their cooperation.
For the last five years, the Lebanese startup ecosystem has been on the rise with a brimming landscape of funding entities, accelerators and incubators, coworking spaces, and makerspaces:
Speed early-stage startups accelerator, focuses on startups in the digital industry. They offer cash investment to their top businesses, incubate them for three months with qualified mentors, industry connections, and follow up with an immersion in Silicon Valley in exchange for 10% equity in the business.
UK Lebanon Tech Hub powered by Nucleus Ventures, exists to grow Lebanon’s tech ecosystem and connect low-density ecosystems to global markets. They create opportunities for growth, profitability & impact by engaging industry, talent, and finance through our Acceleration and Corporate Finance programs.
Over the past two decades, Berytech has been able to set the ground for the thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem that is present today in Lebanon, and their team has worked continuously to reinforce its growth.
The Omani economy is one of the freest in the region. A relatively stable government and low taxes make Oman a desirable location for entrepreneurial ventures. Furthermore, foreign direct investment is welcomed and tourism is the most attractive area for international entrepreneurs:
OTF Wadi Accelerator program allow for improved probabilities of a start up’s success, both by making investments into a company and by receiving support through experienced entrepreneurs that act as mentor. Enrolled companies also benefit from additional seed funding, as well as a variety of services.
We believe that the MENA entrepreneurship environment thrives with high potential and opportunities that can catalyst a robust upgrade in the scene. With this startup accelerators guide, we hope that we will help inspire youth to create businesses and support entrepreneurs to develop solutions and take their young enterprises to the next level.
By Hadeel Hegazy