Below is a copy of my weekly newsletter. I curate web content focused on Digital Arabia and offer brief commentary. If you want to keep up with Digital Arabia news then do signup to get it delivered to your inbox every Sunday.
Weekly Digital Arabia newsletter #9
A good list put together by Wamda on international accelerators accepting Arab region startups. The list includes well known startups such as Y-Combinator, David McClure’s 500startups and the Finnish based startup incubator Sauna. This shows the growing awareness of the need to explore other global ecosystems and have them mingle all together in an intense boot camp style incubators.
“Only 10% of all Internet entrepreneurs are women. However, experts estimate that the percentage of women Internet entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa region is at 23% and in the Gulf it’s 35%.” This has been a consistent point that other visitors to the region such as Chris Schroeder has noted in his book and as well in his excellent 6-part series in the PandoDaily “The New Middle East: Women at the Center of a Startup Ecosystem“. So contrary to popular belief, traditional Arab societies have proven to be more gender equal when it comes to internet business. This has even been acknowledged by Google through its support of the #40forward program.
Another important initiative in Lebanon which is supported by the banking sector to encourage entrepreneurship in the country. This particular competition is organized by entrepreneurial youth program, Bader, with the support of Audi Bank. The winners will receive over $65,000, 6 months of incubation at Coworking+961, $20,000 worth of online advertising offered by Naharnet, and 50% and 33% worth of scholarships by Amideast Lebanon to attend the Start/Grow My Business Workshop. No fees or equity will be charged to participate in the program. It is worth noting that earlier in the year, the Lebanese Central Bank set aside $400M (guaranteed by the World Bank) to invest in Lebanese startups. This was soon followed by Middle East Venture Partners announcing a $50M fund in compliance with the central bank initiative.
An opinion piece by Fadi Ghandour, founder of Aramaex, on the recent Wamda survey “Breaking Barriers to Scale for Arab Entrepreneurs”. This is a must read report for anyone interested in learning about the challenges faced by entrepreneurs in the Arab world. Essentially the problems boil down to team, management, monetization andfinance. The first three usually need to be addressed before investment occurs. Clearly in the Arab world there is a need to work on these processes to encourage more investment. This makes the role of incubators such as Oasis500 and publications such Wamda even more important as an integral piece of the ecosystem for the Arab world startups. Also, there is an obvious valuable role for diaspora to play in nurturing and developing the Digital Arabia ecosystem.
A nice article in the economist mentioning a Jordanian-American based startup, Mixed Dimensions, which is creating simple design tools to let non-specialists design and work with 3D models for printing on 3D printers. The company is also working on creating a marketplace for these designers and for allowing the software to be compatible across the different browsers.
A short documentary in arabic about the Egyptian incubator Flat6Labs. It features several startups such as Castpace and Integreight.