By Tamara Pupic
Gaza’s first start-up accelerator receives financial support from 50 countries in just one month.
Gaza’s first and only start-up accelerator has raised $118,000 (AED433,361) in funding, with support from the GCC and other regions.
The Gaza Starts campaign for Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG), was initiated by US-based humanitarian agency, Mercy Corps. It surpassed its initial fundraising goal of $70,000 within one month, attaining 70 percent more than its target, with contributions from 50 countries.
GSG, Gaza’s first and only start-up accelerator, was launched in 2011 with the support of Google.org through their Google for Entrepreneurs platform.
Its aim is to provide Gazan start-ups with technology, entrepreneurship trainings and competitions, and hopes to bring private start-up investments and promote women’s leadership.
GSG has organised Startup Weekends in Palestine since in 2011 while the first private investments in Gaza start-ups were made in December 2013 when four start-ups secured investment from foreign investors.
In 2013 GSG became a start-up accelerator, with half of its start-ups being led by women while two out of the top three winning teams at Startup Weekend 2014 were led by women.
Iliana Montauk, director of Mercy Corps’ Gaza Sky Geeks programme, said: “Although humanitarian assistance is critical in Gaza, most youth are craving opportunity, not food.
“Youth in Gaza are among the Arab world’s most educated young men and women, and they are hungry for the chance to prove themselves in the global marketplace.”
If the Gaza Starts campaign raises $500,000 (AED1,836,277), it will keep the co-working space open and run the accelerator throughout 2015, expand support for female startup founders, arrange an international hackathon, and coordinate the first Silicon Valley visit by Gazan start-ups.
However, if the amount of $1.5 million (AED5,508,832) is collected, all of these activities will continue for three years.
“Mercy Corps has created a vibrant technology hub in Gaza that we’re proud to have supported over the last few years,” said Bridgette Beam, senior manager at Google for Entrepreneurs.
“We're thrilled to see this exceptionally talented and passionate community receive the boost it needs to continue growing.”