Entrepreneurial initiative reaches for the stars

Founders of Namshi.com launch AstroLabs to re-ignite Middle Eastern entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurial initiative reaches for the stars
By Neil King
Sun 12 May 2013 01:33 PM

A new company aimed at educating, integrating and funding high-potential entrepreneurs across the Arab world has been launched by the duo behind popular shopping website Namshi.

Founding partners Muhammed Mekki and Louis Lebbos hosted the first AstroLabs event over the weekend of 9-11 May, inaugurating the company which aims to expose entrepreneurs and start-up businesses to the best practices and case examples as they look to scale their online businesses.

With the goal of helping develop the Middle East’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, Mekki and Lebbos started AstroLabs on the back of their own success with Namshi, which scaled from zero to 150 employees, and won more than $20m in funding.

Lebbos says: “Both Muhammed and I came back to the region because we are passionate about making a difference here through entrepreneurship. With AstroLabs we aim to do that by bridging the educational, networking, and capital gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem."

The initiative will provide various levels of support to MENA’s most promising online businesses, using leading experts for the entrepreneurial and investment communities to help small businesses grow and become part of an expanding sector.

The first workshop was entitles Scaling Online Start-ups, and brought together twelve of Dubai’s most interesting and promising start-up businesses including Duplays, Restronaught, Glambox, Nabbesh, Noviplus, Ananasa, and more. Held in partnership with Google for Entrepreneurs and in collaboration with PayPal and Qualcomm, the event was the first of what the founders hope will be a long and valuable series not just for the region but for MENA in general.

Mekki says: “When we saw the founder participants sharing deeply with each other and taking many concrete lessons to apply to their businesses from the weekend, we knew we had achieved our goal for the first Scaling Online Startups (SOS) program.  Experts from Google, PayPal, Qualcomm, and others contributed very practical gems that all of the businesses could immediately implement.

“We intend to roll out SOS in cities across MENA in the next year to continue building the AstroLabs 'Network of Doers' and expose entrepreneurs to concrete ways to successfully grow their businesses.”

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