So you’ve written a quick pitch of your idea, sketched out your
market, come up with some monetization options, taken stock of your
competitors, and determined what (you hope) is your competitive
advantage. Now you’re looking for a quick few months of investment
and mentorship that will bring your startup from idea stage to
Fortunately, in the Middle East and North Africa, a new slew of accelerators have emerged in the past year to bring Silicon Valley models to the region. Most of them borrow heavily from the Y Combinator model, in which startups are given a relatively small amount of seed investment in exchange for a slice of equity, and then sent through a period- typically three months- of intensive mentorship. The model has proved successful in Silicon Valley, as Y Combinator alone has churned out 316 startups, including Dropbox, Posterous, Scribd, reddit, and Disqus.
Here are some accelerators that you can apply to in the MENA region:
Based: in Amman, Jordan.
Launched: September, 2010 by a board of directors led by Usama Fayyad, previously Yahoo’s Chief Data Officer.
Model: Tech-oriented startups must first apply and complete a six-day intensive Boot Camp. Qualified startups proceed to receive 10,000 JD (~ $14,000) and three of mentorship at Oasis500, for 10% equity. Startups that demonstrate growth qualify for a second round of investment up to 50,000 JD (~ $70,000), another three months of incubation, and a chance to pitch to a global network of investors at Oasis500’s Angel Network event.
Famous Alumni: MarkaVIP, Wheels Express
Based: in Amman, Jordan.
Launched: May, 2010, by Maher Kaddoura, of Hikmat Road Safety.
Model: Meydan offers 100 days of training for free and then invests in bringing startups from the idea stage to the funding stage.
Plug and Play Egypt
Based: In Cairo, Egypt.
Launched: February 2011, by Dr. Ossama Hassanein of Rising Tide Fund; Saeed Amidi of Plug and Play International; and Hazem El Wassimy of Plug and Play Egypt.
Model: Rising Tide Fund provides funds for startups on a case-by-case basis, ranging from $10,000 to $1 million. Plug and Play provides office space and fulltime mentorship in Cairo, bringing startups to their facilities in Silicon Valley four times a year for bootcamps to prepare for potential venture capital investment.
Famous Alumni: Offerna.com, WirelessStars
Based: in Alexandria, Egypt.
Launched: April 1st, 2011, by Samer al Sahn, the former CEO of software development company eSpace and Mohammed Gawdat, the Managing Director of Eastern and Emerging Europe, Africa, and the Middle East at Google.
Model: Funding is on a case-by-case basis, beginning at $15,000.
Based: in Beirut, Lebanon.
Launched: July, 2011, by Samer Karam, co-founder at Think Green.
Model: Web and mobile startups can apply to receive mentorship from Seeqnce, which provides incubation from the idea stage to the growth stage. Seeqnce also offers co-working spaces for tech entrepreneurs generally.
Alumni You May Know: Monaqasat, Cuevox
Based: In Beirut, Lebanon.
Launched: June 2010.
Model: Through its non-profit incubator, Berytech offers direct grants starting at $10,000 and up to $50K or $100K, which may include hosting. Through its seed capital fund, Berytech invests in tech companies, anywhere between $50,000 and $1.2M for the first round, for a share of equity.
Based: in Manama, Bahrain.
Launched: July 2011, by a board of directors led by Sami M. Jalal of Mohammed Jalal & Sons.
Model: Tenmou typically invests around 20,000 BHD (~$50,000) for a 20-40% equity stake. Startups must have a team of 2-4 Bahraini founders, but need not have a business plan. Tenmou don’t offer workspace, but does provide three months of intensive mentorship, culminating in an Investor Day in which startups pitch to investors.
Based: in Dubai, UAE.
Launched: September, 2011, by Rony El-Nashar.
Model: SeedStartup invests $20,000 in teams with 2 founders and $25,000 in teams with 3 or more, in exchange for 10% equity. Startup founders must quit their jobs and relocate to Dubai for three months of intensive mentorship, culminating in a pitch to a global network of investors and attendance at the Techstars Founder’s conference. Seed Startup itself may also invest up to $250,000.
Based: In Amman, with access to their centers in Riyadh , Dubai, Cairo, and Silicon Valley.
Launched: Feb 2011, by parent company National Net Ventures.
Model: In addition to N2V's funding vehicles for seed , early stage and Joint Venture startups, N2V recruits web and mobile talent as entrepreneurs-in-residence, providing salaries, seed funding and 3-6 months of mentorship and training to accelerate their ideas into startups.
Twofour54’s Ibtikar Creative
Based: in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Launched: October 2009, by parent company twofour54.
Model: Ibtikar invests from $50,000 to $5 million in early stage or growth capital for ventures in the media and entertainment sector, providing ongoing mentorship for startups that relocate to Abu Dhabi. It uniquely also funds individuals for specific projects.
A newly launched #11:
Based: in Cairo, Egypt.
Launched: June 2011
Model: Flat6Labs chooses teams from all over Egypt, and brings to Cairo to receive three months of intensive mentorship and training, culminating in a Demo Day. Flat6Labs invests 50,000-75,000 EGP (~$8,000 - $12,500) in its startups in exchange for a 10-15% equity stake, and offer further investment of 250,000 EGP (~$40,000) in startups that demonstrate promise.