Here's why the Arab world needs a startup exchange program

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Ten accelerators from around the world have announced the launch of a travel abroad program called Startup Exchanges. During one month, 50 startups from those 10 accelerators will benefit from free office space at another participating Startup Exchange accelerator and receive introductions to key players in their destination ecosystem.

The participating accelerators are:

This initiative is yet more proof that entrepreneurs from around the world are looking to explore new markets, and to decentralize tech entrepreneurship so that everyone, regardless of their country of origin, can launch their startup, increasing the odds of finding a real gem.

A growing curiosity in North America and Europe

2013 was marked in Europe and North America by the realization that not only do developing countries use the internet, they’re also very experienced with social networks, online shopping, and have created nascent tech ecosystems, using their own criteria. The European and American business and tech press hasn’t been shy with articles on that topic, and specialized media sites, like the French StartupBrics, and, which writes on European startups including the ones from South and Eastern Europe startups that are under a fuzzier media lens, have sprung up. This is good news.

If some only see opportunities for expansion à la Rocket Internet, or entering the Chinese market à la WeChat, others have been more intrigued by the entrepreneurial mindset and the innovatative spirit going on in the developing countrieS.

In France, I’m often invited to talk about this new wave of entrepreneurs in the Arab world, whose struggles and triumphs people here seem fascinated to know more about.

Now, an increasing numbers of entrepreneurs advocate for collaboration between the different ecosystems, trying to learn about what’s going on abroad, and get on the ground to see from themselves how entrepreneurs from different countries are working and thinking. Many initiatives have emerged to expand the boundaries of the techie business trip beyond Silicon Valley, like the round-the-world tour of innovation of Francis Pisani, the World Startup Report, the Startup Genoma, or the still-unnamed work of Martin Pasquier.

Now is the time for entrepreneurs from the Arab world

American and European entrepreneurs have as much to learn for Middle East and North Africa entrepreneurs that the latter have to learn from their counterparts from around the world, which is why Wamda has tried to cover stories on entrepreneurs in Africa and Asia.

Entrepreneurs within the region also have a lot to learn from their counterparts in other MENA countries. It is no secret that Tunisian and Saudis entrepreneurs for instance have their own, very different ways of doing things in their respective ecosystems, and have therefore much to learn from each other.

Whether it is to expand internationally – a strong trend exhibited by several Moroccan entrepreneurs looking to launch internationally or the Egyptian entrepreneurs accepted at YCombinator, the famous Silicon Valley accelerator, or to learn from other startup founders’ experience – entrepreneurs from the Arab world have much to win by travel.

It would be interesting to see accelerators in the Arab world take part in international initiatives, or create their own versions.

In a coming article, I will suggest a list of programs around the world open to international startups. Have you been mentored abroad? How did it help you? Would you recommend a program? Let us know in the comment sections. 

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