NUMA to bring French expertise to Morocco's startups

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Jordan has Oasis500, Egypt has Flat6Labs, now Morocco has NUMA.

The famous French innovation hub announced today that they are going to be opening a branch in the country, in partnership with Moroccan impact entrepreneurship’s specialist Eiréné4Impact.

Created in 2000 under the name Silicon Sentier (a neighborhood in Paris), the entrepreneur association shaped the French startup scene as we know it.

They are responsible for France’s first coworking space la Cantine, France’s first startup accelerator le Camping, a crazy amount of workshops, barcamps, and training, and the development of open innovation in the country.

Now with this latest launch there comes the beginning of a new era for innovation in Morocco.  

With NUMA Maroc, Morocco will get its first accelerator program that is not dedicated to impact startups.

Le célèbre hub français va faire son entrée au Maroc
NUMA is often considered the center of France’s startup scene. (Images via NUMA)

The organization also looks at developing the (for now non-existent) collaboration between corporations, the government, and the innovators, as well as playing the (currently vacant) role of catalyst between the different players of the tech and innovation scene.

An obvious partnership between Eiréné4Impact and NUMA

Launched less than a year ago, Eiréné4Impact offers incubation and pre-incubation programs, and funding to impact companies (companies who have it within their mission to positively impact society). Eiréné4Impact quickly distinguished itself by the professionalism of their programs.

The joint-venture, which will be run by Eiréné4Impact’s founder Leyth Zniber, will first launch the le Camping acceleration program, now known as Sprint.

“We will probably do a longer program [than in France where it lasts four months],” explained Frédéric Oru, NUMA’s head of international, to Wamda. “Startups will be less mature – like it was the case in France four to six years ago – so the program might span six months.”

Applications will open early November for a program starting end of January 2016, in Eiréné’s offices, in Casablanca’s Technopark. They’re planning for two classes of six startups the first year.

Later, NUMA Maroc will develop its coworking, event organizing and innovation support activities.

“We want to be a catalyst,” added Oru. “If we do coworking and event organizing, we will do it with the local players.”

NUMA goes international

Earlier this year, NUMA chose to expand beyond the French borders.

“Originally, we wanted to give our entrepreneurs access to new markets, to virgin territories where their ideas would make more sense [than in the States or England],” the Frenchman explained to Wamda.

Now, the organization has announced that it will open also its doors in India and Russia. 

Un nouveau pays pour NUMA
A new country for NUMA.

This expansion doesn’t only follow a need for new markets, it is also a way to grow its entrepreneurs.

“Diversity has proven its importance. It’s amazing to be able to leverage this Moroccan, Indian, French, and Russian diversity from the start,” explained Zniber with enthusiasm.

Does Morocco need NUMA?

“In Morocco, many great companies are launching, but they still lack expertize in some fields,” believes Oru. “The French NUMA team will be there to transfer the knowledge they gained over the last 15 years, and to work in collaboration.”

The organization wants to go beyond knowledge sharing to develop a dynamic of  internationalization.  

“We’re not there to steal the best startups in Morocco and bring them to France,” clarified Oru. “We’re here to bring them the support they need from other countries and to help them bring their business abroad.”

NUMA plans on bringing a network of international mentors and to connect the four ecosystems they work in. Their goal is to enable startups to exchange and get immediate international feedback, as well as allowing them to get on the ground to test their products or services.  

Another aspect they want to work on is helping corporations and the state to answer the questions they’re asking themselves (and that France had to answer a few years ago):  how do you build an entrepreneurial ecosystem? How can you get the public, private and innovation actors to work together?

Now is the time to go in Morocco

“If there’s one continent that will hold the innovators and entrepreneurs of the next decade, it’s Africa. It’s where the renewal is coming from,” said Oru.

NUMA plans on expanding to 15 countries in 4 years, and at least two or three will be in Africa.

“For us, Morocco is a crossroad. It’s the entrance to Africa, it’s a country with privileged relationships with the US, and it’s an indirect road to Middle East,” added Oru. “It’s also a French-speaking country with whom France has very strong ties. And politically, it’s stable.”

“Morocco could be a real experimentation lab,” added Zniber, “because we are an African country with the same societal, economical, and environmental challenges [as in the rest of the continent] but with a good banking system, the second best telecommunication infrastructure in the continent, and a government that works well overall.”

Choosing Morocco as the launch pad for NUMA in Africa is also a matter of timing.

“We’re at a tipping point. People that used to be only interested in corporate jobs are now being interested in entrepreneurship,” said Zniber.

“You can see that the government really wants to push entrepreneurship, but there’s a lack of support, experts, and mentors who have the means to help,” added Oru.

A unique funding model for Morocco

Following the French model, NUMA will fund its acceleration program through partnerships with public and private players, and by selling services: renting their future space, organizing events, consulting corporations.  

According to Oru, Moroccan and French corporations based in the country are now really interested in open innovation – working with startups and innovators to innovate – digital transformation, and are ready to invest to succeed their transition.

NUMA Maroc already has a few serious leads for sponsoring and open innovation. We should know very soon who are the companies ready to open the country to innovation.

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