Casablanca greentech incubator Espace Bidaya has helped 19 startups launch into the world since it began, and 14 are on track to survive the rigours of the business world.
Two have imploded, one because of discord within the team and the other ran out of money.
Of the remaining 17 startups, two are constrained by regulatory bottlenecks and lack of access to financing, one has pivoted into an ‘intrapreneurship’ project, and the remaining 14 have survived as standalone businesses.
"We seek to propel entrepreneurs who innovate to change the world, with two [cohorts] of six to nine startups per year. Our goal is to create a generation of some 60 Moroccan entrepreneurs, actors of the new economy," said Espace Bidaya manager Yasmine Berrada.
Espace Bidaya began in 2015 and is just about to embark on its fourth incubation program. It provides 12 month incubation programs for startups working with sustainable technology or ideas.
"During our incubation, which continues until the end of October, we have been put in touch with important players in the Moroccan entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Mohamed Hafid, cofounder of biofuels maker Granéco. “We have now a structured project and we are steadily advancing, and it is thanks to the advice and key relationships [we created at Espace Bidaya].
Making the new generation of social entrepreneurs
Specialized incubators can provide social entrepreneurs in specific fields with the necessary expertise at each stage of their development.
Social entrepreneurs in the MENA region are generally young graduates who have professional experience but are new to entrepreneurship. They face multiple challenges in financing their operations, have trouble finding staff, and must operate within a traditional bureaucracy which doesn’t really work well for the type of business they wish to run. These elements increase the technical, legal and commercial risk.
Berrada said they offered business training to inventors, who often lacked the marketing, distribution, communication, or finance skills needed to run a company.
“It enables every entrepreneur to step out of his or her baby business and talk to trusted people who record every development of the project and who are there to remind us of the goals and the chosen path,” she said.
The incubator does not offer a seed funding and the program is financed by the Drosos Foundation.
"We are currently working on the creation of our economic model, in order to sustain our impact on the Moroccan ecosystem beyond the five years of the financed program," Berrada said.
One of the main challenges for the incubation team is how to support young entrepreneurs who often have to stay in their job in the beginning to fund their project. "It makes it difficult to get started and the progress is slower," she said.
Opening up to international
Thanks to the JumpSeat program, an in-house program enabling founders to have short stays in other incubators around the world.
Medtrucks, which is fighting medical deserts by deploying medical trucks, will go to the Austin Tarmac TX incubator for three months in September. Onzurna's founders go on a study tour of Hong Kong for eco-friendly fashion and smart-fabrics in April, where they will be welcomed by the SoIn So Good incubator team. The founder of Seejal, incubated in Tarmac SF in San Francisco, is with Espace Bidaya for a month to test its application to young Moroccans.
On the regional level, the incubator has established a pan-African partnership called SPRINT, which enables Espace Bidaya startups to reach new African markets and meet Algerian, Tunisian, Senegalese and Ivorian decision-makers.
"When I was in Cape Town in South Africa I was able to benefit from the coworking space of the incubator Igalelo which is part of the network. So it is a real comfort to know that we can be welcomed and have a space in our various trips abroad, " said Medtrucks founder Anass El Hilal.
Feature Image via Bidaya Space