Flat6Labs, open for business in Tunisia

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Flat6Labs announced last summer that they were coming to Tunisia, as the country’s first accelerator and now for the last two months they have been open for applicants.

Present in four other countries in the region, Flat6Labs is working in Tunisia with the support of the investment company Meninx Holding, the Tunisian American Enterprise Fund (TAEF) and The International Arab Bank of Tunisia (BIAT).

After a roadshow across the country, the program has closed its calls for applications for startups.

With funding of 20 million Tunisian dinars (about US$8 million), the accelerator provides a program over 10 cycles for five years to propel the Tunisian startups.

This is the first of its kind in Tunisia where startups benefit from coworking and incubation spaces like Cogite but no acceleration programs except for Conect but this is a trade union organization and does not offer the same advantages.

Flat6Labs, which has its headquarters in Barcelona Square in the heart of Tunis with the Le15 coworking space, offers 80,000 (US$30,000) to 100,000 (US$40,000) dinars per startup, in cash against an equity of 10 to 15 percent in the company.

"We have received more than 230 applications, there will be six to eight startups per cycle supported by the program. It's true that when we evaluated needs on the ground, startuppers talk to us about more money than anything else, but our four-month program offers real support in the form of coaching, mentoring, legal support and expanding outside the country through our global network,” said Yehia Houry, director of Flat6Labs in Tunisia.

Flat6labs people also went in universities and colleges to know more about the entrepreneurship ecosystem (Image via Flat6Lab)

After a tour of the regions, Houry realized that the young companies had different needs. "Many entrepreneurs are disappointed with the programs in their cities and complain about the gap with the capital," Houry told Wamda, assuring that even those who were not selected for the program would receive feedback on their project.

"We have seen a wide range of profiles ranging from the textile industry to robotics to agriculture and online gaming," he said. But then, the selection must meet several criteria and check the boxes of ‘innovation’ and ‘new technologies’.

"We are asking these young entrepreneurs to show us a prototype that works. There must also be interest from the market. That is, either they have made some sales of their product or their application has been downloaded several times," said Houry.

The other advantage of the accelerator is also to offer a significant investment for startups who often find it difficult to solicit Tunisian or foreign investors. Flat6Labs provides a sum of 200,000 (US$80,000) to 600,000 dinars (US$250,000) for some of the startups that finish the program.

"The mechanism is still not really smooth yet and I hope that the Startup Act will pave the way for improvements in legislation," Houry said.

Today, Tunisia has nearly 300 startups, some of which, like Chifco or Digitalmania, have become success stories for young Tunisian entrepreneurs. But the difficulties of financing, of accompanying and of opening internationally still remain challenges in the entrepreneurial debate.

Feature Image via Flat6Lab

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