How this French-Arab initiave is backing projects tackling MENA growth challenges

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Entrepreneurs, doers and thinkers discuss progress and innovation at the Bardo Museum recently. (Images via Thinkers & Doers)

As the startup scene grows in the Arab world, many new players are seeing the light of day with increasingly diverse concepts and specialization. One of them is T&D, a mentorship program for growth-stage companies looking to bring together French and Arab startups.

Don’t expect a demo day from T&D. The climax of this program is the opening and presentation day of each session. Don’t expect to see them at tech events either. For the launch of their third promotion, they chose the Jaou Culture and Art Festival in Tunis.

Bringing together the thinkers and doers

Behind this program is Thinkers & Doers, a French organization launched two years ago to connect thinkers and players who foster and support concrete projects tackling growth challenges in Arab societies.

This organization wants to open a discussion and lead to a better collaboration between researchers, politicians, and entrepreneurs by organizing events. Their biggest event to date, their first Global Annual Forum proved that Thinkers & Doers is aiming for the high-end. The event brought together 1,600 participants and speakers in Paris in January. Attendees included French President François Hollande, former French ministers Laurent Fabius and Jack Lang, Emirati columnist and art enthusiast Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, French architect Jean Nouvel, Tunisian social entrepreneur Asma Mansour, Lebanese investor Hala Fadel, and more.

Well aware that throwing events was not enough to drive actual positive actions, the team created an acceleration platform in January to support innovative projects contributing to the Arab renewal.

Amandine Lepoutre, fondatrice Jaou
Thinkers & Doers' founder Amandine Lepoutre

Coaching and connection people

T&D’s manager Camille Jourde would disagree but this program sounds more like a year-long remote mentorship program than an accelerator. A few times a year, the team calls for projects in a country and on a specific theme. They then select three to five projects from this country and abroad that have the potential to impact Arab societies, grow fast, and be sustainable.

For its first promotion, launched during their Global Annual forum, the team issued a multi-themed call for projects – energy, mobility, education, digital dynamics, health and research, positive economy, urbanism, and arts and culture.

The second promotion, launched during Dubai’s Art Week, focused on art and culture, while this third Tunisian promotion is driven by the theme “entrepreneurs for a positive future.”

The startups have different profiles, says Jourde. Some are French looking to expand in the Arab world, others are Arab looking to grow within the MENA region and/or France. They can be tech, culture or education focused.

After the kick-off event, Thinkers & Doers’ startups and mentors onboard for a month of brainstorming during which the “Empowering Committee” helps the startups define the points they need to work on and the action sheet they need to put in place.

The next three months, startups get bi-monthly follow-up with their mentor. After that, the T&D team takes over.  It coaches the teams and put them in contact with the appropriate people, whether it’s a law firm, a media or a potential client.  

Accessing Thinkers & Doers’ contact book has a price: the program collects an undisclosed fee on the first fundraising round.

Five startups

Bobby Demri, Co-fondateur de GOV
Bobby Demri, cofounder of GOV

During their event at the Jaou Culture and Art Festival, T&D kicked-off a new batch of five startups that fit the theme:

  • Bluefish is a social business established in Tunis and Abu Dhabi. Blue Fish put forward social impact initiatives by helping them to find a sustainable business model. They’re looking to structure their services and launch new projects. Read more about them here.

  • Pavilion 33 is a French online gallery platform that gathers local artists and worldwide passionate art buyers. They want to promote Eastern art.

  • Chifco is a Tunisian startup specialised in the Internet of Things (IoT). Chifco has developed a comprehensive technological infrastructure connecting everyday devices to an online network. Read Wamda’s article here.

  • Guestviews is a mobile guest book for cultural institutions and companies in the luxury field which is looking to enter the Arab market.

  • Gov is a platform is an application that enables the youth to respond to candidates for elections with to a bonus-malus system and to participate in the electoral program of each one of those candidates.

Thinkers & Doers is already getting ready for its next regional conferences and call for projects. They will be in Qatar, in November, to talk about education and in London, in December, to talk about economical development.  

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