How Crowdfunding Is Spurring The Gaza Startup Scene

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With few exceptions, Gaza might be the last place in the world one would expect a startup ecosystem to be developing. Surprisingly enough though, the small strip of land along the Eastern Mediterranean which was blighted by conflict this summer is home to one of the most inspirational entrepreneurial ventures to have caught the public’s eye in quite some time.

A Mercy Corps sponsored initiative, Gaza Sky Geeks is looking to further its reach as the territory’s first fully operational startup accelerator.

The hub has been active for three years, however given the current difficulties facing anyone looking to involve themselves in business operations in the autonomous strip, the roadblocks can make such initiatives almost impossible to sustain. It’s for that reason that the accelerator has turned to crowdfunding, running a campaign which as already surpassed its goal by over 200%.

Being able to run such a project in a place where power outages are common, and infrastructure is lacking is an uphill battle. In fact, Iliana Montauk, Director of the accelerator notes in the campaign video that the proceeds from the outreach initiative will go to pay for the building’s basic amenities.

Another important factor obstructing the would-be organic growth of Gaza’s startup ecosystem are the travel limitations Gaza residents face. For the most part, the community works internally, and the businesses grown through it are bound to the area.

In spite of that, Gaza Sky Geeks has been able to attract the interest of a few of the tech industry’s leading organizations, namely Google, including trips by mentors, and venture capitalists to visit the accelerator, and contribute both experience, and resources to growing it.

The team’s commitment hasn’t gone to waste either. In fact, there are already several success stories of operational startups which have grown out of the accelerator:

Wasselni: Run by CEO Miriam Abueltwi, the carpooling app allows taxi’s in urban areas to convert into public transportation.

Datrios: A social network geared for football (soccer) fans in the Arab world.

Tevy: A social networking venture centered on TV shows.

DWBI Solutions: Database and business intelligence solutions for companies in emerging markets.

The crowdfunding campaign runs through January 19th, and has already amassed nearly $200,000. While the much-needed contributions will help serve Gaza’s startup community for the immediate future, the exposure it has provided entrepreneurial ventures in the area, along with the foundations for future success being laid serve as an invaluable outlet for young, ambitious individuals looking to change the world around them.

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