As capitals of entrepreneurship in the Middle East continue to develop, many exciting opportunities have emerged for the region’s innovative minds. They include a myriad of promising startup accelerators and incubators, which continue to develop throughout the Middle East. In recent years, the number of incubators and accelerators has increased exponentially. For the most part, they have adopted the model developed by Y Combinator, which provides startups with a small investment and intensive mentorship in exchange for a portion of equity in the business. The following list details some of the most exciting options for Middle Eastern entrepreneurs:
1. Oasis500: Founded in 2010 by a group that included Yahoo’s former chief data officer, this organization primarily supports companies in the information technology and digital media sectors. While Oasis500 is based in Amman, Jordan, its investors and mentors undertake projects throughout the Middle East. In addition to basic services, the organization provides follow-up investment and funding for promising clients. Oasis500 aims to significantly expand the number of technology-driven startups throughout the Middle East and North Africa by supporting innovative and talented minds. The most successful clients have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to the organization’s global group of investors, known as the Angel Network. Some of the most notable alumni of Oasis500 include Wheels Express and MarkaVIP.
2. Berytech: In operation since 2010, Berytech focuses on nonprofit incubation with grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000. The organization also works with for-profit technology companies with a seed capital fund that provides up to $1.2 million in first-round funding. Based in Beirut, Lebanon, Berytech provides a great deal of support to local college graduates and hopes to generate wealth in the country by financing the most innovative ideas.
3. Flat6Labs: The original Flat6Labs is located in Cairo. Over the course of four years, the organization has grown into the largest accelerator in Egypt, largely due to its focus on the needs of the Egyptian marketplace. During each round of mentorship, the organization chooses 20 teams and allows their founders to attend a five-day bootcamp that prepares them for meetings with investors. The six most promising teams move on in the process and receive further mentorship and seed funding. The program includes workshops, hands-on business training, dedicated office space, and other services from various partners. When each cycle finishes after four months, a Demo Day event offers entrepreneurs the opportunity to showcase their work, and select projects receive additional funding.
The first Flat6Labs spinoff organization opened in 2013 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The organization operates in much the same way as its Egyptian counterpart, although funding amounts are more varied. Another spinoff recently began operating in Abu Dhabi.
4. VentureLab: A project of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, VentureLab teaches lean startup methodology to entrepreneurs working in all sectors. The program, which runs for 10 weeks, encourages participants to build key relationships. Participants learn how to interact with both customers and partners to develop a viable product quickly. VentureLab is a great choice for entrepreneurs because it offers seed funding without asking for equity in return. However, the program is competitive. A group of 20 startups participate in the pre-acceleration bootcamp and then only half have the chance to move on into the full program.
5. i360accelerator: One of the leading accelerators in Dubai, i360accelerator engages entrepreneurs who are still in the idea stage. Over the course of three years of operation, the organization has dramatically changed its structure to meet the needs of entrepreneurs. Participants engage directly with their mentors for 120 days and receive an additional 120 days of support. The model involves a month of market research validation, two months of prototyping, and a month of pitching ideas and launching products. The i360accelerator program includes workspace, training, and seed funding.
6. Juice Labs: The accelerator, based in Cairo, specializes in the web and mobile sectors. Fledgling companies chosen for this program receive a great deal of individual attention. Each six-month cycle includes only two participants who receive both capital and investor services while developing their products alongside seasoned designers, marketers, and business executives willing to offer insight and assistance.
7. Tenmou: Located in Manama, Bahrain, Tenmou focuses its support on Bahraini companies. Each participating company must have a team of founders consisting of two to four individuals from Bahrain. The founders do not have to come to Tenmou with a clearly developed idea. Instead, they have the opportunity to hone their product or service over the course of three months of mentorship. At the end of the three-month period, the teams pitch their ideas to investors to seek further backing.
8. TURN8: Another major Dubai accelerator, TURN8 is a 120-day program supported by the Dubai government. This accelerator primarily reaches out to international startups with events in countries around the world and invites them to Dubai to develop their ideas.
9. Dakwak: While not truly an incubator or an accelerator, Dakwak nevertheless provides a great opportunity for Middle Eastern entrepreneurs to increase their market share. Through Dakwak, business owners can translate their online content into dozens of languages to increase their visibility on the web.