During their earliest phases of development, startups typically require outside help to get their ideas off the ground. As worldwide entrepreneurial markets have grown in recent years, a wide array of incubators has emerged to fulfil their needs. Usually operating under the wing of private and public entities, these initiatives exist for the sole purpose of helping entrepreneurs and their businesses flourish.
One region that has seen a unique increase in startup incubators is the Middle East. With one of the fastest developing entrepreneurial markets across the globe, this area has drawn the attention of numerous entities looking to nurture the potential of new businesses. Here are a few of the most noteworthy incubators found in the Middle East:
From the Arabic word meaning “ideas,” Afkar has served the entrepreneurial communities of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, since September 2013. Prominent digital media firm Intigral established the incubator to support emerging companies that are developing products targeted at its own customer base.
Afkar sources emerging companies with innovative ideas and invites them to work at Intigral’s offices for three months. During this time, each startup receives exclusive access to such growth services as $20,000 USD in seed funding and dedicated mentoring across several professional areas. In addition, Afkar perfectly positions its startups within the business climates of the Middle Eastern, Asian, and African regions, thus enabling the new companies to reach big-name clients.
For the last 15 years, Berytech has maintained a dedication to “Nurturing Innovation” among startups in Beirut, Lebanon. Specifically, the incubator concentrates on recent university graduates to better facilitate local job creation and economic stimulation. When a startup partners with Berytech, it receives access to a mentor who will assist its team throughout the incubation process. Companies who qualify can also receive a grant worth up to $15,000 USD. In addition, the incubator hosts an array of startup workshops and weekend events to help educate entrepreneurs. Accredited as a Business Innovation Center (BIC) through the European Union, Berytech can even help startups expand beyond the Middle Eastern region and into international markets.
With several locations across the Middle Eastern region, Flat6Labs hosts an accelerator program that is targeted to entrepreneurs with innovative company ideas. Through partnerships with such entities as the American University in Cairo and Sawari Ventures, the incubator focuses on accelerating the growth of startups over a period of four months.
Flat6Labs is highly competitive and accepts fewer than 30 startups per year, which means that it can allot more funding and more educational resources to its budding entrepreneurs. In fact, the incubator offers between $10,000 and $20,000 USD in seed funding to its startups in exchange for a stake of up to 20 percent in each firm. Flat6Labs also offers one-on-one mentoring, professional training, and legal support throughout the acceleration process.
Operating primarily out of Amman, Jordan, Oasis500 was the first incubator of its kind to specifically focus its work in the area of early-stage investing for startups. More specifically, the incubator focuses its operations on those businesses in the digital media, information technology (IT), and cultural and creative sectors. Each participant in Oasis500’s entrepreneurship program receives an initial seed funding amount of $30,000 to $50,000 USD, which the company leaders can funnel to any area within the business.
However, Oasis500 goes far beyond simple investment services. Over the course of three to six months, startups also engage in networking and acceleration services through the incubator. At the close of the program, Oasis500 connects its entrepreneurs to a wide range of angel investors who can further support their businesses.
A project of Dubai Internet City, in5 has supported the work of those operating in the TECOM Freezone since May 2013. The incubator aims for diversity, accepting a wide range of “technopreneurs” and their companies into its three-month program. Even those whose companies are not exclusively technology-based may apply for the in5 program, which guides new business owners through the entire process of launching a business.
At the beginning of its program, in5 provides entrepreneurs with hands-on help with to strengthen their ideas and helps new businesses minimize startup costs by discounting fees for product licensing and registration. Recognizing that young companies need varied support throughout their earliest stages, the incubator also facilitates small and medium enterprise (SME) networking events and training workshops for entrepreneurs.
Though it was originally founded in 2011 as a co-working space and café, AltCity has since shifted its focus to serve technology entrepreneurs in both Lebanon and throughout the entire Middle Eastern region. The incubator hosts two simultaneous programs aimed at supporting different demographics of emerging business owners. The first, called Bootcamp, helps foster innovative ideas by offering an evidence-based startup education to participating entrepreneurs. Through this program, individuals learn about such crucial business elements as investment techniques, acquiring a customer base, and polishing ideas.
AltCity also co-hosts Lebanon’s inaugural college startup competition StartupCampus.me in partnership with UK Lebanon Tech Hub. This contest is open to teams of college students who have creative ideas but no avenue through which they can turn them into businesses. During the competition, AltCity provides training and professional guidance to young entrepreneurs. Those who place within the top 15 spots receive an invitation to further develop their startups through the AltCity Bootcamp program.