For many entrepreneurs in the Middle East, getting their startups off the ground is not an easy task. Whether they need help turning their idea into a viable product or accessing funding to support their work, they must often turn to outside organizations that will support their growing businesses. Thankfully, the Middle East is home to a wide array of incubators, accelerators, and events that cater to the various needs of startups and entrepreneurs.
Here are seven Middle East organizations that are supporting local startups:
Though it is based in Dubai, Turn 8 is helping to support innovative startups around the globe. A venture fund, the organization offers an accelerator program and provides access to capital to allow startups to acquire all that they need for success. Those who participate in Turn 8’s accelerator spend up to four months in Dubai, where they engage in entrepreneurial training and receive mentoring. During this program, they also obtain $30,000 in seed funding to kick-start their ventures. Turn 8 continues to work with each company after it completes the accelerator program, partnering with other venture capital firms and angel investors to provide follow-on funding. Since first opening its doors in 2013, the organization has provided seed funding to a portfolio of 60 startups that have also garnered more than $4 million in co-investments from other sources.
The Dubai location of ImpactHub is uniquely positioned to fulfill the needs of local entrepreneurs. Dedicated to fostering innovation, ImpactHub has built a diverse network of technology professionals, entrepreneurs, and mentors who work together on groundbreaking ideas and products. Both individual entrepreneurs and teams with existing startups can turn to ImpactHub for support and community. Through ImpactHub’s Dubai co-working facility, entrepreneurs gain access to valuable office space and have the opportunity to build strong business connections with other creative professionals. By joining the organization as a “Hubster,” individuals can also participate in masterclasses and innovation labs that can accelerate their work. In the past, these groundbreaking services have attracted the attention of a number of prominent startups, such as Careem and Munchbox.
Since its inception in 2011, SeedStartup has acted as a combined accelerator and venture fund for startups in the UAE and beyond. Focusing primarily on startups in the technology and digital media sectors, the organization offers a three-month program for entrepreneurs. During this time, participants receive mentoring that readies them to pitch their startups to investors from around the world. SeedStartup also provides critical funding to its startups, allotting anywhere from $20,000 to $25,000 to each in return for a 10 percent equity stake. The organization also connects startups with other sources of capital.
Located in Beirut, Lebanon, AltCity has flourished from a simple co-working space into a work café and incubator for local startups. Catering to entrepreneurs in all industries, AltCity works hand-in-hand with innovators to help them reach their first investor or their first customer in the shortest time possible. AltCity is able to support such quick growth by providing targeted assistance in business development, legal matters, and investments.
Those with technology startups can participate in the incubator’s Bootcamp program, which offers intensive training over the course of a few days. AltCity also hosts Lebanon’s inaugural university competition for students who are looking to realize their innovative business ideas.
Those who are in the earliest stages of establishing a startup can benefit from attending Startup Weekend. This event packs a wide array of entrepreneur-driven workshops and networking opportunities into a brief period of 54 hours. Together, Startup Weekend participants embark on the journey toward founding a business while learning about the various resources that are available to them. In addition, the event gives participants the unique opportunity to connect with other entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors who could help them on their path to success. Equipped with all this information, attendees typically leave fully prepared to build a strong foundation for their startup. In the past, Startup Weekend has taken place in several Middle East cities, including Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai.
In5 Innovation Center
In 2013, Dubai Internet City established the In5 Innovation Center to serve the community of entrepreneurs working in the TECOM free zone. The center has since built an ecosystem that focuses exclusively on startups, providing an avenue through which entrepreneurs can incubate their growing businesses. In5 works with startups in the media, technology, and design industries, providing a multitude of opportunities to professionals. In addition to offering traditional mentoring, the center regularly welcomes industry experts to host informational workshops for entrepreneurs. Though In5 does not directly invest in any of its participating startups, it does provide access to inexpensive office space and other invaluable resources.
Designed as a technology hub for entrepreneurs across the Middle East, AstroLabs has become one of the region’s most prominent sources of startup support. Through its Dubai location, the company works directly with tech entrepreneurs to help them achieve regional and even international success. Over the years, the AstroLabs tech facility has amassed a network of more than 70 startups that operate within its unique co-working space. AstroLabs also runs an Academy, through which entrepreneurs can take courses in subjects such as UX design, web/mobile analytics, and coding.