Despite the rapid progress of other startup ecosystems across the Middle East, Yemen has not experienced a similar boom in its own market. Years of instability have left the nation unable to support the needs of both its people and its businesses. This has resulted in great difficulty for the Yemeni economy, which has struggled due to too few available jobs and too many individuals seeking employment.
In recent years, however, an increasing number of startups have begun to emerge and undertaken the seemingly impossible task of thriving. Now, the Yemeni people are better equipped than ever to open new businesses and provide support to their economy.
The slow growth of this budding startup ecosystem is thanks, in great part, to a number of local organizations that have supported the needs of local entrepreneurs. Here are a few of the entities that are bolstering Yemen’s startup scene:
To fulfill a mission of “building the Yemen 2.0,” a group of local entrepreneurs established Startup Yemen. This organization hopes to solidify Yemen as a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship in the Middle East by empowering the nation’s youths to bring their startups to life. To this end, Startup Yemen enlists the help of investors, mentors, and industry professionals from both within Yemen and across the globe.
Startup Yemen is also helping local entrepreneurs grow their businesses by inviting them to participate in a number of special programs. Those who attend the organization’s Take-Talk events, for example, gain unique access to lectures on crucial business topics such as advertising and investments. Youths who are thinking about establishing their own startups may also participate in Startup Yemen’s Start-Me-Up program. In the course of one day, individuals will learn about the basics of entrepreneurship and how to realize their most innovative ideas.
ROWAD Entrepreneurs Foundation
Yemen’s ROWAD Entrepreneurs Foundation is another entity that has been fulfilling the needs of local startups. Another organization that was created “by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs,” it is working diligently to create a better support system for all Yemeni startups and their founders.
Over the years, ROWAD Foundation has helped create new startups in Yemen through such avenues as its BlockOne Venture Competition. Established in 2014, this event drew the attention of 240 potential entrepreneurs. Of this group, ROWAD Foundation chose 18 teams to participate in its three-day BlockOne Training Bootcamp, which provided an in-depth look at important business practices, idea development, and more.
ROWAD Foundation has since expanded its support of local entrepreneurs by establishing the BlockOne Incubator and the BlockOne Accelerator. Through these initiatives, Yemeni entrepreneurs gain access to much-needed resources such as working space, professional networking, and mentorship.
In affiliation with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the ROWAD Foundation established Afkar Yemen, an award that recognizes originality and innovation in emerging startups. Even more importantly, the award seeks to create new avenues of employment for individuals living across Yemen. By empowering entrepreneurs and startups in numerous sectors, Akfar Yemen hopes to mobilize these workers in an effort to build a stronger nation.
Those who apply for the award must be able and willing to undergo a lengthy selection process. Upon receiving applications from local entrepreneurs, Afkar Yemen assesses their eligibility by looking at numerous criteria. Only those who reside in Yemen, are between the ages of 18 and 30, and are natives of the country may apply. In addition, Afkar Yemen applicants must demonstrate their startups’ capabilities for becoming profitable businesses and making a positive impact on Yemen.
Afkar Yemen then shortlists 100 startups and works with each one on business development and training before selecting finalists. Each applicant then has the opportunity to present his or her startup for award consideration before a panel of judges, who select a winner. Equipped with the tools gained during the selection process, Afkar Yemen award recipients emerge with the tools necessary to guide their startups to success.
Even with such a strong support network, Yemen’s startup ecosystem would be nothing without the companies that have been emerging year after year. To fully understand the scope of this growth, it is important to look at some of the startups that have found success in the local market:
One young entrepreneur, Bassem Warafi, has helped kickstart Yemen’s e-commerce sector by establishing his startup, Tamween. Headquartered in Sana’a, the site is marketed as being the first online supermarket in the country. Clients can peruse the site for goods in categories such as food, cleaning products, and office supplies. Individuals can even purchase “community service” baskets that provide food for those in need.
By offering secure online payments and home delivery services, Tamween is making it convenient for Yemeni locals to get anything they need at the best price possible. Under Warafi’s guidance, the startup has also considered the idea of selling to Yemeni expats who want to provide for their families back home by purchasing products that can be delivered to them.
In 2014, Anamehani took the top spot at the ROWAD Foundation BlockOne Competition. Since then, it has become the go-to source for those who are seeking social labor employment in Yemen. Qualified workers may use Anamehani to find jobs at local companies that specialize in everything ranging from plumbing to landscaping.
Through this online job marketplace, vocational freelancers can also search for available jobs in their respective fields. With Anamehani, all workers have the chance to expand their professional networks, engage in training courses, and find more opportunities to market their skills. Over the years, Anemehani has connected individuals to 36,000 jobs and more than 43,000 hours of work.