In a city blockaded by walls, with limited resources, one initiative has found a way to create one of the top startup incubators and tech education hubs in the frontier market; one of only two “Google for Entrepreneurs Partners in the Middle East.”
I had a chance to speak with Anam Raheem, Program Manager at Gaza Sky Geeks. Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG), she said in an email interview, “is a co-working space, startup incubator, and tech education center that is cultivating a globally-competitive tech sector in Gaza. International NGO Mercy Corps launched GSG in 2011 with seed funding from Google.org as a means to help Gaza’s highly educated youth to side-step many of the current restrictions on the movement of people and goods that hamper Gaza’s economy.”
Raheem is part of a very hardworking and brilliant staff, which includes Director Ryan Sturgill, who holds an MBA from MIT and MPA from Harvard. Sturgill has also established a startup incubator in Afghanistan. Raheem believes that the team, comprised of both in-house and remote staff — some who are also pro-bono, is GSG’s greatest strength.
They started the company with a startup weekend, and over the years, GSG has helped Gazans work and achieve goals toward their startups. So far, 11 of them have received investment opportunities!
Raheem has been volunteering remotely with GSG since 2015, and has joined the team this year. She comes from a background in women’s entrepreneurship programs, such as Vital Voices, where she helped design and launch an accelerator program for women-owned businesses around the world.
GSG started in 2011 by Mercy Corps as “Arab Developers Network Initiative.” Google.org, a part of google that supports tech innovators, seed funded the project. They started the company with a startup weekend, and over the years, GSG has helped Gazans work and achieve goals toward their startups. So far, 11 of them have received investment opportunities!
Some of these startups include:
- Walk and Charge: A device that allows your phone to charge while you are walking
- Wasselni: A carpooling and taxi sharing app
- Mockapp: An app for professional designers to create and share their prototype and manage projects
- Dietii: A health and wellness app for women in the Arab world
These are only some among many more, you can check out the full list here.
GSG is one of a kind because there are so many unique aspects to starting this initiative in Gaza, Palestine. Where unemployment is high and resources are low, technology stands out as having no constraints or borders. What GSG is able to do is link opportunities for the talented population of Gaza, unleash their potential and further create jobs for themselves. Opportunities include mentorship by successful international entrepreneurs and engineers, as well as competitions and networking events.
Right now, GSG has launched a campaign, Power Up Gaza’s Geeks, to raise funds in order to expand and increase Gaza Sky Geeks.
Where unemployment is high and resources are low, technology stands out as having no constraints or borders.
There are three initiatives:
The first is by raising $95,000 to buy a generator and cover the cost for electricity, which they raised in 10 days! This way, the “Geeks” can work up to 12 hours continuously with internet and electricity (doubling their current time).
They are currently funding for the second and third goals, which include setting up a Coding Academy and launching a Coding Club for young girls.
To support GSG, you can donate here.
The cool thing is, your donation is being matched by International developers and CEOs such as, Marc Benioff, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Salesforce, Zahi Khouri: Founder, Chairman, and CEO – National Beverage Company – Coca Cola Palestine, Fadi Ghandour: Co-Founder, Aramex and more.
Although Gaza is facing a lot of difficulties, travel restrictions, electricity shortage, Gaza Sky Geeks is working hard to create a safe, fun and inclusive environment.