Meet the 10 Middle Eastern Startups to Pitch at IGNITE Conference for $10,000
The incubation programme, built with support from Google.org, kicked off last April to take 130 startups from Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon through a journey to transform their ideas into thriving businesses.
The programme is the first of its kind in the region, devoted to refugee and local entrepreneurs who are building ventures against the odds with resilience and grit. Hailing from remote areas such as the Gaza strip, war-torn Mosul, and Saida, the startups are innovating across industries as diverse as CleanTech, EdTech, VR, and AgriTech.
Through a series of online training sessions, a network of 100+ international mentors, and networking events in Ramallah, Beirut and Erbil, the incubation programme harnessed the ingenuity of diverse founders, connecting them to a global network of entrepreneurs, investors and mentors.
The semi-finals, held on 1-3 August online, included a high-profile panel of judges, including Muneer Zuhdi, CTO of Nokia Enterprise China, India, and MEA; Nicholas Rouhana, Chairman and CEO of IM.FNDNG, Victoria Mehran, Venture Partner at Expert Dojo, Sofia Queiroz, VC at Mustard Seed Maze, Ahmed Eid, Portfolio Manager at 500 Global, and Diego Arias Garcia, Investment Associate at Plug and Play.
The 10 semi-finals are now headed on an all-expense paid trip to Amsterdam, where they will pitch during SPARK’s IGNITE conference on September 13th, for a $10,000 cash prize for first place, and $5,000 for second place.
From Agri-tech disruptors to EdTech pioneers, these are the four startups taking off to the Netherlands:
1. DonaLeb, Lebanon
Founded by Yasmine Darwich, DonaLeb is the fitness and wellness app that helps businesses engage their teams and nonprofits to fundraise. We create gamified virtual challenges to connect companies with CSR while they promote health and wellness in their teams. The startup has recently also won a booth at Italy’s Web Marketing Festival, as part of the Startups Without Borders Delegation.
“DonaLeb’s experience with Startups Without Borders has been more beneficial to us than words could express, providing us with opportunities we could have only dreamed of. Reaching the final stage is only our first step though; here’s to collecting more and more,” says Yasmine.
2. Nabeeh, Palestine
Nabeeh is a Web and Mobile App platform for users to get on-demand home and Healthcare quality services conveniently. The startup, led by brothers Fawaz and Saber Samara, raised their first investment round during the incubation program and began expansion to Saudi Arabia.
3. Green Gold, Iraq
Green Gold creates organic compost and potting soil for Farmers and local agriculture suppliers to fulfill the need for compost and reduce food waste pollution.
“I am proud to be part of the program; it had a very positive impact on the project’s vision in various aspects, as the goals developed and helped me discover new channels in the local and international market,” says founder Marwah Read Taha.
“As the only qualified founder from Iraq, I believe this competition will help the expansion of the project to increase productivity and environmental awareness in Iraq, thus creating more job opportunities for women and encouraging young people to engage in green entrepreneurship,” she concludes.
4. SunCode, Lebanon
Suncode is developing a convective solar drying machine allowing a safer, faster, and easier drying of food products than the conventional drying method used currently, with zero operational cost.
“The idea came up while working with farmers, as I noticed that the biggest problem they have is the overproduction – which leads to them selling produce at the cheapest prices,” says founder Haydar Mohamad Sleiman. “So we came up with this solution to produce dried vegetables, increase their income and save their crops,” he explains.
5. Blue Filter, Palestine
Blue Filter is a chemical-free, environment-friendly system developed to purify underground water from nitrates and salts. Blue Filter presents a simple and cheap solution for sanitizing water, decreasing the percent of Nitrate from 100% to 2 % and chloride from 100% to 40 % for farmers, through environmentally friendly methods.
6. CONCAT, Lebanon
CONCAT is the first women-led Web Development Agency which aims to create top quality websites whilst providing long term, sustainable employment for talented, marginalized communities.
“The program has been a great opportunity for the CONCAT team, especially when it comes to developing our business model in the sessions. We’ve really enjoyed connecting with all of the other amazing startups who are all so aligned with our mission of creating sustainable employment for marginalized people, says founder Laura Jardine Paterson.
7. Hala Trips, Palestine
Hala Trips is an Arabic language platform for booking tours and hotels in over 1.7M Hotels around the world. “We are very happy to have won amongst a large number of participants and the very strong competitors in this special program; we are now excited to win in Amsterdam,” said founder Razan Abutawaheena, who is based in Gaza.
8. Dooda Solutions, Lebanon
Founded by Nada Ghanem, Dooda Solutions is a woman-led earthworm farm specialized in raising worms and producing premium grade vermicompost.
9. Eyiada, Palestine
Eyiada is a medical platform that connects patients with the most suitable healthcare providers according to their customized cases, allowing them to have online medical consultations with them and making quality healthcare more accessible and convenient.
“I’m very excited to present our startup internationally in Amsterdam and take it to the next level. It was one of my hardest pitching competitions. For me, being a Palestinian under Israeli occupation, this opportunity is a small attempt to break down our borders of restricted mobility and lack of opportunities. We’re working to bring down our own walls and set forth in a new era of innovation and entrepreneurship,” says founder Momen Abusaada.
10. Sook.ps, Palestine
Full E-commerce Platform that allows customers to find their desired products in a safe and entertaining way, while also enabling vendors to expand their markets and boost their sales.
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