Out of over 500 startups, only 10 have been chosen for the tech giant's first ever MENA accelerator, as it seeks to identify the most innovative problem solvers in the region.
It’s official. The first ever edition of the ‘Google for Startups Accelerator’ in MENA has its cohort of 10 startups, who will now be put through their paces in one of the most exciting new additions to the regional ecosystems in years.
Announced in October, 2020 as part of the 'Grow Stronger with Google' initiative, the three-month virtual programme targets tech startups, with the criteria based around several factors, including the problem they are trying to solve and how it creates value for users, their willingness to use Machine Learning technology to solve business challenges and viability of long-terms scaling.
Out of over 500 applicants, only a handful have been chosen, but cover a range of different sectors and areas, ranging from edtech and healthtech, to e-commerce and even one startup that offers unique 360° live-streamed experiences.
-Abwaab (Jordan): Online video learning platform that allows secondary school students to learn and monitor their academic performance.
-Carers (Jordan): Family care marketplace that connects the households with the right and vetted caregivers (home nurses, physiotherapists and child care specialists).
-Chefaa (Egypt): GPS-enabled platform to allow chronic patients to order, schedule and refill recurring prescriptions and manage all their pharmacy needs.
-Dabchy (Tunisia): Peer-to-peer fashion marketplace where women can buy and sell new and used clothing items.
-Designhubz (UAE): Service that enables e-commerce retailers to sell their products in 3D & Augmented Reality (AR) on their websites and mobile apps.
-Lamsa (UAE): Edtech brand and platform rich in quality educational and entertainment content for children aged 2-8.
-Lendo (Saudi Arabia): Peer-to-peer lending marketplace that helps to digitally pre-finance outstanding invoices for SMEs in Saudi Arabia.
-Nafas Meditation (Oman): An Arabic mobile app to reduce stress, anxiety and insomnia through instilling the practice of mindfulness.
-Viavii (Jordan): An AI powered ‘people-to-people’ travel experience platform, offering hyper-personalisation for travellers.
-360VUZ (UAE): Immersive mobile app that allows people to attend events, sports and experiences through its 360-degree live streaming technology.
Kicking off today with a welcome session, the programme will first ask each startup to outline and establish the problem that it is working to solve. From there, they will be assigned relevant experts from both the startup's sector and Google's own. Through this mentorship, the programme will then go on to address the challenges facing each startup and host workshops focusing on Machine Learning technologies, product design, customer acquisition and even leadership development.
While there’s certainly no guarantee that these startups will move onto bigger things, the arrival of Google’s first accelerator programme in MENA speaks volumes for the increasingly eclectic, innovative ecosystem that is evolving across the region.
“The MENA region is rich in homegrown entrepreneurs which during the pandemic have stepped up to solve for unexpected challenges with innovative technology and resilience,” said Salim Abid, Google’s Regional Lead of Developer Ecosystem in MENA, when applications were open. Based on the number of applicants in such a small application window, there’s certainly no shortage of startups pushing boundaries through tech and it won’t be too long before we see the Google for Startups initiative infiltrate MENA further.
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