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9 Opportunities For Startups in the Middle East That Are Just Around The Corner

From the massive Seedstars global competition, to an AI tour of Silicon Valley, to the TechStars and Sheraa Sharjah's acceleration programmes, these are 9 of the most incredible opportunities you shouldn't miss these coming months.

Staff Writer

What are the barriers to launching or accelerating a startup? Funding, mentorship, knowledge and support? These programmes, designed by some of the region's most groundbreaking players are offering kickass tools for entrepreneurs to jump the hurdle. Fostering both early-stage startups, like ArabNet's ideathon, which is curated for non functional startups with innovative ideas that need development, as well as fully developed tech startups, like Tech Wadi's Silicon Valley AI tour, the coming months are ripe with opportunities for entrepreneurs, whether they are based in Egypt, UAE, Kuwait, or Lebanon. From tech-based accelerators to sustainability-driven programmes, we've rounded up nine opportunities happening soon that you wouldn't want to miss.

1. Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi's 4th Cycle

Top accelerator Flat6labs has just opened applications for startups that can be fully dedicated to the duration for four months in Abu Dhabi. Once accepted into the programme, startups will receive seed-funding, mentorship, co-working space, entrepreneurship-focused trainings and workshops, as well as benefits from their partners. Backed up by a strong network of educational institutions, advisors, investors and entrepreneurs, Flat6labs Abu Dhabi fosters those with cutting-edge ideas. You can apply here.

A regional startup accelerator, Flat6labs is present in five locations, with Cairo being its first hub.

 2. Tech Wadi's Silicon Valley AI Tour

For all MENA-based startups focusing on Artificial Intelligence, TechWadi's AI program in Silicon Valley is calling all AI pioneers for a super exciting tour of Silicon Valley. The five finalists selected to attend will get unique access to workshops and mentorship by top AI industry experts in Silicon Valley, as well as a two-day pass to the O'Reilly Conference in San Francisco. The trip also includes marketing and promotion of the startups and visits to top Silicon Valley companies to learn the latest innovations. The program costs $3,500 per person, excluding travel and accommodation, and can be applied for here.
3. FinTech Abu Dhabi Innovation Challenge 

Coming together to launch a FinTech challenge, KPMG - a leading, international audit, tax and advisory services firm - and Abu Dhabi Global Market - an international financial centre - is offering an intensive five-week program where 10 startups will be chosen to develop market-ready solutions in the financial sector. $15,000 will be given to each finalist to cover any travel and accommodation costs. Finally, a Demo Day, where finalists showcase their innovative solutions to a panel of industry experts, will decide the two winners who will get to share their solutions in the upcoming Global Fintech Hackcelerator in Singapore next November. For all those who love to mix finance with technology, apply here before August 25.
4. Seedstars Beirut 2017

Available in over 65 countries around the world, Seedstars World promotes, connects and invests up to $1 million in emerging market startups through its exclusive startup competition. If you are a Lebanon-based startup that launched within the last 2 years, received external funding of less than $500,000, demonstrate a Minimal Viable Product and have the potential to reach the scalability, apply here before the 8th of September. Winning startups will get a chance to pitch globally at the Seedstars World finals, in Switzerland (Hint: last year, two out of six winning startups hailed from the Middle East).

 Connecting and investing up to $1.5 million in emerging market startups, Seedstars World launches a startup competition in each of its 60 countries. 

5. Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards

Supporting female entrepreneurs in the MENA region, Cartier Women’s Initiative is calling out for all those ladybosses with a startup that is two to three years old and is making profits. Three startups from six regions will be selected and offered personalised mentorship, workshops, a place on the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship 6-Day Executive Programme and up to $100,000 in cash prizes. Apply before the 31st of August here if you pass the eligibility requirements. Previous editions have awarded Egyptian entrepreneur Sara-Kristina Hannig Nour, founder of Sara and Lara's Barkets, and Raye7's co-founder, Samira Negm. 

 Since 2006, Cartier Women Initiative Award has been driving change by empowering women.

6. Co-working for Sustainable Employment

In an effort to elevate employment levels - especially amongst young women in medium-sized towns- and create a more inclusive community, this programme will select six to ten co-working spaces to help them grow into successful and sustainable hubs. Hivos, a Dutch-based organisation dedicated to financially supporting knowledge-sharing in the fields of development, partnered with two prestigious Egyptian incubators: Nahdet El Mahrousa, the first incubator for early stage social enterprises, and the AUC's Venture Lab to create this 18-month programme. From up to 400,000 Egyptian pounds in funding, to physically expanding the co-working space's capacity, to participating in a variety of knowledge-possessed workshops, the selected winners will aid in creating more job opportunities for the youth. Interested applicants can fill the form here before the 31st of August. 

7. ArabNet Kuwait Ideathon

In its search for individuals with digitally-based ideas that have not been transformed into functional startups, Kuwait's ArabNet is opening its applications for the Ideathon Competition. Connecting the region's brightest entrepreneurs with a crowd of investors, incubators, media and digital professionals, this competition will assist in making these ideas turn into reality. The 10 chosen finalists will present their idea for two minutes at the ArabNet Kuwait event, where cash prizes will be awarded to the winners. More information about the judging criteria and application process can be found here

Transforming ideas into fully-fledged startups, ArabNet's Ideathon encourages idea generation amongst Kuwaitis. 

8. TechStars Dubai Accelerator in partnership with GINCO

Since Dubai is known for its leadership in technology innovation, GINCO - a full service general contracting firm - and TechStars - a worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed - partnered to launch an accelerator programme just for pioneering entrepreneurs that are solving challenges in transportation, construction, IoT, robotics and more. A $100,000 convertible note is automatically offered to all Techstars companies upon acceptanceand $20,000 in exchange for 6 percent common stock. Startups are also given access to Techstars resources forever, intense mentorship, a network of over 5,000 key stakeholders is shared and office space for three months is provided. Interested applicants should sign up here before the 15th of October.

Tech-based giant TechStars Dubai believes in the power of innovation for a thriving future.

9. Sheraa Accelerator Program

In its second cycle, Sheraa Sharjah is calling out to all entrepreneurs with early-stage funded startups that want to reach scalability and growth. With a network of over 50 founders and 100 mentors in the expertise of marketing, sales, startup accounting, product design, user testing and more. Focusing on scaling innovative, high-growth ventures that drive economic diversification and job creation, the Sheraa Accelerator Program offers over $150,000 in business services from leading companies, equity-free investment, free co-working space, free exhibition space at conferences such as GITEX, and a business license at absolutely no cost. You can sign up here before the 31st of August. 

Sheraa's accelerator program offers startups free accomodation, office space in its co-working space, and free UAE-based business license.

Main Photo Collage by @MO4Network's #MO4Productions.

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