Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 28 January 2019: Yesterday, 500 Startups and Misk Innovation have launched their flagship early-stage accelerator program for the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). The program is a 16-week course which will focus on bringing growth hacking techniques and Silicon Valley expertise to emerging companies in the region. The program received 500 applications from 15 MENA countries. 21 startups were selected, among them 30% are female founders. They will spend the next 4 months working with some of the best mentors from 500 Startups Silicon Valley and global network.
“The program is a real beginning to discover promising young talent that can lead companies capable of strengthening the economy of the future” said Deemah Al Yahya, Chief Executive of Misk Innovation. “Many experts from Silicon Valley and the region will offer ongoing guidance to startups who are part of the accelerator. The program will provide advanced training in significant areas of growth and scalability, including marketing, communications and sales, customer service, data analysis, recruitment, finance and products, and system building.”
500 Startups has been an active investor in the MENA region since 2012. Having launched the 500 Falcons fund in 2017, 500’s MENA-based fund has been consistently ranked as the most active investor in seed-stage companies throughout the Arab world. MiSK Innovation is one of the initiatives of the Misk Foundation, which aims to raise the level of training qualifications for youth and enable them to achieve the highest international standards for training in the areas of technology and innovation.
"We are extremely pleased with the quality of applicants we received for the inaugural cohort." said Sharif El-Badawi, Managing Partner of 500 Startups' MENA fund. "From a pool of nearly 500 applicants, approximately 23% received phone or in-person interviews, before we made the difficult decision to invest the top 21 promising companies, representing a less than 5% acceptance rate."
Supporting the program as a strategic partner is The General Authority of Small & Medium enterprises “Monshaat”. "At SMEA (Monshaat) we are committed to prepare, implement and support programs and projects to promote the culture and mindset of entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial spirit, and innovation. We provide administrative and technical support to enterprises and support them in developing their administrative, marketing, human resources and technical and financial capabilities and others." said Essam bin Saleh Al Dhokair, “Monshaat’s” Vice Governor of Entrepreneurship. Almosafer, the Saudi-based online travel platform that caters to the discerned needs of Arab travelers with a simple-to-use website and mobile applications, has also signed on to support the accelerator as a travel partner.
The partnership between 500 Startups and MiSK aims to create a lasting impact on the Middle East region. “Today marks a significant step forward in our joint mission of building entrepreneurial ecosystems in the region and continuing to support founders and technological innovation.” said Vera Futorjanski, Innovation Director at 500 Startups, “We are looking forward to the thriving partnership with MiSK and will be together working on accelerating innovation in the region.