C3 Social Impact Accelerator helps Middle East startups grow their businesses during COVID-19

As global industries came to an almost complete halt over the past couple of months, many startups in the region have bravely and creatively turned around the way they do business to stay afloat and, in some cases, even thrive and grow.

A few of them are the 2019 graduates of the C3 Social Impact Accelerator Programme powered by HSBC. The programme helps startups to receive the tools they need to thrive in the global economy, including guidance on raising funds and how to manage their governance practices. Such cases include:

Chefaa, last year’s winner, the Egyptian based e-health startup is now fulfilling triple the number of orders it used to get before the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed.
InnoTech, an Omani based 3D printing EdTech startup, has completely pivoted operations by utilising its 3D printing capabilities to manufacture medical equipment, to ensure the country is well equipped as international supply chains are disrupted.
MyU, a Kuwait based e-learning startup, supported schools and educational institutions to continue teaching online, making the process easier on teachers, students, and parents.

This year’s edition of the programme – which is now open – has attracted over 600 applicants from eight countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey (MENAT). Twenty-four finalists have been carefully shortlisted following a proven, rigorous selection process by the evaluators from HSBC, Bain & Company, and C3.

As per the programme’s qualifying criteria, all the selected startups are contributing significantly to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, are revenue-generating, and are profitable or have a clear profitability path.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the imposed travel bans and restrictions on hosting events, C3 and HSBC have decided to turn the originally planned one-week programme in Dubai, into a four-week online format, with board meeting simulations and the final pitch competition scheduled to run in August.

Commenting on the challenges and opportunities of running the event online, Medea Nocentini, Co-founder and CEO of C3, said: “COVID-19 is pushing us to accelerate plans we had for quite some time to further boost the effectiveness of our programme. Hosting lectures and workshops online over a longer period of time will provide our entrepreneurs with increased expert accessibility and give them a chance to better absorb critical learning material.”

The customised lectures and interactive online sessions of the programme are delivered by international trainers, tackling topics such as Theory of Change, social impact measurement, and pitching to impact investors, over four weeks.

Sabrin Rahman, Regional Head of Corporate Sustainability, HSBC, MENAT, said: “We have given the online structure a lot of thought to ensure that the entrepreneurs get all the benefits they were hoping for from the programme, from engaging and insightful training, to networking with impact investors and like-minded entrepreneurs. We learnt a lot from last year’s programme and are confident that the second edition of C3 will deliver an even better experience for our entrepreneurs.”

The programme’s finalists will undergo virtual board meeting simulations, and receive guidance on their pitch decks to be prepared for impact investors on the final event day in August. The winners of the pitch competition will receive an equity-free cash prize from HSBC.

Thanks to C3’s partnership with Bain & Company and Al Tamimi & Company, the pitch competition winners will also benefit from mentoring sessions where they receive one-on-one tailored pro-bono support. Also, C3’s partnership with CNN Arabic will create further opportunity to raise awareness of the programme.


2019 was a productive year for EdTech in MENA, as the industry witnessed more deals (29) and total funding ($20M) than any previous year. Access more data and trends in our new 2019 MENA Education Venture Investment Report.