A crowdfunding campaign aiming to save Gaza’s only technology accelerator from closure looks set to end this month with its original funding target of $70,000 oversubscribed by 150 percent.
The campaign was launched in November on the Indiegogo crowdfunding website to ensure the Gaza Sky Geeks accelerator can continue operating in the isolated enclave, where unemployment is running at 40 percent and which is still recovering from last summer’s devastating war with Israel.
Gaza Sky Geeks Director Iliana Montauk said crowdfunding has proved to be an effective way of bypassing traditional methods of raising financial support that might not be available to Gazan startups. “Corporate sponsors who might be able to finance startup accelerators elsewhere might not be willing to openly associate their brand with Gaza, as this is sometimes seen as a political move. But with the crowdfunding model we get round the problem,” said Montauk, who is running the accelerator as part of her role with the Mercy Corps aid agency.
Despite being forced to operate under the most difficult of conditions, the startups being helped by Gaza Sky Geeks are still managing to make real progress, .
DWBI Solutions, for instance, bills itself as a data warehouse that has developed a portal capable of gathering data from multiple sources then transforming them into a unified format, to eventually load them into a central data archive. “This could facilitate, for example, the work of a Central Bank to create reports, as it needs to collect data from a vast number of banks, each of them using different systems,” Montauk explained.
An Uber-like online car service for the Middle East is also in the accelerator’s pipeline. Called Wasselni, the mobile and website app is at the acquisition stage and will mostly focus on the Palestinian market, where carpooling doesn’t exist and public transport is rare. The app’s creator, Mariam Abultewi, is the first woman in Gaza to have ever received investment for a startup.
“Our goal is to create an open market where investors could found the startups they like and startups could access whoever investor they want,” Montauk said.