After an intense outpouring of support by the global startup community, a crowdfunding campaign launched by the global humanitarian agency Mercy Corps to secure the future of Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG), Gaza’s first and only startup accelerator, has been extended through January 8.
The Indiegogo campaign, GazaStarts, surpassed its initial fundraising goal of $70,000, raising more than $118,000 from over 50 countries in just one month. The initial goal was intended to keep the startup co-working space open for another year.
The startup’s team wrote, “Gaza Sky Geeks is Gaza’s only startup accelerator. In just 3 years, we have run competitions and training, convened top talent, and sparked a startup movement. We know we’ve succeeded because investors are eager to invest in our startups – we sourced the first ever investments for Gaza startups this year.
“Our co-working space is the cornerstone of Gaza’s startup ecosystem. It’s a home for startups, young people who are exploring the idea of launching a startup, the local Microsoft Student Partners and Google Developers Groups, and our startups who have received investment.
“We do everything it takes to launch startups in Gaza: build community, conduct outreach, identify top talent, prepare teams for investment, and give the best teams the global resources they need to launch scalable online businesses.”
Given the intensity of response to the campaign, Mercy Corps has decided to extend it by 30 days. If GSG raises $500,000, it will keep the co-working space open and run the accelerator through 2015, expand support for female startup founders, arrange an international hackathon, and coordinate the first Silicon Valley visit by Gazan startups. If the campaign raises $1.5 million, all of these activities will continue for three years.
“Although humanitarian assistance is critical in Gaza, most youth are craving opportunity, not food,” explained Iliana Montauk, director of Mercy Corps’ Gaza Sky Geeks program. “Youth in Gaza are among the Arab world’s most educated young men and women, and they are hungry for the chance to prove themselves in the global marketplace.”
GSG was launched in 2011 by Mercy Corps with a generous grant from Google.org. Subsequent financial and program support from Google for Entrepreneurs has enabled Gazan startups to connect with more than 30 startup communities globally, including in Silicon Valley. Over the last year, GSG has progressed from providing technology entrepreneurship training and facilitating competitions, to bringing in the first private startup investment to Gaza and promoting women’s leadership.
“Mercy Corps has created a vibrant technology hub in Gaza that we’re proud to have supported over the last few years,” added Bridgette Beam, Senior Manager at Google for Entrepreneurs. “We’re thrilled to see this exceptionally talented and passionate community receive the boost it needs to continue growing.”
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