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Portland pitches in for Palestinian tech entrepreneurs

You think it’s tough doing a startup in Portland? Try a place where the electricity is only on for 8 hours a day. Last week, Upstart Labs was lucky enough to connect with the fantastic Reem Omran, a founder of Gaza Sky Geeks, a tech startup incubator in Gaza City. 

Gaza Sky Geeks is a project of Portland-based Mercy Corps and Google’s Arab Developers Network Initiative. There are more than 15,000 developers in Palestine, which includes the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In Gaza alone, there are 2,000 new graduates each year from Gaza’s five (!) universities with engineering and computer science programs. Mercy Corps is helping Palestine to harness this talent and create a new outsourced development hub for the Arab world. 

The incubator, which will accept its first formal class of startups this fall, has played host to two Startup Weekends in the last 12 months. More recently, Rogue Ventures’ Tom Sperry spoke to a standing room-only crowd at Gaza Sky Geeks in early March, alongside John Ross from Mercy Corps. Events like these help connect Palestinian entrepreneurs with mentors and best practices from the thriving startup scene in the U.S.

There are four companies already operating out of the Gaza Sky Geeks space:

  • Analancer, a developer-focused eLancer or ODesk for the Arab-speaking world
  • Another Half, a mobile game developer
  • DaTrios, a live social network for real-time chat during major sporting events
  • HTML 5 AppStore, a marketplace for HTML 5 apps

And Gaza Sky Geeks hopes to run classes of 8 startups every six to 12 months over the next three years.

For an in-depth look at tech entrepreneurship in Palestine, check out this Techcrunch article from Sunday. You can also follow Gaza Sky Geeks and Google’s Arab Developers Network Initiative on Facebook. These entrepreneurs welcome mentorship, training, networking, and especially investment, from startups in the U.S.

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