Thanks to initiatives like Abu Dhabi’s twofour54 and Flat6Labs in Cairo, and investments from 500 Startups and Oasis500, Middle Eastern entrepreneurs now have access to funding and the resources to help develop their skills. While there remains a number of obstacles, there’s an amazing, blossoming startup scene in the Middle East. For example, if you follow these five Middle Eastern entrepreneurs, you’ll see just how promising the scene really is.
Abdallah Absi – @abdabsi
For a 22-year old college dropout, Abdallah Absi has already accomplished a lifetime of work. He has already founded or co-founded, the projects eClub, Askolar, Rifflex, CrowdVolt.com, YallaSMSme, TimeToSM, and LebAutos. He is currently the co-founder and CEO of Zoomaal, a crowdfunding platform that helps creatives and innovators in the Arab world get their work funded.
Abdallah is also the President of the Entrepreneurship Club NGO in Lebanon and was included in Top 20 Lebanese Entrepreneurs by Executive Magazine.
Fadi Ghandour – @fadig
In 1982 Fadi Ghandour founded Aramex, a leading provider of comprehensive logistics and transportation solutions, and served as CEO for over 30 years. Aramex has the honor of being the first company from the Arab world to go public on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Ghandour was also a founding partner of Maktoob, which was acquired by Yahoo! in 2010.
Gandour is currently the Co-Founder and Director of MENA Venture Investments, a seed capital investment company focusing on early stage tech companies in the MENA region and beyond, Founder and Chairman of Ruwwad for Development, Chairman of Wamda, and board member of The Abraaj Group and Oasis 500.
Asma Mansour – @mansour_asma
Asma Mansour is a social entrepreneur who founded the Tunisian Center for Social Entrepreneurship – which happens to be the first organization dedicated to social entrepreneurship in the country. Asma became socially active while studying accounting, which lead to her involvement the International Junior Chamber and AIESEC. She founded the People’s Movement for Human Right’s Learning (PDHRE Tunisia ) in 2010, Acacia For All, and Hatem Mahboul. In 2014, she was elected an Ashoka Fellow in Asma Mansour and has spoken about entrepreneurship at TED.
Ronaldo Mouchawar – @ronmou
Born and raised in Aleppo, Syria, Ronaldo Mouchawar came to the United States to study. After being employed in a Boston engineering firm, Ronaldo wanted to return home. In 2000, he launched a consulting company that managed several web and e-commerce projects in the Arab world. In 2005, he launched souq.com, which was the first online marketplace for the Arab world. Souq.com has become the largest online retailer and marketplace in the Arab world. Ronaldo is also the Vice President at Jabbar Internet Group.
Maryam Abu Eatewi
Maryam Abu Eatewi, age 25, has already founded one of the most buzzed startups in the Middle East. Wasselni, which has been dubbed the “the Uber of Gaza,” is a mobile carpool and taxi-ordering network. With the assistance of Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG), an offshoot of the humanitarian group Mercy Corps, Abu Eatewi has become the first woman to have a start-up business funded in Gaza.
Since it’s founding, Wasselni has captured third place in Startup Weekend Gaza in 2012, selected as one of top ten projects in the Celebration of Innovation 2013, won third place in the Imagine Cup and was one of the top four projects at the Business Technology Incubator in Gaza.
It is becoming clear that tech industry is no longer all about Silicon Valley. Keep and eye on these entrepreneurs over the next few years – they are sure to do exciting things!