Google invites applications for third edition of Mena start-up accelerator

The three-month programme is geared towards helping tech start-ups gain access to mentorship and investors

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of laptop and mobile device users are seen next to a screen projection of Google logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018.  REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
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Google is accepting applications from technology entrepreneurs for the third edition of its start-up programme for the Mena region that aims to to help budding companies accelerate their development.

The three-month digital accelerator programme focuses on technology start-ups between Seed and early stage Series A funding and will run online starting from January. Selected start-ups for the third cohort will be announced by the end of November, the world's largest internet company said on Wednesday.

"Those selected will gain access to Google mentorship, technical support, training programmes and workshops as well as connections to venture capitalists," Google said. Applications will be accepted until October 14.

“It’s always an honour to witness the level of passion and confidence the start-ups have as they work towards making their dreams a reality," said Salim Abid, regional lead of the Mena developer ecosystem at Google.

The UAE has become a hotbed for start-ups, thanks to its an abundance of venture capital, transparent policies, tech infrastructure and government initiatives. Mena start-ups raised $1.2 billion in funding in the first half of 2021, 64 per cent higher than the previous year, with the UAE leading in terms of deals, accounting for 61 per cent of total investments, according to data platform Magnitt.

In Abu Dhabi, Hub71 was launched to support start-ups by attracting venture capital funds and investors to expand the pool of available capital. Dubai has also taken measures to support start-ups, including hosting an event next year to attract venture capitalists to the region.

The emirate's Department of Economic Development, through its Dubai SME agency, reported that 50 per cent of companies operating there are start-ups.

Among the most successful homegrown ventures are ride-hailing service Careem, which became a subsidiary of Uber following a $3.1bn deal in 2020, and online marketplace, which was bought by Amazon for $650 million in 2017 and was rebranded as

On Tuesday, UAE digital payments platform Zbooni secured $9.5m in its latest funding round to help its regional expansion.

Besides Google, a number of global brands in the tech space have launched similar support programmes for start-ups, including the US software company Oracle.

When reviewing applications of its Mena accelerator programme, Google will assesses problems that a start-up is trying to solve, how it creates value for users and how it addresses a real challenge for the start-up’s local base, the Alphabet-owned company said.

It will also look at whether the start-up aims to use artificial intelligence and machine learning technology in the product, service or operations to solve current business challenges and successfully scale in the long run, it added.

The selected contenders will receive mentorship on technical and business challenges, product design, customer acquisition and leadership development, as well as access to one-on-one coaching from Google experts, all of which would help them with their pitch to investors.

The search engine company recently marked the end of the accelerator's second cohort, in which 12 start-ups graduated from the programme. Participating entities come from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.

"We’re looking forward to seeing how they continue to use technology to solve challenges in their communities, and most importantly, their sustainable growth in the tech ecosystem," Mr Abid said.

Updated: September 30, 2021, 8:06 AM