Explore MENA

With Egypt currently as the fastest growing startup ecosystem in the Middle East and North Africa region. According to a report published by Magnitt in 2018, Egyptian startups sealed the deal on 22% of all deals, coming second right right after United Arab Emirates. With these statistics, its clear to see a remarkable growth in the number of venture capital companies, international funds, incubators, and accelerators over the last couple of years, which, along with government initiatives, have made Egypt an attractive hub for startups in the region.

Where to apply for funding?

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How to Register my Business

The good news is that registering your business/ startup in Egypt is usually a piece of cake, and it’s our highest ranked MENA country for ease of legal registration. You simply visit the Ministry of Investment’s investor center on Salah Salem St. and, once your documents are ready, can actually finish the process in 3 days (or 3 hours if you pay an extra few hundred dollars for the VIP service – Turkish coffee available but not included). Whereas this process used to take several weeks and multiple visits to different government departments across Cairo, the Ministry of Investment created this Investor Center as a one stop shop, with all government representatives present under one roof. During the registration process, you’ll be asked to hire a government sanctioned accountant and law firm, and be issued a tax ID. (you can ask for recommendations at the Ministry). Depending on the type of company you choose to register, the capital requirements differ, but LLCs as of the date of publication still have very low requirements (can be done for as little as $100). Thereafter, the costs of maintaining the business (accounting, legal, and tax) are generally lower than in other Middle Eastern nations, but of course you should discuss all details with your attorney. It’s important to remember, before registering your new startup, that shutting down companies can be quite challenging in the MENA region, and often require various announcements in newspapers to ensure no outstanding liabilities still exist, etc.

Ease: High

Cost: Low

Ongoing: Low

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GrEEK Campus

The GrEEK Campus is Cairo’s first technology and innovation park, offering state-of-the-art office spaces in Downtown Cairo, Egypt. In 1964, The GrEEK Campus was formed by former president Dr. Thomas A. Bartlett of the American University in Cairo (AUC). When AUC began its relocation to another larger campus on the outskirts of Cairo – and in the outcome of the events of June 2013 – as the campus was left virtually abandoned since Tahrir 2011, Ahmed El Alfi decided to take over The Greek Campus and bring it back to life – more than it ever has been.
The concept and vision for The GrEEK Campus wasn’t just about offering traditional commercial work spaces and offices to businesses. It was more about building a community/an ecosystem from the ground up into a campus for techpreneurs, enthusiasts and creative individuals to meet, exchange and showcase their ideas and work together towards new technology and innovation that would ultimately benefit Egypt and the world.
+20 2 2795 2325
www.thegreekcampus.com

In today’s economy, Lebanese youth are encouraged more than ever to launch their entrepreneurial dreams. The Lebanese government, first through the Ministry of Telecommunications and Nicolas Sehnaoui and eventually via the Central Bank (Banque Du Liban) and Riyad Salameh, have chosen to make entrepreneurship and building the ‘knowledge economy’ a key pillar of Lebanon’s strategic plan. Indeed, this country took the lead initially by launching Circular 331 (a law that permits the Central Bank to fund accelerators and seed funds that promote youth employment and innovation), probably before any other Middle Eastern country. This law led to the establishment of a number of local Venture Capital Funds, as well as the setup of branches of regional and global accelerators, like the Hult Prize and Flat6Labs, for example. Needless to say, Lebanon has a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that stems from a need to survive and thrive while constantly surrounded by uncertainty, political instability, war, and economic challenges. Lebanon is by far (yes, by far) still the best place to live in the Arab Middle East, assuming you can afford it.

The challenge here is a smaller market size (so you need to expand into other countries to be able to scale properly), a difficult legal environment (registration and setup can be cumbersome and taxes are surprisingly high), and of course the brain drain which sees many of the country’s motivated talent leave. The outlook is not all grim though – initiatives like Beirut Digital District spearheaded by Mouhamad Rabah and others are bringing the ecosystem together, and youth are increasingly seeking to find solutions to the country’s problems through entrepreneurship. The private sector has also stepped in to support, with organizations like BLOM Bank doing their share.

Law Firms

How to Register my business

Registering a company in Lebanon will cost you at least $2,500 up front in legal fees and up to 3 months minimum. The process cannot be completed online or even in person alone, and you need someone to hold your hand throughout. In addition, you will likely benefit from a bookkeeper and auditor to keep your accounts in check and help calculate your tax liabilities (VAT + income tax), and submit quarterly reports to the Ministry of Finance. Whether you choose to register a Joint Stock Company, which is a type of LLC, or take advantage of the Holding Company Law which may exempt you from some of the reporting and taxes, you will need a good attorney, plenty of patience, and a pocketbook. Should you ever change your mind about the company you just registered, you may have to wait 5 years to close it down, during which your auditor and attorney are likely to continue to charge you. Oops. Needless to say the same great minds that brought you Circular 331 are also working on making company registrations easier for startups, and on exempting them from taxes for their initial years. Stay tuned but we expect Lebanon to fix these challenges soon.

Ease: Difficult

Cost: Expensive

Ongoing: Expensive

Correct as of March 2020

Local Accelerators

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Beirut Digital District

Beirut Digital District (BDD) is a project aiming to create a hub and a community for the digital and creative industries in Lebanon. Providing the ideal business environment, BDD combines value added services and state-of-the-art infrastructure so that companies can increase their productivity and grow. BDD offers the healthiest living environment where the young and dynamic workforce can WORK, LIVE & PLAY. Located in the heart of Beirut City, this all-inclusive community is the center for Incubator and Accelerator Parks designed to host innovative startups and for Commercial Parks to accommodate medium and large enterprises.
+961 1 660 941
bdd@beirutdigitaldistrict.com
www.beirutdigitaldistrict.com

Although facing many challenges including conflict in neighboring countries, decreased Foreign Direct Investment, population increase of 50.4% between 2008 and 2017, unemployment of 18.7% that’s particularly high among youth (39.7%), a ballooning total public debt, Jordan’s economy has still proven quite resilient and grew at an average yearly rate of 2.5% over 2011-2017. And whilst the Jordanian population only represents 3% of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) population, a total of 23% of MENA’s tech entrepreneurs are Jordanian — the country is described as a fertile ground for innovation. Also, one of Jordan’s biggest comparative advantages today is its highly educated workforce that includes  above avg. % of educated women.

Jordan has a number of challenges to manage and address: regulations still need improvement beyond registering a business, digital sectors remain nascent, entrepreneurship potential is yet to be fully tapped, SMEs lacking online presence with gap in online retail sales, a population excited about entrepreneurship but not pursuing it as scale and a largely unbanked population where 75% of Jordan’s population is excluded from the banking sector. On the other hand Jordan has many strengths to be leveraged including a proven track record & success stories, an ecosystem on the cusp of a new tech and startup s-curve with an enriched pipeline of quality startups and available funding, high smartphone penetration, and affordable broadband (average cost of .5GB dropped from $5 in 2016 to $1.8 in 2019  and among cheapest in MENA).

 Entrepreneurship is increasingly looked at as proven solution to tackle some of the challenges Jordan faces and Jordan’s tech startups have demonstrated ability to help drive economic growth and inclusion, but are we expect them to bear further potential for the Jordanian economy with a caveat that there is a need for collaborative efforts of the government and further stakeholders to tap startups’ and ecosystem’s potential.

Overall the outlook is promising with initiatives like the Central Bank’s Innovative Startups and SMEs Fund (“ISSF”), the  King Hussein Business Park and the telco led incubators like Orange’s BIG all bringing the ecosystem together and pushing it forward. Jordan’s youth are increasingly seeking and finding solutions to the country’s problems through entrepreneurship.

How to Register my Business

The registration process is rather simple in Jordan & most usually leverage local lawyers to take care of everything, the trick is to find a good lawyer you trust that has a reasonable fee. The process will cost you about 500JOD to 800JOD. If registering an LLC you’ll need 50% of your starting capital deposited in your bank to open an account — funds can be pulled out right after. Promising developments in Jordan include a new online version of the registration process (ccd.gov.jo) and the set up of a one stop shop for company registration Jordan called (هيئة التسجيل).

Registration happens at Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) where they can also provide guidelines on how to register the business including what documents you will need to bring and what forms need to be completed — but as mentioned a local lawyer can handle the whole process. For reference The Amman Chamber of Commerce is located in Shmeisani.

Once set up managing your legal affairs is easy and really just requires that you annually renew your trade license. Closing your business could be messy in Jordan if your tax affairs and legal documents aren’t in top shape as the process is highly scrutinized by authorities to ensure you don’t owe any taxes.

Ease: High

Cost: Medium

Ongoing: Low

Correct as of March 2020

Source: www.startupguidejo.com/en

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Deewan Institute

The Deewan Workspace is a smoke-free workspace for coworking, remote workers or freelancers. Every month they also organize different events like cooking classes, calligraphy courses, language exchange nights, etc.  Workspaces can also be rented for large meetings (think of businesses, NGOs or start-ups).
+962 7989 281 88
contact@deewaninstitute.com
deewaninstitute.com

Entrepreneurship comes naturally to Palestinians. They’re a people with a long history of tradesmen with ports across the Mediterranean and geographic location connecting the east with the west. Perseverance, resoursefulness and grit — some of the traits of a promising entrepreneur —  are common in Palestinian given their current predicament. Entrepreneurship became a form of resistance and a way to survive. One can argue that the no where to go but up attitude is what’s creating the promising wave of entrepreneurs we’re seeing today. We believe that the hungriest entrepreneurs are the ones willing to do what it takes to build and launch a business from scratch — a feat we all know is not for the faint of hearts. As such many Palestinians are turning to entrepreneurship, so much so that a World Bank study published in 2018 found that 19 new startups are created annually by highly educated founders (85 per cent with a university degree and 27 percent with graduate degrees) in Palestine, higher than Lebanon or Tanzania, two countries that share a similar technology landscape.

The outlook is not all grim though – initiatives like Rawabi spearheaded by Bashar Marsi are bringing the ecosystem together, and youth are increasingly seeking to find solutions to the country’s problems through entrepreneurship. Gaza Sky Geeks is another entity responsible for a stream of success stories and refreshing news headlines from embattled Gaza. We’re optimistic and positive about he role entpreneruship will play to uplift the palestinian economy and help it solve some of its pressing problems.

Local Accelerators

Where to apply for funding?

Venture Capital Firms

How to Register my Business

In Palestine, similar to Jordan, registering a company goes much more smoothly (and cheaply) with the right lawyer on your side. It’ll cost you about $1,500USD and take about 1 week. You’ll have to visit 3 governmental organizations to complete your registration and you need an official lawyer which costs another $1,000USD. The organizations are the ministry of economics, the taxes authority and the chamber of commerce & industry (which could be optional but needed for a lot of paperwork). Registering a startup is slightly different from a traditional business, but the government is studying  applying different laws for startups including lowering registration costs and applicable taxes. One other important thing to keep in mind is that most types of startups need special permits from different organizations depending on the startup type. For e.g., if you were working in education you have to get permits from  the ministry of education. As of today (May 2020) there are discussions to remove registration fees for startups, remove taxes for first 2 to 5 years, and to digitize the entire registration process, potentially leapfrogging ahead of their peers regionally. The desired state is a process where entrepreneurs can register from home in a few clicks. In some cases if you are a small startup and still testing your products or services you can work by only registering in the chamber of commerce by applying through one of the incubators in Palestine, so keep that in mind and leverage as applicable.

There’s a lot more in the fine print but one another thing to consider is that you’ll need to keep some capital in the bank to open the required company bank account, typically about 10% of starting capital (many choose to withdraw this amount right after registration is complete). Finally, and it’s an area that needs to be addressed to improve the entrepreneurship landscape, there are no bankruptcy laws in Palestine yet and closing a company is a rather involving process that requires multiple in-person visits to the relevant bodies as well as extensive tax payment audits.

Ease: Medium

Cost: Medium

Ongoing: Low

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Coworking Spaces

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COnnect

COnnect cultivates a supportive environment that inspires innovation and connects brilliant minds of aspiring entrepreneurs. COnnect is a co-working and innovation space situated in the heart of the Rawabi Tech Hub, Palestine. COnnect provides private offices, dedicated and common spaces and meeting rooms. COnnect also provides support services for its members including, technical and business planning assistance, administrative services, private phone extensions, prototyping environment and cloud-based services, complementary refreshments and beverages, 3D and regular printing privileges, high-speed Internet and a secured environment.
www.coworker.com/palestine/rawabi/connect

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For any enquiries, please email info@changelabsme.org

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