Since 2011, Gaza Sky Geeks have been launching coding bootcamps, accelerating startups, and helping them compete globally.
The World Bank released a report earlier last May to break down the tech startup ecosystem in Palestine, identifying Gaza's first startup accelerator, Gaza Sky Geeks as a critical node (GSG) among three key players scaling up Palestinian startups.
As part of its programme, GSG, launched in 2011 in partnership with Google and Mercy Corps, provides co-working space, a startup accelerator, and technology education for Gazan startups. Other key connectors of the West Bank and Gaza ecosystems are Birzeit University, and Startup Weekend. Since their establishment, they have graduated around 26 startups from their incubation and acceleration startups.
In April 2017, GSG started two new programmes; The Gaza Code Academy and GSG Freelancing Academy. The Gaza Code Academy is a joint project of Gaza Sky Geeks and Founders & Coders. It trains 16 students per cohort in a full-time intensive course of 16 weeks, in addition to an additional eight weeks of project-based learning with real world commercial clients. "The final goal for this Code Academy is to graduate full-stack developers who can deploy production-grade software online and secure high-quality jobs with companies or as freelance developers," Mentorship and Communications Coordinator at Gaza Sky Geeks Sara Afifi tells Startup Scene.
Whereas the the GSG Freelance Academy is a 10-week training program offering mentorship in online freelancing, social media, and professional English. Over the course of 10 weeks, participants gather for networking and experience-sharing sessions as well as weekly workshops on trending topics. Attendees can also sign up for our e 10-week training for market-driven technical skills, and join our alumni-run Freelancing Club.
The report states that the ecosystem is highly connected to international actors, connecting to extensive networks of knowledge from clusters outside of the West Bank and Gaza. These actors are both regional and international, and primarily US actors, including many university networks, such as New York University, University of California Berkeley, University of Chicago, or London School of Economics and Political Science, which suggest that there is a large proportion of the startup ecosystem with foreign experience, or floating between the West Bank and Gaza and another international residence.
Gaza Sky Geeks, an NGO striving to build an internationally competitive technology ecosystem in Gaza, has watched its startup CEOs struggle to secure funds. They cannot leave Gaza to participate in international events or pitch competitions where they can network and meet with potential investors. Besides, it is not common to find investors ready to make the risky and troublesome trip to Gaza.
“Another way the continued blockade hinders graduates of our programmes from participating in internship and training opportunities with our international partners, as we are not always able to secure them permits to leave Gaza through the border with Israel,” GSG’s Mentorship and Communications Coordinator Sara Al-Afifi tells Startup Scene ME. “The border with Egypt is highly unpredictable in opening and closure times. It can remain closed for months in a row and then is very difficult to return.”
GSG’s graduates have historically faced challenges getting paid for the jobs done for remote clients. “PayPal is not allowed in Palestine and the other payment processing options provided by similar gateways and banks encounter high fees and are not always available for Gaza users,” Al-Afifi elaborates; adding that GSG has undertaken many efforts with payment companies like Stripe and local banks to make it easier for Gazan freelancers to get paid.
Read our story on the Gaza startups competing globally despite the siege here.
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