Gaza Sky Geeks soldier through power cuts for startup glory

 

Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff has become the latest tech leader to put his weight behind a Gaza based startup accelerator, initially launched to encourage more women to found their own companies.
Gaza Sky Geeks

The Palestinian technology accelerator, Gaza Sky Geeks, is raising money for a generator to extend its now co-working hours to evenings and weekends.

With electricity only made available for 12 hours a day before battery life is required, and frequent power cuts, the accelerator is struggling to further its working hours without a generator.

The campaign originally set the target of $95,000, which has been exceeded.

A new target of $400,000 has been set, with the additional funds being set aside to support the hub through the launch of a new coding academy, the creation of 22 internships for Gazans in European and US tech firms and for the training of high schGaza Sky Geeksool girls in coding.

Benioff joined a list of tech luminaries who aim to match dollar for dollar, any donations to the #PowerUpGazaGeeks crowdfunding campaign.

Said Hassan, GSG’s manager and a startup founder said the area is “facing the worst energy crisis we’ve had in Gaza, with some homes getting as little as four hours of electricity each day.”

“Gazans are smart people working on ideas for companies,” said Dave McClure, founding partner of 500 Startups and an advisory board member for GSG.

“They deserve support and investment just like any other startup founder anywhere else in the world. To some extent, they have even more hustle because they’re working in such a tough environment.”

Entrepreneurial Gazan women have been flocking to the tech startup sceneGaza Sky Geeks since 2011, when Gaza Sky Geeks launched with a grant from Google.org after the company realised the technology opportunity in the area.

Gaza Sky Geeks is run by Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian organisation.

Since launching in 1979, Mercy Corps has helped more than 170 million people survive emergencies and rebuild their lives.

Gaza Sky Geeks is the only startup accelerator in the Gaza Strip, with the mission of transforming the country’s youth into technology business leaders.

The accelerator encourages entrepreneurial spirit though events, trips outside of Gaza and networks connecting startups to investors and mentors.

Gaza Sky Geeks
Gaza Sky Geeks working through a power cut

Originally designed to increase the number of Gazan women who successfully found a startup, Gaza Sky Geeks was launched to make sure female pioneers can connect with each other.

With a population of 1.7 million, in a space of 25 miles by five miles, 99% of Gazans have literacy skills and are known for being technically apt, despite only receiving electricity 12 hours a day.

Over 50% of the population in Gaza is under the age of 18 and with unemployment rates at 43%, both men and women are encouraged to find work with many girls choosing to study STEM based subjects. The internet in Gaza is said to be of higher quality than in some of its neighbouring countries. For many residents broadband is the only connection to the outside world, with Twitter being used as a way to keep up on which areas are safe and which are not.

Due to Gaza’s closed borders a private sector has been difficult to develop, which tends to affect Gazan entrepreneurs ideas. Closed borders and tGaza Sky Geekshe threat of conflict means most are focusing their ideas on software for consumers rather than hardware development and enterprise sales.

Also joining the campaign this week is Lean Startups author and guru Eric Ries. Existing backers include Paul Graham (YC), Brad Feld (Techstars), Dave McClure (500 Startups), Fadi Ghandour, Samih Toukan, the Skoll Foundation, Freada Kapor Klein and others.