500 Startups is partnering with Saudi-based Misk Innovation to launch an accelerator program for the pre-seed and seed stage startups in Middle East & North Africa, the firm announced today in a statement adding that the program will take place in Riyadh early next year.
Who is it for
According to the statement, Misk 500 MENA Accelerator is looking for early-stage tech-enabled startups that are based in MENA and have a working product with some traction, in the following fields: B2B, B2C, E-Commerce, FinTech, EdTech, HealthTech, IoT, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, SaaS and Messaging services. The accelerator will only accept startups with full-time founder(s). As the program will be provided in English, the founders must have strong understanding of the language.
What’s on the table
The program will select 15-20 startups in every batch. All the startups will receive $50,000 (each) from 500’s MENA-dedicated fund 500 Falcons. The four-month (sixteen-week to be precise) program will bring experts from 500’s global team of partners, mentors and entrepreneurs to work with the startups and help them accelerate their development through growth hacking, data driven sales techniques, and tailored advice. In addition to mentorship and investment, the startups will also receive assistance in incorporating their businesses in Saudi, if they wish to, and will have access to a space throughout the program. And most importantly, the participating startups will have access to 500’s wide network all across the world.
The statement or the website does not specify the amount of equity the program will take from startups but we’ve confirmed that that it’s not equity-free money.
What’s not covered
The program does not cover the accommodation but organizers could arrange for discounted apartments for participants, according to the FAQs on Misk 500 MENA’s website. The website or statement also does not contain any information about flights or visa, which suggest that they’ll also have to be taken care of by the participants themselves.
What’d they say
Sharif El-Badawi, Managing Partner of 500 Falcons, announcing the program, said, “Adding to our focus on investing and supporting great startups in the MENA region, this program aims to provide a nurturing environment for founders to learn world-class best practices and standards for starting and growing technology companies and needs-based innovation. We hope to accelerate innovation, facilitate job creation, improve cross-border operations and build local GDP across the region. To take these efforts to the next level, and provide founders with training and skills at scale, it was an obvious choice for us to develop a strong relationship with the talented team at Misk.”
For those of you who don’t know, Misk Innovation is an initiative of Misk Foundation, a non-profit philanthropic foundation established by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aiming to raise the level of training qualifications for youth and enable them to achieve the highest international standards for training in the areas of technology and innovation.
Deemah Al-Yahya, Executive Manager of Misk Innovation, commenting on the launch, said, “It was a natural choice to team up with 500 Startups who is a leader in building thriving ecosystems around the world alongside their presence in the MENA region as a top investor. We are committed to amplifying innovation and it is our goal to invest in our remarkable founders and provide them with all opportunities they need to strive in this fast-paced world.”
So, the applications are open until December 15th. The screening process and interviews will last until December 30th. And the program will commence from January 27th, to run until demo day on May 15th. The program is broken down into three modules with two-week breaks between them.
The founders are expected to fully participate in all aspects of the program, with a maximum of two team members allowed to take part at any given time.