Wamda X, the idea-stage grant-based fellowship program launched by Wamda last year is now accepting applications for its second cohort. The four-month program for entrepreneurs in the Middle East & North Africa has increased the grant size to $30,000 (was previously $16,000 for solo founders and $25,000 for teams) but is now looking for teams instead of individuals. The grant will convert into 5 percent equity if a business is formed within twelve months of graduating from the program.
“We will primarily be looking at teams as we also acknowledge that finding a cofounder is a very personal feat and can be time-consuming. In our first cohort, the fellows that were able to make the most of the program and accelerate using its facilities were those with a co-founder or a team,” Wamda Capital’s Investment Principal Sarah Abu Risheh who is now leading Wamda X said, speaking to MENAbytes.
Wamda has also made some structural changes in the program that also offers space, perks, and access to Wamda’s network. It is now divided into three stages; X Start for preliminary activity, X Solve which is the three-month program for founders to build and grow their business, and X Scale which Wamda says is the extension of a regular demo day featuring week-long pitch sessions, meetings with corporates, investors and advisors.
“We see that individuals [in MENA] are increasingly looking to leave their jobs and launch their own venture, but there is a growing mismatch between these aspiring founders and the number of investors willing to support them. The funding gap faced by early-stage or idea stage investments is growing larger. We have built the Wamda X to bridge that gap and support pre-seed entrepreneurs,” explained Sarah in a statement.
The grant provided by Wamda X is mainly divided into two parts. The applicants that are selected for X Start (a month-long stage that’s focused on preliminary activity) will receive $3,000 (which is too little for a team of even two co-founders to live in Dubai for a month) and then both Wamda and founders will decide if they wish to continue to the next stage (X Solve). During X Solve that will run for three months, Wamda will provide the founders with $9,000 every month and both the founders and Wamda will have the chance to reevaluate their relationship at the end of every month.
The program that heavily relies on mentorship has added many new mentors, including Kitopi’s Mohammad Ballout, Clara’s Patrick Rogers, Careem’s Bassel Al-Nahlaoui, for its second cohort.
Some of Wamda’s most engaged mentors (from the first cohort) will now also be taking part in the selection process of startups and entrepreneurs for the second cohort.
Wamda X’s team sharing the details about their first cohort told us that they had received 600 applications, 60 of which were selected for phone interviews. Only 27 made it to in-person interviews in Dubai, eight of which were accepted for the program.
And only two startups graduated from the program; SafarPass, a SaaS platform for business travel and expense automation, and Caravan, an aggregator that connects employees with private buses for their daily commute. Caravan later also raised an undisclosed amount of funding from newly launched Dubai-based Falcon Network.
Applications for the second cohort
The deadline for submitting applications for the second cohort is October 27. Wamda is already reviewing and will continue to do so on a rolling basis throughout this month. The shortlisted applicants will be contacted in the second half of October to schedule a phone interview. Wamda will then conduct in-person interviews (with the ones they pick after phone interviews) six weeks before start of the program. The program will start in January with X Start in Dubai.
Update – Oct 21, 2019 – 12 PM GMT – The article was updated with the new deadline (extended by Wamda).