Recently, 5 Syrian startups took the stage in Amsterdam at the SPARK Ignite Conference during the conclusion phase of a pitch competition Startup Roadshow to showcase their ideas. The competition was organised by Dutch NGO and accelerator SPARK, and Jusoor, an NGO created by a group of expatriate Syrians, along with Startup Without Borders, a platform which connects migrant and refugee entrepreneurs to business developers in order to scaleup their business.
Valentina Primo, founder and CEO at Startups Without Borders exclusively informed Silicon Canals, “It’s a platform for refugees and entrepreneurs. We keep talking about the startup ecosystem, the Dutch startup ecosystem, the Italian, the Egyptian startups, but we don’t have a startup ecosystem for people who have no hope for the refugees for the migrant. And, you know, talent has no nationality. So why are we limiting talent to the country where they’re from, right?”
“There were 700 applications to the roadshow, which makes us think that this is really scalable. There is so much more that we can do to help these companies become successful. That is going to be the next important step; because one thing is to start and to pitch, but becoming a business is very hard, even in the Netherlands, so I think we have to see how we can support this further,” said Yannick Du Pont, founder and director of SPARK.
These Syrian startups are based in Beirut, Erbil, Amman, Gaziantep and Istanbul. Started in September 2017, this roadshow toured the Middle East with a series of bootcamps held in five cities. All the startups were given a chance to pitch their idea at the conference in Amsterdam for a chance to win up to $8,000 (€ 7,090) cash prize.
Here are the 5 Syrian-led startups that took the global stage to pitch in their ideas.
Loop founded by Median Abd Albaki and Qusai Sakhr. It is a peer-to-peer platform to exchange and commercialise used toys in Lebanon. The idea behind this startup is that everyone has something to offer and they can instil the thought that children can give and receive from an early age.
Fadfed is a startup founded by Ibrahem Ahmed in Amman. It is a bot-powered for people to access life-coaching and mental healthcare services in the region. It is an electronic application creating safe spaces for people to express via a smart chatbot. The app also lets users to book an appointment with a psychologist or life couch.
Shiffer is a startup founded by Azhar Al Madani in Erbil. It is a peer-to-peer online logistics platform providing express shipping at reduced transit time and shipping cost. It provides solution for the Syrians and refugees to send and receive documents. It is in the beta stage now and will be made available in iOS soon. What they do is connect a sender to a passenger to send the shipment with them.
Founded by Saleem Najjar in Amman, Sharqi Shop is an e-commerce platform offering customers a one-stop online shop for handicrafts in Jordan. As of now, this platform features 400 items made by 40 artisans. And, the notable aspect is that the artisans are Syrian refugees and Jordanians. Sharqi won the audience award at the conference.
Uniqon is a startup founded by Mohanad Al-Helwany and Alaa Al-Nuaimi. It is an online marketplace for animated icons.
Finally, the challenge was won by Shiffer at the first place and Fadfed took the second position. Meanwhile, Sharqi won the audience award of €3000 cash prize. From AgriTech startups, to peer-to-peer shipping apps, anti-theft devices, and e-commerce platforms, these winning entrepreneurs span a wide range of industries, showcasing the immerse innovative potential of newcomer entrepreneurs in their host countries.
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