Analysis Entrepreneurs Innovation hub helps launch Palestinian startups in Gulf By Melissa Hancock August 8, 2023 Intersect Innovation Hub Intersect Innovation Hub supports Palestinian startups as they seek to expand in the Gulf region Intersect helps entrepreneurs grow in Gulf Dubai gives Palestinian companies opportunities Tech startups from Palestine will feature at Cop28 Startups in Palestine are increasingly expanding in the Gulf as a way of overcoming hurdles such as a lack of access to funding and support systems. Central to their strategy is the Intersect Innovation Hub, a business incubator that is helping to build bridges between Palestinian startups and the Gulf region. Rateb Rabi, CEO of Intersect Innovation Hub, told AGBI: “Our first partner in Dubai was the DIFC Innovation Hub, which has provided our startups with support navigating the establishment and registration processes.” Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy in May invited Intersect Innovation Hub to co-host the first UAE-Palestine business match-making event. 20 Mena innovators to watch Six ways to succeed as a startup founder Young Arabs want action on waste, lack of jobs and rising costs Palestinian startups interested in doing business with Emirati and multinational companies in Dubai were invited to submit an application to attend the event. “We received more than 100 applications,” said Rabi. “Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy worked with us to interview them, understand their services and then share it with their vendors.” Over 20 companies were then shortlisted to attend the event where 237 meetings were held – indicative of the level of interest in the burgeoning Palestinian startup scene. “Two of these companies are already registered and operating their business in Dubai,” said Rabi. “And there are another five that are planning to move there before the end of the year – they’re in touch with the authorities about getting all the proper approvals. And the authorities move extremely fast.” Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy has since invited the Hub to attend Gitex, the global tech show, in October. Intersect will also be attending Expand North Star, the world’s largest startup event, which attracts over 1,000 startups and will be held in Dubai in October. Last year, Rabi helped to coordinate the International Conference on Entrepreneurship – Palestine (ICEP). The two-day event was held at Dubai’s Museum of the Future and the DIFC Fintech Hive, where Palestinian startups showcased their businesses to an audience of more than 450 angel investors and venture capital firms. TawazonTawazon’s meditation app is said to aid happiness and creativity at work Palestine-founded startups have also been establishing a foothold in Abu Dhabi. These include real estate investing platform Mashvisor, which is incubated in Hub 71, Alma Health, a tech company that improves the wellbeing of patients with chronic illnesses, and Tawazon, an Arabic language mindfulness and meditation app. Intersect-affiliated startups will also be attending Abu Dhabi Finance Week in November, as well as the Cop28 summit in Dubai later this year. “We’re going to be partnering with Cop28 and so we’ll be taking technology startups that work on climate issues to the summit,” said Rabi. Saudi Arabia is also fast becoming a key market for expansion. Several Palestinian startups have expanded into the kingdom including Kenz, which sells lingerie online in both Saudi and Dubai, and Kenda AI, an AI educational platform that works to develop children’s skills. Kenda AI has secured investment from GAIA, the world’s first generative AI early-stage accelerator programme in the Mena region. “Saudi has been aggressive in terms of expansion and bringing talent to the kingdom,” said Feras Nasr, innovation manager of UK Palestinian Tech Hub, which is also helping to expand the footprint of Palestinian startups in the UK and further afield. WedeliverWedeliver is among the Palestinian startups that have raised funds from Saudi investors “WeDeliver is one example of a startup that has raised funds from different Saudi investors.” Founded in 2020, the B2B logistics and last-mile delivery company raised a pre-Series A round from BIM Ventures during the Leap 2023 conference, held in Saudi in February. WeDeliver plans to use the investment to expand its operations in the kingdom and develop specialised fintech solutions in the logistics sector. Another success story in Saudi is Palestine-founded Nabeeh, which provides cloud-based software products for tradesmen and handyman. “Palestinian startups have also been expanding into Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait,” added Nasr. “There’s a lot of opportunity for Palestine to grow and to expand in this space if done right. The ambition, raw talent and knowledge are there,” he said. “It’s just a matter of direction and we have lots of different programmes to connect them with the US, the Gulf and in my case, the UK.” Since its establishment in December 2021, the UK-Palestinian Tech Hub has taken three delegations to the UK. In June, it coordinated the attendance of 13 companies at London Tech Week, which led to seven deals being signed. Nasr said the approximate total sale volume from the seven deals amounted to about $200,000. The Hub will be bringing a fourth delegation to London next month to explore opportunities in the fintech sector.