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Google Builds Tech Start-up Culture in Gaza

TechCrunch reports that Google is working in the Gaza Strip–a 6.8-mile-by-32-mile territory controlled by terrorists–to develop a local tech start-up culture in one of the world’s most challenging business environments.

Serial tech entrepreneur Lauren Peate, who advises Middle East startups on business acumen, reports that a year after the most recent war with Israel; Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG) has built a business accelerator to mentor aspiring entrepreneurs.

The population of Gaza subsists on six hours a day of electricity and Internet access; has 43 percent unemployment and 60 percent youth unemployment; and is subject to rigid trade restrictions due to fears that terror groups will import material for weapons and tunnels.

Peate joined GSG, which was launched by Mercy Corps in 2011 with a Google.org grant, to conduct two workshops to mentor tech startup teams. In March she conducted “pre-incubation bootcamp” and followed up with a pre-investment bootcamp in June.

Mercy Corps’ “mission is to save and improves lives in the world’s toughest places.” They report helping over 258 million people in 40 countries during times of poverty, conflict and disaster for the last 35 years.

Despite the presence of radical Islam, 41 percent of GSG’s would-be tech entrepreneur candidates are female.

(It seems that Google, who put up the cash, might learn something from the Palestinians–since Google’s workforce diversity is only 30% women.)

As a further layer of support for its female participants, TechCrunch reports, GSG also created an Intalqi (English for “Let’s start!”) all-female support group. These women, who include local female business owners as role models, make presentations on their own challenges in business and are available for one-on-one counseling. Peate says she has observed presentations on social-media marketing and social gardening startups.

GSG hopes to bring in international mentors from places like Silicon Valley, London, Copenhagen, Dubai and other major business communities.

Peate told TechCrunch that a few GSG initial start-ups that are already humming.

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