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Thursday, July 25, 2013

September Goal of Boot Camp in Gaza For Portland's Start Up Business Program

Nadene Goldfoot                                                               

Portland is the home of “The Rogue Venture Partners” which  is managed by one of two partners, Tom Sperry. Rogue is a private equity firm.  Sperry is also the CEO of “Exit Games Inc”, a venture capital backed technology company which works on video games industry.  They have offices not only in Portland but Hamburg, Germany.   They are funding another Portland venture, “Mercy Corps,”with cash  which is also out of Portland.  Mercy Corps opened Gaza Sky Geeks in March 2012 using money from a Google grant of $900,000 for investment in Gazan tech entrepreneurs.

According to this morning’s Oregonian, they are sowing seeds in the Middle East in Gaza by backing start up businesses.  They also offer mentorships with a “coterie of international players” which also include Google.  This was announced by “Gaza Sky Geeks” who plan to launch the area’s first startup accelerator.

Jordan’s “Oasis500" is also putting in cash, mentorship and is promising to co-host the first class of startups with Gaza Sky Geeks.  It’s great to see such interest in business when all that comes from Gaza since 2000 as far as Israel knows  has been mortars, missiles and rockets aimed into Southern Israel.

It’s taken 17 months to get the program going.  “The startups are planned to spend 4 months of tutoring in Gaza and Amman, Jordan where they’ll learn about product concepts, consumer reach and implementation.” The mentors of Oasis500 and GazaSkyGeeks plan to link them to investors for financial assistance.

John Ross is the MercyCorps’ director of a digital economy program for West Bank and Gaza.  He has recruited Tom Sperry who is the managing partner of Rogue Venture Partners.  It is Tom who has created the program’s agenda and has found investors in Cairo, Amman and Doha, Qatar.

Gaza’s inventors are focusing heavily on gaming and app development because living in Gaza makes online businesses suitable.  John Ross estimates that there are about 120 high-tech startups in Gaza.  Also in Gaza are 5 universities with technology and engineering subjects in a few of them that help to develop the skills needed. Applicants for their program has now started.  They expect about 100 applicants. 40 will be selected out of which about 12 will be picked.   In their “boot camp” at Gaza Sky Geeks in September.  Out of the 12, they plan on finding about 5 or 6 for the first class by September 29th.

 Ross blames the lack of exposure and opportunity  of starting up start-up businesses on the inability of  traveling beyond Gaza as a problem, not realizing perhaps why?  The fact of the matter is that Gaza had elected Hamas, a terrorist organization as their leadership and kicked out Abbas in doing so, who was relegated to the Judea/Samaria areas instead.  From then on, Gaza men  have been putting all their creative juices into bombing and attacking southern Israel.  There is no peace between Gaza and Israel yet.   While Israel went on to become the world’s 2nd largest start-up nation, Gaza has remained the attackers of Israel.
Since Mercy Corps has opened, they have given the Gaza tech scene some hackathons, events, workshops and high-speed Internet, computers, Androids and iPads.

 Then they realized they needed more and obtained Sperry,  whose job is to provide more money and mentorship.  Sperry has helped to frame the programming and offered advice in growth of businesses and how to select partnerships.  Sperry and Ross traveled for 10 days last July to Cairo, Doha and Amman where they met with investors and other techies about their idea of Gaza sky Geeks.  By the middle of July, Oasis500 committed to be the “accelerator’s partner.

“Now Sperry is trying to to get 1 or 2 of the startups to Portland and work with Upstart Labs.  Rogue Venture Partners is an investor in Portland-based accelerator. “   It sounds like these businesses will be operating from the web.

Resource: Oregonian newspaper, 7/25/13, page C1 Business Section:   Sowing seeds in the Middle East-“startups the world over possess much the same relentless DNA”.....

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