Natasha Nel

editor @hackernoon

AstroLabs: Accelerating Tech Entrepreneurship in MENA

This post is part of the Hacker Noon Shareholder Series, where we interview some of the super-investors who made the site you're on right now possible.
AstroLabs is a co-working community and education network for tech companies serving startups in the Middle East & North African region. 
We chatted to founding partner (and Hacker Noon 2.0 investor) Louis Lebbos to learn more about how they’re helping entrepreneurs capitalize on opportunities in this fast emerging market. 

What role does AstroLabs play in the growth of the MENA region’s IT ecosystem?

AstroLabs’ mission is to support the development of the tech ecosystem in the MENA region. We do that by focusing on capability development across the whole spectrum. From the earliest stages with our co-working spaces and mentorship and learning programs to late stage scale-ups entering the region and finally our work with large organizations on upskilling, digital transformation and running their internal accelerators and incubators.

How is AstroLabs expanding global access to emerging markets and facilitating tech startups in such a fast-growing region?

One of the products we are most excited about to help more international tech companies access the markets in the region is our one-stop-shop style co-working solution. 
A company entering the region could set-up a small team at AstroLabs within a day, all team members would immediately have all the infrastructure they need to be productive and whenever needed the company is able to setup a local legal entity through our services as well in both the UAE in Dubai and in Saudi Arabia in Riyadh.
We just had our largest exit to date in Dubai this week with Uber’s acquisition of Careem. The Careem guys are amazing founders and friends and have both mentored at AstroLabs programs and are some of the most generous and dedicated founders of this ecosystem.
On a more macro level, tourism and hospitality is a very interesting sector for tech startups here, so are consumer-facing marketplaces and platforms with interesting content.
At the end of the day, even with a handful of exciting exits we are an early stage ecosystem and we still have a long way to go.

What is the relationship between AstroLabs and Google for Startups; how do you work together to promote industry growth in Dubai?

Google For Startups is an amazing organization and has been very supportive of our startup community. Here are just a few of the ways they help:
Access to Google products and expertise with local and remote mentorshipA Passport Program that allows the startups to work from 40+ partner tech hubs in the network across the globe.What is also useful is our direct connection to the leadership of the partner hubs and partnered orgs in the network that allows us to quickly iterate on our own products and services to the community.

Where do you think the biggest opportunities are for tech entrepreneurs and/or software developers in Dubai?

I think we just need more software developers in Dubai in general. Not a week passes where a growing startup isn’t asking us about recommendation for a good CTO, Tech Lead, head of product or similar roles. It’s a great place to live and I actually recommend people consider it.

What is the most common challenge currently faced by both tech entrepreneurs and/or software developers in Dubai?

I would say just like in the valley, this is an expensive place to live. So developers tend to be in jobs at all times and can’t really afford to be off from a paying job for too long to bake something. This in return hits entrepreneurs as you would have to poach your tech team from somewhere else or convince them to move to Dubai from abroad.

Do you have a message for Hacker Noon community members who live within or are visiting the MENA region?

To the whole Hacker Noon community in the MENA region or visiting, we would love to have you join us as speakers at one of our meetups or instructor in our Academy
And we obviously would love to have you join us as well — reference Hacker Noon and get a month off your annual membership!

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