Startup culture is fraught with unhealthy working patterns, ruthless competitiveness, and a macho social scene. In the US, women-led startups received only 2.2% of funding, while women-led startups (with no male founders) received only 3.4% of funding in 2018.
Doing their part in bringing women-led startups to the forefront is Middle East-based media company, Womena, with its four-month tech-focused accelerator, Womentum.
Every round, eight early-stage startups are chosen and immersed in two different ecosystems: first in Berlin and then Dubai. The cohort is introduced to investors, provided mentorship and access to global markets to equip them with the tools necessary to continue growing following the program. In the words of the founder, Elissa Freiha, “Womena has built a program that we felt was lacking in the regional ecosystem focused on female-led startups.”
In addition to the accelerator, Womena films the entire process. “In Season 2, Womena will take an even deeper look at the founders and their businesses,” said Amira Salah-Ahmed, Womena’s Chief Media Officer. Ultimately, when it comes to these female-founded startups, we could all learn a thing or two from them.
Michella Aboujawdeh: Co-Founder & CEO of Digital Construction Toolbox
Co-founded by Aboujawdeh and Joe Harb (CTO), the Lebanese start-up Digital Construction Toolbox (DCT) aims to digitize the construction industry with its customizable product management tool.
The need came from recognizing the lack of real-time data in the construction industry, which often resulted in last-minute, ad-hoc changes as an impulsive response. DCT works to battle said impulsivity with its wicked AI tech to automate workflows.
Farah Emara: Co-Founder & CEO of FreshSource
FreshSource is disrupting the Egyptian horticulture agri-chain by connecting small farmers to logistics and distribution networks. The startup also aims to tackle food waste that can otherwise be mitigated by implementing the right food handling and storage practices.
Currently, the brother-and-sister duo, Farah (CEO) and Omar Emara (COO), is relying on an internal database and network to connect vendors with suppliers. With funding, however, they are hoping to build an accessible, digital database.
Doaa Aref & Rasha Rady: Co-Founders of Chefaa
Chefaa is an online marketplace for pharmaceutical products powered by AI technology. It allows consumers to easily access medication and schedule deliveries, as well as giving patients reminders of when to take their medication.
The inspiration for such a platform came after one of the co-founders, Aref, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and experienced a significant amount of difficulty in trying to remember which medication to take and when.
Sabrina Sadiq: Founder & CEO of Luxury Promise
Luxury Promise is an online marketplace for pre-loved luxury goods, powered by AI and visual recognition technology that can differentiate between counterfeit and genuine products.
Sadiq began her professional career as a lawyer and a casual collector of vintage, luxury handbags. Her passion for trade led her to study luxury authentication. Between herself and the wider Luxury Promise team has over fifteen years of collective experience in the luxury sector and luxury authentication between them, so you can trust that you and your luxury goods are in safe hands.
Nada Zaher: Founder & CEO of Pas-sport
Co-founded by Zaher, Youssef Hammoud (CTO), and Rami El-Erian (COO), Pas-sport connects Egyptian athletes with sports scholarships through a recruitment and matching process. The platform also offers support and guidance for athletes who may be afraid to go to university abroad, and for coaches who may need help on how to nurture and develop international students.
Zaher played tennis competitively, eventually securing a scholarship at Columbia University, and Hammoud was a diligent swimmer who found himself a place at Auburn University. Their collective experience of the difficulties that international athletes face in finding and securing scholarships led them to create Pas-sport.
Melda Akin: Co-Founder & CEO of Dimension 14
Dimension 14, founded in the UAE by Akin and Chris Wallace (CGO), uses AI and Machine Learning to manage complex, decision-making processes. The platform uses deep learning to truly get to know the inner workings of a business before making actionable suggestions.
It can help with scheduling, process optimization and consulting, and has been used in the healthcare, higher education, and mobility markets.
Akin coded her first line when she was only eleven years old, a passion which translated to her academics and career up until the present day. She currently runs mentoring initiatives with the United Nations and Google Women Techmakers.
Sabine de Maussion: Co-Founder & COO of MakerBrane
Co-founded by de Maussion and Ayssar Arida (CEO), MakerBrane offers a community for designers and digital architects all over the world, who both admire and feed off each others’ creative work. The platform is a virtual marketplace where toy creators can design, build and trade digital toys, with instructions that can then be replicated in real life – have a play on their website!
de Maussion has had an illustrious career, spanning the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. She holds Masters degrees from La Sorbonne and Paris Dauphine and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Goldsmith’s College alongside managing MakerBrane.
Ameni Mansouri: Co-Founder & CEO of Dabchy
Co-founded by Mansouri, Ghazi Ketata (Product Manager), and Oussama Mahjoub (CTO), Dabchy is a marketplace for pre-loved goods that stretches across Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. It is focused largely on the female consumer. They already have more than 250,000 users, who they adorably label Dabchouchas, and more than 100,000 items on sale spanning clothes, bags, and accessories.
The inspiration for the idea actually came from a Facebook page where women bought and sold clothes which founder Mansouri used to justify the need for a platform like Dabchy. She found that Facebook trading groups were not organized and formalized, so Dabchy stepped in to facilitate a quick and easy transaction of second-hand clothes.