By Camille Dupire Jordan Times, Amman
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Female entrepreneurs in the middle east are receiving some much-needed support from "Womena's Womentum Accelerator."
After a 2017 research study revealed that all-women entrepreneurial teams captured only 2 percent of investments by venture capitalists, a regional network is supporting Arab female entrepreneurs to accelerate their tech startups across the Middle East and North Africa.
Founded in 2014 to encouraging gender diversity and inclusion in the regional entrepreneurship ecosystem, "Womena" has built an award-winning Angel Investment group which already facilitated over 3 million AED ($817,000) in funding into 10 companies.
Romouz Sadeq, a young Jordanian entrepreneur, is one of these female leaders who benefitted from Womena's womentum accelerator over the past four months.
On Thursday, she presented her innovative beauty delivery startup Mrayti to the regional ecosystem, as part of womena's inaugural Demo Day, which honored seven other women entrepreneurs from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.
"I've been fortunate enough to be part of this program among brilliant startups from all over the Arab world. I really feel privileged to have gone through this program, which enabled me to become a better CEO," Sadeq told The Jordan Times after the event.
She acknowledged her initial skepticism "with so many failed accelerator program that left us with empty promises and unfulfilled potential". "It was hard to imagine that an accelerator program in its first rotation would deliver such value and be so well-planned," she commented.
Mrayti, which was founded in 2017, delivers trusted, convenient and affordable beauty services by connecting independent stylists with customers looking for on-demand services," according to Sadeq, who said that her innovative startup has helped support over 20 women across Jordan, "who could not adapt to the rigid concept of a 9 to 5 job".
"We are proud to showcase our first cohort of startups, who have made leaps and bounds since the start of the program," said Elissa Freiha, founder of womena, adding "we've seen these companies and their founders grow exponentially. They've taken risks, they've pivoted, they've signed on their first clients -- the progress has been stupendous and is a sign that this type of programme is much needed."
According to womena representatives, only 14 percent of entrepreneurs in the MENA region are female, despite a number of researches showing that women company leaders have a higher rate of job creation, generate double the money than men-led companies and display a twice higher chance of succeeding.
"Building a diverse ecosystem is a challenge for startup communities globally. With womentum, we are demonstrating that MENA's female-led startups are driving innovation regionally and building fast-growing technology ventures capable of bringing value to both clients and investors," said Christina Andreassen, womentum's programme manager.
Kicked off in July of this year, womentum followed a blended model designed to immerse early-stage startups in Berlin's innovative ecosystem with the help of Impact Hub Berlin, before connecting them to investors, mentors and regional markets in partnership with in5 Dubai, a statement by womena sent to The Jordan Times said.
"Womena has built a program that we felt was lacking in the regional ecosystem, one that solves issues we, as local entrepreneurs and investors, have faced ourselves," Freiha said, noting that the entire womentum journey and the founders' experiences have been documented for a web series that will provide a "behind-the-scenes" portrayal of the emerging startups' quest to build a stronger company.
Mrayti was chosen out of 174 applications from female founders of 34 nationalities from across the region, covering a range of 15 different industries, the statement said.
"Womena's mission is to promote gender diversity and inclusion. We have chosen to focus on the entrepreneurial space as we believe that the next wave of innovation will come from emerging market entrepreneurs -- the women of these markets are pivotal in this journey," Freiha concluded.
In addition to its womentum accelerator and education programmes, womena also counts the "MENA Bossladies community", the largest network of female entrepreneurs and investors in the Middle East, according to the statement.