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| 12 July, 2018

Bahrain keen to improve start-up ecosystem, says accelerator community manager

Flat6Labs regional accelerator has opened in Bahrain earlier this year

Image used for illustrative purpose.
Bahrain waterfront skyline at the time of sunset.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Bahrain waterfront skyline at the time of sunset.

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The Bahraini government is working to enhance the ecosystem for start-ups in the kingdom to encourage more entrepreneurs to register their companies in the country to support its economic growth, a Bahrain-based official in the new Flat6Labs start-up accelerator in Bahrain said.

“I think they (government economic entities) believe that this is one of the best ways to grow the country economically and also increase jobs and start giving the young Bahrainis an opportunity that they did not used to have,”  Saleh Abbas, the community manager of Flat6Labs in Bahrain told Zawya in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Bahrain’s finances were hit hard by the sharp drop in oil prices in 2014. Last month, Bahrain’s dinar fell to a 17-year low against the U.S. dollar, according to Reuters, and the country’s official statistics agency said on Wednesday that its GDP shrank by 1.2 percent in the first quarter of this year as oil production waned.

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Flat6Labs in Bahrian is funded by the Bahraini government’s Tamkeen fund, which is aimed at developing the Kingdom’s private sector. The initiative is part of the regional Flat6Labs start-up accelerator programme that was launched in Cairo in 2011. Flat6Labs later opened branches in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Lebanon, Tunisia and this year in Bahrain.

According to Abbas, the accelerator offers two rounds of entrepreneurship investments per year for six to ten companies. Each company receives $32,000 and mentoring in exchange for an equity share of five to 10 percent.

Flat6Labs Bahrian has announced a new workspace on the 15th floor of the National Bank of Bahrain that “will serve as both a workspace to Flat6Lab’s entrepreneurs, as well as a hub for Bahrain’s startup ecosystem,” according to a statement sent by the accelerator to the media on Tuesday night.

Flat6Labs has begun its first accelerator round, featuring eight start-ups. The start-ups are expected to present their ideas in front of investors and representatives from the media in October. The names and more details about the eight start-ups selected for the first phase will be released afterwards.  Applications for the accelerator’s second round programme have opened and will close next month.

Abbas said the Bahrain government, through the Bahrain Economic Development Board, has an initiative called Startup Bahrain, which works on “unifying and growing the startup ecosystem and gives all stakeholders in the ecosystem a voice”.  He said the body has held several meetings both with the entrepreneurs and the accelerator.

(Reporting by Yasmine Saleh; Editing by Michael Fahy)

(yasmine.saleh@thomsonreuters.com)

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© ZAWYA 2018