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Google Ties Up with AstroLabs to Create Tech Hub in Dubai

Last year, coworking spaces became all the rage in Dubai as entrepreneurs sought a place to get together and build nascent startups. Now, Google Inc. has also got in on the act.

The tech giant has teamed up with the cofounders of online shopping website Namshi to create a “Google for Entrepreneurs” Tech Hub in Dubai. The space will open in 2015 and be run by AstroLabs, an organization that helps entrepreneurs in the Middle East and was created by entrepreneurs Louis Lebbos and Muhammed Mekki after they left Namshi in 2013.

AstroLabs hopes to create a premier startup hub with easy access to emerging markets.
AstroLabs website

Accelerators, incubators and coworking spaces have regularly launched in Dubai in the past 18 months, so it was about time Google dipped its toe.

Google For Entrepreneurs is a program to help foster startups around the world. The tech company ties up with local entrepreneurs and individuals to create community workshops, speeches and events to help create a startup ecosystem in a particular city or country. In some places, the tech company goes even further and helps set up a campus of entrepreneurship.

The AstroLabs Dubai hub will house an “advanced mobile device development lab” that will be co-designed by Google, so startups can create apps for the Gulf region, which has a very high penetration of smartphones. The hub will have a café and working space and will be based in one of Dubai’s “free zones” so that startups working there can fully own their businesses.

AstroLabs says in the past year it has helped train 100 startups in cities across the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, while alumni of the program have raised over $20 million in funding. So they are off to a pretty good start.

But compared to global tech hubs like Silicon Valley, London, Tel Aviv or Berlin, Dubai’s community is still relatively new.

There are a handful of tech and ecommerce businesses that have reached significant scale in the Middle East, such as Amazon-like website Souq.com and Namshi, which is backed by Rocket Internet.

With a young-tech savvy population and about a third of the world’s population within four hours flying time of Dubai, AstroLabs hopes it can help build a premier tech hub with easy access to emerging markets.

“We see enormous potential for them to help startups across MENA take their ideas to the global stage,” Bridgette Beam, senior manager at Google for Entrepreneurs, added in a statement.

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(via WSJ Blogs)