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Mercy Corps, Startup Weekend partner to boost tech entrepreneurship in Middle East

May 11, 2012

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Molly Young

The Oregonian
May, 2012

A mobile prescription reminder app launched in the Gaza Strip landed a backer in Mercy Corps, which believes the tech startup and others like it could spark entrepreneurship in the Middle East.

The Portland-based nonprofit has long supported economic development throughout the globe. But a partnership announced today with Seattle-based Startup Weekend will root its focus on the tech sphere, an arena it first entered about two years ago.

The weekends are essentially crash courses in creating a business. Teams form around the most popular ideas, then build on them, culminating with a presentation before a panel of judges. A recent Startup Weekend in Portland attracted more than 135 people.

Worldwide Startup Weekend events push could-be entrepreneurs to turn ideas into ventures in three days. Many create apps, websites and other online technologies. Those companies could act as a "game changer" for developing economies, said Andy Dwonch, Mercy Corp's senior director of social innovations.

Even as Internet accessibility grows, Arabic language content and location-based platforms remain sparse, he said. "We see a gap there to help drive economic development and entrepreneurship for young people."