Crowdfunding Gaza

Around 70 percent of Gaza’s youth population is unemployed, according to a September 2014 Oxfam report. Despite the fact that little of the pledged $5.4 billion in reconstruction aid from international donors has made it to Gaza (see Doc. A1 and “War Punishes Gaza” in Selections from the Press in Journal of Palestine Studies 175), some young entrepreneurs managed to crowdfund two innovative projects, Gaza Sky Geeks and We Are Not Numbers, which both exceeded their goals by large margins.

Gaza Sky Geeks, the territory’s only startup accelerator, selects talented startup teams, provides them with coworking spaces, prepares them for investment pitches, and connects them to international investors. The organization was founded three years ago through a $900,000 Google.org grant to Mercy Corps, a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization whose projects in Gaza center on emergency response, youth, and economic opportunity. Since then, the group has sparked a startup movement, hosting its largest Startup Weekend in June 2014. From an initial pool of 600 applicants, the organization was able to accommodate 150 individuals, half of them young women.

In November, Gaza Sky Geeks launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $70,000 to keep its high-rise workspace in Gaza City. After quickly meeting that goal, and extending the campaign for another month to raise an additional $250,000 to cover 2015 operating costs, the group was able to obtain $267,000.

The other project, We Are Not Numbers, enables Gazans to share their stories with the English speaking world by pairing young writers with distinguished writing mentors to coach them and showcase their work. Mentors include prominent Palestinian American writers and journalists, such as Ali Abunimah, Susan Abulhawa, Ramzy Baroud, and Laila El-Haddad. English-language teachers have also been recruited to workshop with writers who are not completely fluent. Since launching on 25 January, the project’s Indiegogo campaign has raised over $8,200.