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Supporting innovation in Tunisia: Enda inter-arabe are launching Startup Studio, an incubator for early-stage startups

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Enda inter-arabe, with support from its partners, is launching Startup Studio to help foster innovation in Tunisia and support early-stage startups with great potential.

In its inaugural year, Startup Studio will focus on Fairtrade agri-business startups that cover the whole value chain from crops and raw materials to processing and selling finished products. YBI has been involved as a technical partner, providing support on innovation techniques, tools and processes, and soft-skills training.

Sohayeb Belghith, the manager of the project, says "Our ambition through Enda Startup Studio is to support young entrepreneurs leverage the power of innovation to help tackle specific pressing social and environmental challenges." 

Startup Studio combines pre-incubation with incubation to address a current lack of support for early-stage entrepreneurs

From a large pool of applicants, a cohort of up to 16 startups will be selected to join the Startup Studio incubation programme. Over a period of 3-4 months, startups will work on a daily basis with experts of Enda inter-arabe along with key partners to hone their business models and to develop their business plans, products, marketing strategies and end up with a minimum viable product to be in a position to secure seed investment and be ready to go to market.

Startups that progress to the latter stages will participate in a public pitching day. During this event, startups will compete to win an equity investment up to 350k TND ($120k) per startup, with Souk El Kahina providing the investment funds for this year. Key partners, the government, and other relevant entrepreneurial ecosystem players, along with the media, will be invited to this event. The startups that receive the investment will benefit from continuous support, on a daily basis, from the Startup Studio team over a period of 3-4 months. All startups will be provided with the necessary support to help them navigate the complexities of starting their own businesses from scratch. Below is an overview of the “Startup Studio” incubator programme:

Young Tunisians are facing tough employment prospects

Young people in Tunisia are facing difficult and uncertain times when it comes to their economic prospects. Youth unemployment is an increasing issue as younger people face fewer job opportunities driven by a combination of a contracting public sector, and a still relatively nascent and struggling private sector. A recent Word Bank Group report shows youth unemployment at 34%, with university graduates also feeling the pressure with 28% of graduates currently unemployed as the economy struggles to create enough jobs.

Entrepreneurship is a key engine for job creation

To promote and support innovative entrepreneurship in Tunisia, the government passed a “Startup Act”. Among the most notable measures introduced by the law are tax exemptions for startups for up to eight years, and giving public and private sector employees one year to set up a new business after which they have the right to return to their old jobs, and a state-funded salary for up to three founders per company during the first year of operations. They all aim to encourage young people with limited financial resources to become entrepreneurs. Although entrepreneurship support is increasing, there are significant gaps with disadvantaged communities being frequently overlooked in favour of organisations and individuals with higher-levels of education, resources, support networks. Early stage entrepreneurs are also finding it particularly tough as there is less support available to them.

Startup Studio will fill a vital gap in the current Tunisian entrepreneurial ecosystem

The entrepreneurial ecosystem in Tunisia is lacking incubation programmes that could offer vital support for young entrepreneurs and their early-stage startups. Young entrepreneurs require a combination of advice and guidance along with funding to develop new products and services that can effectively compete in increasingly more complex local and global markets. Looking at the current entrepreneurship ecosystem in Tunisia, it is increasingly clear that many young people with brilliant ideas, are stuck between the phases of ideation and acceleration. This is the reason why the need for more incubation support is becoming more and more critical in the Tunisian ecosystem. Currently, there are not enough incubation programmes that can absorb the growing number of aspiring entrepreneurs which can prepare them to go to the acceleration process which is why Startup Studio will address a vital gap at such a critical time.

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