Rabat - Wouldn’t the world be a happier place if all startup companies received funding? Wouldn’t Moroccan and African female-owned startups be able to make a difference if they had access to capital?
Rabat – Wouldn’t the world be a happier place if all startup companies received funding? Wouldn’t Moroccan and African female-owned startups be able to make a difference if they had access to capital?
Well, Gust, which is a global platform for startup capital, seems to have made the lives of millions around the world easier by helping investors and startups connect, from initial meetings to funding and monitoring progress thereafter. Morocco World News met Gust’s Lisa Balter Saacks, who is in charge of business development and global strategic partnership efforts. MWN sat down with her on the sidelines of GES 2014, held in Marrakech in November.
Lisa said that she was amazed by Moroccan female-owned startup companies, and that Gust can help them along, with other African women, by providing Gust profiles for free, so that they can get funding.
What is Gust all about?
Lisa Saacks: We are completely a global platform. We have headquarters in New York and London. We are in 80 countries in six languages, and we connect entrepreneurs and investors who use our platform to manage the collaboration process for investment deals. We have approximately 300,000 startups globally, to date.
Tell us about the Moroccan startups you met during GES 2014 in Marrakech.
Lisa Saacks: Many startups that I have seen were from women in particular. It’s been amazing. Also, the kind of unique businesses they have that actually are helping their own economies as well, and it is phenomenal. I spoke to some of the Moroccan startup owners, and I was absolutely amazed by the number of startups already active in the past three years.
We talked also about Moroccan and African women. We can help provide a free platform to every one of the startups in five cities in Morocco. We’d love to see every one of them on the platform.
How can we empower female entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, including Morocco, and how can we help them gain access to capital?
Lisa Saacks: The most impactful way to empower female entrepreneurs in the MENA region is to provide them with the resources and support they need to transform their ideas into thriving businesses. There are thousands of talented female entrepreneurs in the region that would benefit from mentorship, opportunities for collaboration, professional development programming, and, most importantly, access to funding.
Fortunately, the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Network, launched at the GES Summit, will provide a global online platform to connect science and technology entrepreneurs in the region and provide them with the resources they need to grow their businesses, including pathways to seek capital.
There are also new capital resources focused on startup investment in the region, such as the region’s first women angel investment group, womena.co. One of Europe’s major angel investment trade associations, eban.org, will soon launch an investment network focused on startup investment throughout the MENA region….stay tuned!
How can Gust help startups in Morocco and “early-stage investors”?
Lisa Saacks: Gust is the world’s largest online platform and community for entrepreneurs and early-stage investors to connect, collaborate, and manage all aspects of the investment relationship. We are thrilled to expand our presence in Morocco and to continue to connect investors with talented entrepreneurs around the world. In fact, through our partnership with GIST Net, startups can now create a profile using Gust and gain access to the thousands of accredited investors on our platform.
Can you provide more information on the role early-stage investing, venture capital, and angel-investors will play in shaping the future of startups?
Lisa Saacks: Whether it is early-stage investors or venture capitalists, investors will continue to play a vital role in the growth of entrepreneurship across a variety of industries. This is especially true in emerging economies, where the increased availability of funding for startups will spur dramatic economic growth.
Angel investors in particular are a great resource not only for capital, but for the valuable guidance, mentorship, and significant expertise many provide as former operators and c-level executives of their own successful companies.
Do you think Morocco can be the hub or the platform where your company can work throughout Africa?
Lisa Saacks: Since I had been in Marrakesh, I realized that it’s definitely something that we should start to consider, because our activity in Africa is mostly based in South Africa. I think this is in part due to the English language skills in the country But, I think we are moving forward with operations in Morocco, because it is strategically located as a connector to Europe, Africa, and America.
Also, I have noticed that all young people in Morocco are very proud of their language skills. Their English is excellent, French, of course, is given, and we can work on Arabic.
Do you mean that Gust is moving forward to open an office in Morocco?
Lisa Saacks: At the moment, our headquarters are based in New York. We just formally opened an office in London. I’d like to spend more time here [in Morocco], but I don’t think we have made any decision to open a new office yet, since we are just getting the London office off the ground.
What advice can you offer to our young entrepreneurs?
Lisa Saacks: I’d encourage young entrepreneurs to continue to pursue their dreams and take advantage of the many online resources available that help them through the process and allow them to apply directly to accelerator programs and business plan competitions that may be near their communities. In order to best prepare for these opportunities, I’d encourage anyone who is an entrepreneur or considering entering the startup world to tap into startup resources now available through the GIST Network. For the first time ever, entrepreneurs in Morocco and other countries have access to remarkable tools in one centralized platform, including peer-to-peer discussions on user-selected topics, live and on-demand programming, one-on-one mentorship, as well as funding. Entrepreneurs who use these resources will have a significant advantage and will be instrumental in growing their local economies.
Also, I’d advise entrepreneurs to get to know angel investors before beginning the capital-raising process. You may have opportunities to seek out connections with angel investors through business plan competitions and various startup organizations that angel investors participate in as mentors. Use this opportunity as a way to foster relationships as you develop your plan for raising capital.
Entrepreneurs should also continue to tap into the GIST Network to share their visions and even struggles with other entrepreneurs. One of the benefits of GIST is that it is a peer to peer network and it offers the opportunity to share ideas.
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