By Elías Jabbe
The summer is usually considered a calm time in the Gulf countries, when business grinds to a halt and vacations are the focus.
Not at AstroLabs, the Dubai-based Google for Entrepreneurs hub which is home to a plethora of startups and offers digital training courses throughout the year.
Following the opening of its second space in the DMCC Free Zone in April, just steps away from its first space launched in October in Jumeirah Lakes Tower’s Cluster R, AstroLabs has expanded further into Saudi Arabia with its Forward KSA training initiative, onboarded new Dubai startups such as online hotel concierge platform Conciay.com in June 2018 and held a two-month Dubai Coding Bootcamp taught by the likes of Sahem CEO Hussam Mohsineh, IBM engineer Naiyarah Hussain and Ahmad Abugosh, who is director of marketing and learning programs at AstroLabs.
The latter recently took time to share details about the evolution of the AstroLabs training programs, including the twelfth cohort of the popular one-week AstroLabs Digital Marketing Track which takes place from August 31 to September 8 in Dubai and features his expertise on Google Analytics, AdWords, advertising on social media platforms and other technologies relevant to the modern marketing professional.
“Since 2015, we’ve grown quite a bit. Our initial pilot program was a program for startups looking to scale, aptly titled “Scaling Online Startups” (SOS). From that point we realized the hunger in the market for startup, tech and digital education, so we started expanding our offering. After our full-week intensive Digital Marketing track program launching on August 31, we are preparing for the launch of our online courses portal,” said Abugosh.
“As of today, we’ve ran over 600 free events and 120 workshops, with over 2000 alumni. So far, I’ve taught courses in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Madina, Doha and Beirut. I encourage anyone who is interested to reach out if they would like to get involved with any of our programs or have suggestions”
Into the Kingdom
One of the original locations for the aforementioned Scaling Online Startups training programs was Riyadh, which hosted, in August 2013, the fifth training workshop held by AstroLabs.
Fast forward five summers later: AstroLabs Founding Partner Muhammed Mekki, an Iraqi-American entrepreneur who previously co-founded Namshi.com in Dubai and hired Abugosh to handle its digital marketing, is spending more time in Riyadh these days while preparing for the launch of AstroLabs in Saudi Arabia.
“AstroLabs has trained hundreds of entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia over the last five years, and we have been planning for quite a while to open our next flagship coworking space there. Now that we have found a fantastic office location in vibrant north Riyadh and have set up the government partnerships enabling us to assist entrepreneurs with their company licensing in Saudi Arabia, we decided that the time is right to open a permanent space in Saudi Arabia. We are soft-launching AstroLabs Riyadh in late August for our early adopters and will be formally launching the space to the public later this year,” said Mekki.
“AstroLabs Riyadh is already taking applications for membership, and the space can be toured in person by setting up an appointment with our team. AstroLabs is the first foreign incubator licensed by the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority in KSA, and, as such, we are in a unique position to assist international companies to expand into Saudi Arabia on a 100 percent foreign-owned license.”
Mekki encouraged those interested in entering the Saudi market and becoming one of the first AstroLabs Riyadh members to reach out via email to email@example.com and to visit the AstroLabs website.
Following its track record of helping foreign startups such as Deliveroo launch in Dubai, the fourth quarter of 2018 looks to be a critical period when foreign companies can launch in Saudi Arabia through AstroLabs with “no minimum capital requirements and no local partner required,” according to Mekki.
He added that this type of license used to be only available to the largest global corporations before Saudi Arabia began selectively opening up foreign ownership of companies once they are approved by incubators such as AstroLabs KSA.