Our Story

The First Startup Accelerator in Gaza

GSG was launched with the recognition that consistent access to high-speed fiber internet could allow Gaza’s highly educated youth to side-step many of the current restrictions on the movement of people and goods that hamper the Gazan economy.

Founded in 2011 in partnership with Google and the international NGO Mercy Corps, we began by holding the first Startup Weekends in Gaza and expanding education about tech entrepreneurship. In 2014, we began working with individual startup founders to grow their businesses outside of Gaza and to develop our own incubation curriculum. In 2014 and 2015, we facilitated the first venture investments into Gazan startups.

Today, GSG is the leading co-working space, startup accelerator, and technology education hub in Gaza. We bring together online freelancers, outsourcers, and startup founders together under one roof to share ideas, learn, innovate, code, and geek out!

Core Team

Ryan Sturgill

GSG Director

He comes to GSG building on a career in investment facilitation and international social entrepreneurship, particularly across emerging markets. Previously, he helped establish a startup incubator in Afghanistan with support from Google, and has advised small business on operations and financial strategy in Palestine, the UAE, Iraq, and Pakistan. He has analyzed, structured, and managed investments for the The Abraaj Group, a leading growth markets private equity firm based in Dubai, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a major lender to small businesses around the globe. He began his career in J.P. Morgan’s healthcare, consumer, and retail investment banking group in New York. Ryan holds a bachelor’s in Middle East studies from Georgetown, where we wrote his thesis on Palestine. He also holds an MBA from MIT, and an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School. He is an avid runner and enjoys snowboarding and scuba diving every chance he gets.

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Said Hassan

Outreach & Acceleration Manager

He began as a junior marketing consultant at Sadaf Technology Development in Gaza, one of the fastest growing tech startups in the Arab world according to the Arab Net-KSA. Later, he worked for Souq.com, the largest e-commerce platform in the MENA region and the best IT company according to Gulf Business Awards in 2013. He began as an online marketing officer at Souq.com, was promoted to online marketing manager, and then to marketing manager. Said is an award-winning graphic designer and winner of the best Facebook marketing awards in 2013 by the Pan Arab Web Awards. He holds a BBA and is a candidate for an MBA in marketing from the Arab Academy for Science, Technology, and Maritime Transport.

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Dalia Shurrab

Social Media Coordinator

Dalia used to be a teacher, trainer, educational researcher and manager. Her first introduction to startups was when she worked with Wasselni, one of Gaza’s first funded startups, as a social media marketer. Dalia quickly fell in love with the spirit of entrepreneurism. She first joined GSG as a volunteer social media member. She graduated from the Islamic University of Gaza with a BS in Physics. She has also obtained an Education Diploma and a Media Diploma, and taken courses in Business Administration. She was chosen to represent Palestinian entrepreneurs at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya.

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Moamin Salamah Abu Ewaida

Operations & Logistics Coordinator

A wizard at running major events, Moamin has executed GSG’s Startup Weekends, Meet the Gazans, and Gaza Challenge Bootcamp.He has more than six years of experience in the construction field in Dubai. For three years, he was a telecommunication infrastructure engineer for DU telecommunication – one of the top telecoms in the Gulf. Later, he was an electrical engineer for Al Hashimi Consultation Company.Moamin is also a passionate social entrepreneur. In the summer of 2014 during the Gaza-Israeli conflict, he ran a grassroots initiative to help internally displaced people from the east and north of Gaza. He provided 2000+ refugees with critical resources such as food, water and mattresses for 45 days after crowdfunding support from around the world.

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Rana Alqrenawi

Women's Inclusivity Programs Fellow

Rana manages programs, events, and workshops for women. She lead the first female coding club in Gaza and was one of the top entrepreneurs chosen for international training at Klarna in Sweden. She graduated with a Bachelors degree in Computer Engineering from IUG and soon after founded Genius Soft, a startup which produces software products for local and international organizations using new technologies and techniques. She currently works as a product manager for ExaServe's WeTamam project. Previously, she was a product manager leading the first pilot team for Microsoft in Gaza. She has also worked as a System Engineers and Project Coordinator Assistant at the Business and Technology Incubator at the Islamic University of Gaza. She also worked as an ASP.net C# developer team lead at Raz Group Holding in Saudi Arabia to build an online sports network, Octboot.com. She has also worked as a project associate for UNRWA's ERP project under the Gaza Gate Way Company. Rana is currently studying for an MBA at IUG. In her free time, she likes to write and read novels whilst listening to relaxing music.

Abdullah Abunada

CTO in Residence

In 2012, Abdullah graduated as a software engineer from the University of Palestine; but its since 2009 that he was interested in tech startups. Since then, he has joined several startups as a CTO and worked as a freelance web developer. He was a team member with one of the first startups in Gaza to receive investment (DWBI). He participated in all five Startup Weekend events in Gaza and received several individual honors there, four as a participant and one as a mentor.

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Hani Mortaja

Logistics & Space Fellow

As one of the main leaders of the Microsoft Student Partners (MSP) group in Gaza, a college club that trains university students in Microsoft and other technologies, Hani led MSP’s “Hour of Code” campaign in Gaza in 2014. Hani has participated in various conferences in Gaza and organized many events, including Gaza's first hologram event. He was one of the main logistics leaders at Startup Weekend 4 and 5, and GSG’s Gaza Challenge Bootcamp in 2015. In addition to being a techie and a logistics superstar, Hani is an amateur photographer whose photos have been used by CNN and other news channels. Hani is a 4th year IT student at Islamic University in Gaza (IUG).

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Ismail Aziz

Logistics Coordinator

Ismail is a young entrepreneur from Gaza, a computer science student at the Islamic University of Gaza, and part of GSG's logistics team. His best buddy is his favorite instrument, the violin, which he has been playing for the past 2 years. He is passionate about voluntary and charity work and spent most of his school and university life supporting such initiatives. He's also interested in debates and helped in founding and running many big events in Gaza.

Heba Alhayek

Mentorship Program Coordinator and Content Creator

Along with her responsibilities at GSG, Heba is the Regional Coordinator & Startup group Chair for the American-Middle East Network for Dialogue at Stanford University. She has developed a huge passion towards community development through working and volunteering in many different organisations and initiatives; including co-founding the first debate and dialogue club in Gaza three years ago. She is also volunteering as a mentor and soft skills trainer at Technovation Global Challenge and BanaTech program in Palestine. Both are technology entrepreneurship programs that offer girls between the ages of 10 to 18 the opportunity to learn the necessary skills to become tech entrepreneurs and leaders.

Remote Staff

Fanny Hattery

Mentor Program Manager

She worked as an operational consultant for the demobilization and reintegration of armed groups in Burundi, where she spent a good chunk of time in 2009-2010. She then fell in love with startups working for a mentoring startup in Washington, DC, before settling back into her native country of France. She has also consulted for international development projects and grown another startup’s customer experience operations. She holds an M.A. in Conflict Analysis and Peacebuilding from Sciences Po. In her free time, she enjoys taking half showers and stepping on her sons’ legos in the middle of the night.

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Ahmed Saleh

Mentor Program Associate

His career spans the private and non-governmental sectors in the UK, Palestine and the USA. Ahmed holds an MSc in Finance and Accounting from the London School of Economics and a BSc in accounting from the Islamic University of Gaza. He was an exchange business student to the State University of New York at Cobleskill during college. He invests his free time in networking and learning about entrepreneurship.

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Zahra Shah

Community Engagement Manager

With a varied background, she comes equipped with four years of editorial, marketing, and communications experience working in startups based in London and Amsterdam, including Groupon, the world’s fastest growing company. She has also worked for the Gender Unit at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Amman, and the Government and Political Affairs Branch at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague. Zahra holds a Bachelors with Honours degree from Goldsmiths College, University of London in English and Drama, and a Cum Laude Master’s in International Relations from Leiden University. She speaks over 4 languages and has an obsession with humanitarianism and the theater. She once took part in a pantomime at London’s West End as a tree. She was the best tree there ever was.

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Board of Advisors

Fadi Ghandour

Founder and Vice Chairman of Aramex, Executive Chairman of Wamda Ventures, Managing Partner of MENA Venture Investments

Fadi is also a board member of Abraaj Capital and Endeavor Global, along with being a member of the Advisory Council of the MIT Media Lab and Member of the Board of Trustees at the American University of Beirut (AUB). He is also one of the founding investors of Maktoob.com which was sold to Yahoo in 2009.He is the Founder and Chairman of Ruwwad for Development, and Chairman of Ruwwad Micro-Venture Fund, an equity-based fund providing seed capital and support for microbusinesses and micro-entrepreneurs.

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Kamel Husseini

Managing Director of The Portland Trust infounder of Ellam Tam

Mr Husseini served as Ellam Tam’s Managing Director from 2000 to 2006 and as its Managing Partner from 2010 until July 2013. He was seconded from the company in April 2006 to act as CEO for the first Palestine Investment Conference to be held in Bethlehem. After the conference he served for four years as Vice President of Corporate, Investors and International Affairs for the Paltel Group where he oversaw the company’s Social Investment and Sustainability strategies.Prior to establishing Ellam Tam, he had six years of experience working in international fundraising, project development, international relations, public affairs and investment promotion. From 1991 to 1998 he was Head of International Relations and Private Sector Development at Orient House, the headquarters of the Palestinian team working on the Middle East Peace Process. In this role, he helped develop systems for protocol, diplomacy and international relations to serve2 the Palestinian negotiating team in Washington D.C. and Madrid.He also coordinated the relationship of the private sector with the World Economic Forum in Geneva from 1994 onwards. Mr Husseini later served as an Economic Financial consultant for three years with Arthur Andersen, working on a dedicated basis as Business Advisor for the Bethlehem 2000 Project (1998-2000), during which he conducted road shows in the US and Latin America. Mr Husseini attended the Global Leadership Executive education programme at Harvard Kennedy School (Boston) in 2011 and the Lee Quan Yu School of Public Policy (Singapore) in 2012. He holds a B.A./B.S. in Finance and International Relations and an MBA in International Business from the American University (Washington D.C.).

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Badr Jafar

Chief Executive, Crescent Enterprises President, Crescent Petroleum

As Managing Director of the Crescent Group, which has been headquartered in the United Arab Emirates since 1972, Badr is active in a variety of other industries including ports and logistics, serving as Chair of the Executive Board of Gulftainer (the world’s largest private container port operator). He plays an active role in private equity initiatives, serving as a member of the boards of The Abraaj Group (UAE) and GrowthGate Capital (Bahrain). Badr founded the Pearl Initiative, a non-profit venture in cooperation with the United Nations Office for Partnerships to promote a corporate culture of transparency and accountability across the Gulf Region. He has also been appointed as a member of the United Nations Secretary General’s High- Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing to address and examine the growing humanitarian finance crisis. Through his passion for social entrepreneurship, he sits on the Global Board of Education for Employment (EFE) and as a member of the Synergos Arab World Social Innovators (AWSI) Program Board of Governors. He is also a Founding Board Member of Endeavor UAE, an initiative encouraging high-impact entrepreneurship. Badr is active with higher education institutions, chairing the Alumni Advisory Council of the Cambridge University Judge Business School and serving as Board Member of their International Advisory Board. He is also a member of the Business Advisory Council of the American University of Sharjah. Badr is an active member of the Young Presidents’ Organisation, serving as Ex-Officio Chair of the YPO Emirates Chapter. Badr was honoured as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2011 and is Co-chair of their Family Business Community and a Global Agenda Trustee for Economic Growth and Social Inclusion.

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Gisel Kordestani

Co-Founder and COO of Crowdpac

She is co-founder and COO of Crowdpac, a new political marketplace, using data science to make politics more accessible and politicians more accountable. She is also an advisor to a venture capital fund (Singularity Holdings), executive producer of a documentary about Gaza Life Under Siege, and serves on the board of 2 nonprofit organizations: MercyCorps and the Foundation for Human Rights, Democracy, and Development. After over 8 years, Gisel left Google in where she led New Business Development teams across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia with a focus on social, new advertising, and web platforms globally. She joined Google in 2003, and played an early role in developing the company’s global financial and commercial systems, strategies and partnerships. She also engaged Google in developing the Palestinian IT sector about which she gave a TEDx talk on how technology has changed social movements.Prior to Google, Gisel worked in business development for Sony Pictures and for Brandfever.com, an e-commerce startup. She also spent several years as a management consultant, with financial services clients across Latin America, the US and Europe. Gisel holds a BA in international affairs from the American University in Paris and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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Chris Schroeder

Entrepreneur, Advisor, and Investor

Named as one of LinkedIn’s first 50 Influencers, Christopher is an American entrepreneur, advisor and investor in interactive technologies and social communications. He has written the first look at startups in the Arab World, “Startup Rising — The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East”. Schroeder was the CEO and Publisher of washingtonpost.newsweek interactive and co-founder of the Silicon Valley startup HealthCentral.com, sold in 2012. He is an investor in Vox Media, Skift, Quibb, iBotta, Zignal labs among others, and in leading Silicon Valley venture capital funds.Schroeder graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard College and later graduated with Honors from Harvard Business School. He has also worked in finance and private equity. He serves on the board of advisers of the American University of Cairo School of Business, American University School of International Service, Oasis500, and the American Council on Germany.He is on the Investment Committee of The Wamda Fund, one of the largest venture capital funds in the Middle East. He has written extensively on startups and innovation and emerging growth markets and the Middle East for The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Fast Company, TechCrunch, Pando Daily, Business Insider among many others, and has been featured on Charlie Rose and Fareed Zakaria’s 360.

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Iliana Montauk

Chairwoman of the Board of Advisers

Iliana is the co-founder and prior director of Gaza Sky Geeks. She is now the chair of the board of advisers. Before arriving to GSG, Iliana helped launch Wamda’s Research Lab. She has previously worked at Google, Monitor Group (now part of Deloitte Consulting), a startup that failed, and a microfinance nonprofit. She graduated from Harvard in 2006. She claims to speak five languages (including Arabic), but when she is exhausted after a busy week at work, she sometimes isn’t sure she speaks any.

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Abbas “Eddy” Zuaiter

Co-Founder and Managing Member of Zuaiter Capital Holdings

He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Adecoagro, a Member of the Board of Directors of the Arab Bank and a Member of the Board of Directors of Capital Holdings Funds.He co-founded ZCH after he retired from Soros Fund Management in early 2013. During his tenure of over a decade at SFM, he was Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer. He was a member of the SFM’s Executive, Investment, Management, Capital Allocation and Risk Committees, and continues to serve as an advisor to SFM and the various funds it manages.Prior to joining SFM, Abbas was a Partner in the Financial Services Practice of Price waterhouse Coopers. At PwC he served some of the most significant private and public financial institutions in the world.Abbas graduated with a BSBA in Finance and Accounting from Georgetown University where he currently serves on the University’s Board of Advisors for the McDonough School of Business, and the University’s Board of Regents. Abbas also serves on several for profit and non-profit boards, including Arab Bankers Association of North America, iMENA Ventures, Convent of the Sacred Heart, Greenwich Investment Committee, The Institute for Middle East Understanding, The Welfare Association, The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, and The Middle East Institute International Advisory Council.

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Advisory Committee

Haitham Abu Shaaban

Gaza Operations Director, Wataniya Mobile

Haitham comes with over 19 years of experience in corporate and project management, strategic commercial management, business development, as well as corporate and project management. This experience is enhanced with high standard education and training, exposure to regional and international business trends as well as strong knowledge of local Palestinian economic sectors. His successes were demonstrated in various yet accelerating responsibilities and sectors that have included senior level operational and regional management as well as private sector involvements. Haitham has an excellent understanding of economic development trends in Palestine with an emphasis on the Gaza strip. He is also voluntarily involved in many civil institutions and projects.

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Irwin Federman

General Partner of US Venture Partners (USVP)

Irwin has been a General Partner of US Venture Partners (USVP), a 35 year old Silicon Valley early-stage technology and healthcare venture capital partnership, since 1990. Prior to joining USVP, he was a Managing Director of Dillon Read Co., a 100+ year-old investment banking firm, and was a partner in Dillon Read’s venture capital arm, Concord Partners. Irwin joined Dillon Read after the company of which he was CEO, Monolithic Memories (MMI) was acquired by Advanced Micro Devices. He served briefly as Vice-Chairman of AMD after the merger. In the course of his career at MMI, Irwin served for two years as Chairman of the Semiconductor Industry Association. He has also been Chair of the Dean’s Advisory Board of Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business, and has served on the Board of the National Venture Capital Association. He was the lead, start-up investor in, and is presently Chairman of Mellanox Technologies, an Israeli company which provides high performance interconnect products. He serves as a Director of Check Point Software, a prominent cyber security company also headquartered in Israel; SanDisk, a market leader in Flash memory circuits and products; Intermolecular, a materials analysis company, and several privately-held technology companies. Irwin has received awards from several human rights organizations for community leadership and from industry associations for lifetime achievement. He holds a BS in Economics from Brooklyn College, of which he is now a Trustee, and an honorary doctorate in engineering science from Santa Clara University. He is currently a trustee of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

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Salwa Katkhuda

Program Manager, Business Acceleration at TechWadi.org

Prior to joining Sprint, Salwa was a founding member of Oasis500. She held the position of Investment Manager at Oasis 500, where she was responsible for recruiting and investing in early stage technology startups. She has worked with companies during the acceleration program to reach proof of concept and prepared them for follow-on funding from angel investors and venture capital funds. Salwa has supported companies to raise more than USD 20M in follow-on funding since 2011, worked with more than 1,500 entrepreneurs, and has invested in more than 70 startups from across the MENA region.

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Zahi W. Khouri

Founder, Chairman, and CEO of The National Beverage Company

Zahi is an active Middle East businessman and holds a number of executive positions and Board Memberships including the Chairman of Jerusalem Development and Investment Co, and Intram Investments Inc in Orlando, Florida. He serves as Board Member of Palestine Development, the largest Palestinian holding Co. In the UAE, he is a Board member of Rasmala Holding Co. Zahi was an Executive Board Member of the Olayan Group and CEO of the Olayan Saudi Holding Co. in Saudi-Arabia and USA for over 20 years. He also holds a number of civic positions including Chairman of the local chapter of Partners for New Beginning, Board member of the local International Chamber of Commerce, and the Jerusalem Arbitration Center.

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Jeremy Liddle

Founder and CEO of CapitalPitch, President of the the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance (YEA)

Jeremy believes entrepreneurial thinking can change the world. He is co-founder and CEO of CapitalPitch, a start-to-finish Series A equity funding platform enabling entrepreneurial businesses to grow and solve the world’s biggest problems. As the President for the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance (YEA) Australia and Director of Entrepreneurship at ENYA he hosted the 2014 G20 YEA Summit in Sydney 2014. He specialises in entrepreneurship ecosystems, mindset and policy advice for high growth entrepreneurial SMEs. Jeremy also represents Australia, youth employment and entrepreneurship at the United Nations and Global Entrepreneurship Week.Jeremy is a Tedx speaker who has won many awards and is also author of the Book “From Idea to Start-up”.

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Mike  MacHarg

Senior Advisor to the Social Ventures – Mercy Corps

Prior to Mercy Corps, Michael was Co-Founder of Simpa Networks, a venture-backed energy services company with a bold mission: to make modern energy simple, affordable, and accessible for everyone. Michael has led Arc Finance’s research into micropayment approaches for financing pro-poor clean energy and water enterprises and consulted to the social venture capital fund, Acumen Fund, mapping private sector investments across east Africa. Michael was on the founding team of the first nonprofit pharmaceutical company, the Institute for OneWorld Health, whose goal is clinical development and distribution of affordable new medicines for diseases of poverty in the developing world. Michael spent his early career with the Social Development Department of the World Bank. Michael holds degrees from Duke University (CASE Scholar) and Vanderbilt University (Ingram Scholar) and has studied at the Universidad de la Habana in Cuba.

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Saed Nashef

Founding Partner, Sadara Ventures

As an entrepreneur, Saed founded and was Managing Director of Equiom-MENA (acquired by IConnectTech), a company based in Ramallah, Palestine; that delivered software-outsourcing services to clients in US and European markets. He also co-founded and was previously CTO of Equiom, Inc., a software consultancy and technology incubation firm based in Washington.Prior to Equiom, Saed lead a team of software engineers at Fidesic, a Seattle-based, venture-backed Internet startup launched in 2000 to provide B2B electronic invoice presentment and payment services. Before that, he spent six years at Microsoft in various software engineering and leadership roles. Saed speaks regularly on tech entrepreneurship, impact, and early-stage investing. As a speaker, he has participated in various regional and international conferences including Social Finance Forum, Milken Global Conference, CMED-Doha Conference, TEDx, and Palestinian Business; Investment Forum, among others. In June 2010, Saed served as a member of the U.S. Presidential Delegation to the Palestine Investment Conference in Bethlehem. He was also a Palestinian delegate to the U.S. Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship held in April 2010 in Washington, DC.

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Mai Abualkas Temraz

Mentorship and Women’s Inclusivity Program Advisor

Mai was the Mentorship and Women’s Inclusivity Program Coordinator at Gaza Sky Geeks and spearheaded our efforts to increase female participation in Gaza’s tech sector. Her interest in entrepreneurship began through her interest in the STEM fields. She is the first Palestinian female licensed amateur radio operator. In 2013 she founded the Amateur Club, a training center and maker space that engages young minds in learning STEM. In 2014, she became a TechWomen Emerging Leader, and in 2015, she was awarded the best entry level STEM Executive at the Women in STEM conference in Dubai.Mai is a Global Tech Leader representing Palestine, and a member of the Arab Women in Computing (ArabWIC) Mentorship Committee. She holds a BS in Communications Engineering from the Islamic University and is currently doing an MBA on a Fulbright at California State University – San Bernardino.

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Justin Ledbetter

Management Consultant

Prior to GSG, Justin built a startup acceleration program in Libya and advised the Libyan Ministry of Economy on incubator development. He has been a consultant at Deloitte, a technical Program Manager at the American University of Afghanistan, and a software engineer at Microsoft. He holds an MBA from Georgetown University and a BS in Computer Engineering from Clemson University. He has traveled extensively in the Middle East and speaks some Farsi.

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Our Partners

Bank of Palestine
Paltel Group

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