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!

Our Partners

Google for Entrepreneurs Partner Network logo
Vitol Foundation logo
Skoll foundation logo
The Coca Cola Foundation logo
Stripe logo
Techstars foundation logo
NBC logo
Bank of Palestine logo
Paltel Group logo
Bayt logo
Ibtikar Fund logo
Microsoft logo
Angelhack logo
APIC logo
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung logo
500 Startups logo
Geekettes logo
Github logo
Middle East Children's institute logo
Padico logo
Shared Studios logo
Transition Czech Republic logo

Core Team

Ryan Sturgill
GSG Director
Ryan Sturgill is the Director of Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG), the first startup accelerator and full-stack coding academy in Gaza, and a joint project of Google and Mercy Corps. Ryan joined GSG in 2015, building on a career in investment facilitation and international social entrepreneurship, particularly across frontier markets. Previously, he helped establish a startup incubator in Afghanistan with support from Google and has advised small businesses 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, 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.
Anam Raheem
Program Manager
Anam joins the GSG team with a passion and background in supporting entrepreneurship in emerging markets. She started her career at Vital Voices, a women’s leadership NGO, where she supported the design and launch of an accelerator program for women-owned businesses across the globe. Anam has worked closely with entrepreneurs and businesswomen’s associations in the MENA region and has supported the development of research and advocacy projects for women’s economic participation. Anam has also been a grants manager at the Aga Khan Foundation, overseeing multi-million dollar rural development and civil society programs in Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan. Anam holds a BA from Georgetown University in Linguistics and has studied Arabic at the University of Jordan. She is a budding yogini and loves seeing live music every chance she gets.
Iyad Altahrawi
Incubation & Acceleration Program Officer
As GSG's Incubation & Acceleration Program Officer, Iyad works closely with startup teams and mentors. He previously worked as an officer at Palestine Islamic Bank in Gaza, where he handled a range of issues related to financing, credit and customer care. Later, he worked at the Public Affairs and Communication Department at the Coca-Cola Company's U.S. headquarters, before moving on to work in Business Development for their European Partners in Germany. Iyad holds a BA in Computer Systems Engineering from Al-Azhar University in Gaza, and an MBA from the European Business school in Germany. There are two things that will make you an immediate best friend - talking about horses or saying that you love food!
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 and first joined GSG as a volunteer social media and logistics member. She is currently the Palestine Chapter President of Arab WIC and an Ambassador of WiD in Palestine. She graduated from the Islamic University of Gaza with a BS in Physics and obtained an Education Diploma and a Media Diploma, along with courses in Business Administration. Dalia was chosen to represent Palestinian entrepreneurs at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi in 2015. At age 12, Dalia was the English-speaking spokes-child of Palestinian children and represented all Palestinians in front of the Women and Children Minister of Norway.
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.
Rana Alqrenawi
Product Development & Women’s Inclusivity Manager
Rana manages programs, events, and workshops for women, along with mentoring startups on their products. She led the first female coding club in Gaza, and has been building a community for women at GSG. She is on a mission to raise the number of female startup founders in Gaza. Rana was one of the top entrepreneurs chosen for international training at Klarna in Sweden. Before GSG, she worked as a Product Manager for the WeTamam project at ExaServe, one of the top Saudi companies. She was also a Product Manager leading the first pilot team for Microsoft in Gaza where she received training at OCP in Morocco. Rana has a Bachelor degree in Computer Engineering and is the founder of Genius Soft, a startup that produces software products for local and international organizations using the latest technologies and techniques. She has over seven years of experience in development, previously working as a ASP.net C# developer and team leader at Raz Group Holding in Saudi Arabia. She is currently studying for her MBA at the Islamic University of Gaza but hopes to do a PhD in the U.S.
Saed Habib
Freelancing Program Officer
Previously, Saed worked as a Full-Time Freelancer with over 60 international companies and successfully completed over 120 projects. He also worked as a Project Manager for a Norwegian company, where he managed their I.T projects and development team. He graduated from the Islamic University of Gaza with a BA degree in Information Technology, during his studies he managed to work with international organizations such as MercyCorps as a Freelancing Mentor, World Health Organization as a Web development Intern and Unrwa as an Information Systems Assistant.
Mahmoud Khwaiter
Freelancing Program Assistant
Mahmoud Khwaiter is the new Freelancing Program Assistant at GSG/MercyCorps, supporting efforts to help online freelancers earn incomes. Mahmoud graduated from the Al-Azhar University of Gaza with a BA in English Literature, and while studying managed to work with various local and international organizations including the American Friends Services Committee, the Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation and the Ministry of National Economy.
Sara Alafifi
Mentorship and Communications Coordinator
Sara holds a BA in English-French Literature. She started working as a freelance translator, English language trainer, and trainer for translation projects whilst studying. After graduation, she worked at an INGO as a Local Coordinator and then a Program Manager spending 3 years there before moving on to work with Gaza Sky Geeks. In 2015, Sara won a scholarship to participate in UNAOC’s training program, “Entrepreneurship for Social Change”, where she started her international network of mentors and young entrepreneurs. Sara enjoys walking, reading, exploring different cultures and learning languages. She is also a strong believer in the Shine Theory: “I don’t shine if you don’t shine”.
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.
Ismail Aziza
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.

Remote Staff

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.
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.).
Badr Jafar
Chief Executive, Crescent Enterprises and President, Crescent Petroleum
Badr is active in a variety of 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 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 & Chairman of Endeavor UAE, an initiative encouraging high-impact entrepreneurship. Badr is active with higher education institutions, serving on the Advisory Boards of Cambridge University Judge Business School, American University of Sharjah and American University of Beirut. 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, a Global Agenda Trustee for Economic Growth and Social Inclusion and a member of the Global Future Council on the Humanitarian System.
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.
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.
Iliana Montauk
Product Manager at Upwork
Iliana is the prior director of Gaza Sky Geeks. Before arriving at 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.
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.
Zohre Elahian
Managing Director at Global Catalyst Foundation
Zohre Elahian is co-founder and board member of the Global Catalyst Foundation. Currently, Ms. Elahian works as a full-time volunteer for the Foundation. She co-founded Schools On Line six years ago, a non-governmental organization based in the United States. Ms. Elahian is on the Board of Relief International, another U.S.-based NGO. Prior to her humanitarian activities, she co-managed a successful private business for 15 years. Ms. Elahian holds an M.A. in Anthropology.

Contact Us

Get in touch