4 Questions 4: Aline Mayard (Wamda & The Blue House)

Interviews require being in the same place at the same time, or at the very least a (Skype) call, and that is very time-consuming to do. That’s why for my blog, I opted to go for Q&As which I will call “4 Questions 4″* instead. This is not an interview – keep that in mind, when reading “4Q4”! Originally, I planned to restrict this section to only “question” people (in tech and entrepreneurship) that I already know for a while, but this time I made an exception, because I was quite interested in the topic.

 

 1) You work for Wamda, which, while not so well-known among people in tech in Europe, is probably one of the biggest names in tech in the MENA area, together with Arabnet and a couple others. Wamda also got an investment fund. Which Arab startups – Wamda investments or otherwise – are you excited about at the moment?

 

Yes, you’re right, Wamda is one of the main media outlets on startups in the Arab world, but we also do events, research, and investment.

 

Since I cover mostly North Africa, I’d say I’m most excited about a Tunisian startup, Saphon, which invented a  bladeless and rotation-less wind turbine, cheaper, less polluting, and easier to use than regular wind turbines, and a Moroccan one, Anou, which has build a solution that lets artisans to sell their products online on Etsy independently, even if they don’t know how to read or have never used internet before. (Read the story of Anou here.)

 

2) You are also one of the initiators of The Blue House, a month-long “work vacation” program in Morocco, coming up in March. What were the reasons you choose for Morocco? Which similar programs in other places do you know?

So, The Blue House’s intensive month-long program is not really a “workation” program, it’s an intensive program set in a better environment. We want to help startups accelerate their growth by enhancing their work routine and vision rather than their business skills. Like an accelerator, we’re working with startups batches, we’re offering guidance, and inviting inspiring people, but contrary to an accelerator, we’re located outside of the startup ecosystems so that startups can take time to focus on their work, think about their long-term vision, or try out new work routines without being distracted.We’ve chosen Morocco because it’s close to Europe, but at the same time very different. This is the kind of place that put you outside of your comfort zone, and at the same time make you feel happy and relaxed. It’s sunny all year, and the landscape is amazing. A few startups have already called the surf town we chose home, like English startup Maptia, or American startup Chui. (Read their story on The Blue House blog.)

A lot of coworking spaces by the sea have been launched recently. In Taghazout, we have SunDesk, on the Canary Islands there is The Surf Office, but they’re coworking spaces, not fully fledged programs, and they’re not dedicated to startups.

3) I imagine you will go with a small group there, to Taghazout. What will the group look like? Without necessarily naming names, can you already give us an idea what kind of things some of the people will be working on there?

We haven’t finished the selection process yet (we close the applications on Feb 15th), but I can already say that we have one American company which is getting ready to ship a successfully crowdfunded connected device, and a Swedish company, which is getting ready to expand its e-commerce globally.

4) As my basketball season is still on-going in March (and I take my basketball-playing rather seriously), it looks like I won’t make it this time around. Do you plan to run this program regularly? Have you already (tentatively) thought about a date for the next edition?

The Month-Long Program will run all year long except during the summer. For now, we’re focusing on the March and the April batch, but we’re accepting applications all year long.
Thanks to Aline Mayard from The Blue House & Wamda for answering my questions! 😉

* Very original name, right? ^^