5 Startups Join Cycle 3 of Revamped Womentum Accelerator

Press Release

5 Startups Join Cycle 3 of Revamped Womentum Accelerator

Womentum by womena® and Standard Chartered’s Women in Tech ready to drive growth of leading female-led tech startups 

Womentum Cycle 3 is set to launch in September with five women-led tech startups and a revamped program geared toward empowering founders to confront the challenges of uncertain times as they grow their impact-driven businesses in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Womentum by womena® and Standard Chartered’s Women in Tech is a three-month acceleration program focused on women-led tech startups from across the MENA region. The unique experience-based accelerator follows a blended model where startups are immersed in one of the region’s most vibrant investment hubs during the Dubai bootcamp, complemented with virtual support and mentorship before and after the bootcamp conducted remotely in their home countries.


Womentum has adapted its curriculum to give Cycle 3 startups the tools they need to navigate uncertain times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, by adding relevant topics such as pivoting and making your business more agile, cash flow management and bootstrapping as well as improving customer experience. The founders will also be mentored on how to stay relevant with online engagement, raising capital and leadership in times of crisis.

“We’re determined to continue with our Womentum Accelerator in 2020 having amended its structure, content, as well as the eligibility of the cohort to incorporate the massive changes, brought about by the COVID-19 crisis,” says Elissa Freiha, womena® founder and managing director. 

“We want to show that working towards inclusion should never stop, and that true innovation comes from perseverance and diversity in thought to address needs in a time of crisis,” Freiha adds. 

For the second year, Standard Chartered Bank UAE has partnered with womena® on its flagship accelerator, and this year will award the three top-performing startups a total of $30,000 in equity-free prize money at the end of the program.

Rola Abu Manneh, chief executive officer of Standard Chartered Bank UAE, says, “We are pleased to be partnering with womena® for the second consecutive year. We’ve seen an incredible impact as the startups from previous cycles have raised $6 million in funding. This year is going to be even more critical as we plan to equip the startups with the right business mindset and capabilities to help them pivot their business model post-COVID.”

The partnership is in line with the bank’s community engagement strategy’s entrepreneurship pillar and is part of their longstanding commitment to supporting women in tech through programs with a female focus in New York, Nairobi and Karachi. 

Founders in the program will also have access to womena®’s wider network ecosystem partners, and each startup will receive more than $20,000 worth of tech, legal and consulting services. 

Boston Consulting Group has joined Womentum for the third year as the program’s Consulting Partner, providing free consultation hours to each startup, dedicated one-one-one mentorship as well as a consulting hackathon in the Dubai bootcamp. 

The 2020 cycle is also made possible with the support of Latham & Watkins, Womentum’s legal partner also for the third year, will provide one-on-one legal mentorship and advice throughout the cycle. 

Google For Startups is once again partnering with the accelerator as the Demo Day event sponsor. To cater to the needs and restrictions of the times, Womentum will host a virtual Demo Day that will be open to a larger investor pool from the region and beyond.

As the Exclusive Location Partner, the Rove Downtown will host the founders during their stay in Dubai as well as hosting all the sessions, workshops and events of the two-week bootcamp throughout their property and facilities.

“In a time where people strive for authentic communities for support, we’re thrilled to work with a group of startups that provide exactly that,” says Habiba Helmy, Womentum’s managing director.

The winners selected for the 2020 cohort are (quotes from founders can be found below):

  1. Finyal Media (UAE) is a podcast network creating Arabic content targeting the MENA region, helping young people reconnect with the Arab world by bringing culturally relevant stories in a contemporary on-demand format. 
  2. Explore Agora (Egypt) is an EdTech startup connecting education to the real world through gamified learning experiences. Using machine learning to identify the objects that surround the student, the app uses augmented reality to transform those objects into interactive learning tools.
  3. Mint Basil Market (Lebanon) is an e-commerce platform focused on healthy, natural products while providing curated content to its audience, with in-house health coaches and a community of health experts.
  4. Shadana Yoga (Palestine) is a subscription-based platform that offers online courses and stress-relief tools and wellbeing using Yoga, Ayurveda and other forms of holistic healing in Arabic.
  5. The Hair Addict (Egypt) aims to challenge societal norms around natural hair and encourage women to care for their hair in a healthy way. Natural hair products and tools are available on the online store, with all ingredients sourced and prepared locally.

“From serving the community’s mental and physical health to educating children through artificial intelligence, boosting women’s confidence by driving the natural hair movement, these diverse startups have proved they have what it takes to thrive in a global crisis,” Helmy adds. 

womena® is a media company creating the region’s most inspiring and compelling female-focused content, with a greater mission of accelerating equality and diversity. Womentum is powered by womena®’s media content, which highlights the founders and their startups as they go through the program, as well as produces a documentary series that follows their personal and professional journey. Catch Season 2 of the Womentum Series on womena®’s Youtube channel.

“By bringing the stories and voices of female innovators, creatives and changemakers to a global audience, we hope to inspire, motivate, excite, empower and drive real, sustainable and long-lasting change in our communities,” Amira Salah-Ahmed, womena®’s chief media officer, says. 

“The docu-series provides a glimpse into the multi-talented, passionate women founders who are leading the region’s most impactful businesses. We believe that highlighting this reality can drive real progress.”

About womena

womena® is a media company that highlights the stories of female founders, creatives, innovators and changemakers in the region, bringing their voices to a global audience. Our flagship accelerator program Womentum empowers female-led startups and has increased the pipeline of women entrepreneurs in the regional ecosystem. Through our womena®Bossladies Network, we build, connect and inspire a growing network of purpose-driven entrepreneurs, investors, tech talent, wellness leaders and creatives. All of these elements come together to make womena® a holistic ecosystem for female leadership in innovation. 


Finyal Media founders: Leila Hamadeh (CEO), Mshari Alonaizy (Chief Creative Officer), Majid Al Qassimi (Chief People Officer)

“We are so excited to be part of Womentum. It is incredible to be actively involved in a network promoting female founders in the region and we look forward to engaging with partners, mentors and an amazing group of like-minded entrepreneurs.”

Shadana Yoga founder: Shadan Nassar  (CEO) 

We love that Womentum supports women in business. We are so excited to be part of the community, to get media exposure and to meet investors. This will take us to the next level, for our benefit and the benefit of many of the Arabic-speaking population.”

The Hair Addict founder: Doaa Gawish (Managing Director)

“We are thrilled to get support to refine our business model and product development. We look forward to networking with other corporates and investors working with Egyptian business and businesses that plan to expand in the region. We plan to be one of the biggest hair care suppliers in MENA and take steps in Europe and North America.”

Explore Agora founders: Dima Sorri (CEO), Ahmed Radwan (CGO)  

“In a constantly growing ecosystem, finding the right program to help a startup grow is not easy. Womentum is one of the programs that I heard a lot of great things about from founders that I trust and respect, for that we are excited to start this journey and witness the personal and professional growth that our company will go through.”

Mint Basil Market founders: Vanessa Zuabi (CEO) and Lara Noujaim (COO)

“As we prepare for our launch in the UAE, we’re excited to join the Womentum program.”


For more information:

Amira Salah-Ahmed

Chief Media Officer


Habiba Helmy

Womentum Managing Director 




Social media hashtags: #womentum20 #SCWomenInTech

**Hi-res photos of startup teams: LINK

***Womentum Series (Season 2): Playlist


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