Mercy Corps – Gaza Sky Geeks

Supporting Gaza’s only tech accelerator with a successful crowdfunding campaign

Project Description:

Minerva Strategies partnered with the humanitarian aid agency Mercy Corps in December 2014 to support a crowdfunding campaign for Mercy Corps’ Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG), the first and only startup accelerator and co-working space for entrepreneurs in the Gaza Strip. This work included providing oversight and messaging consistency for all campaign communications, as well as managing media relations.

Challenge:

GSG presents one of very few opportunities for ambitious young Gazans, many of whom are unemployed but highly educated, to become involved in the global tech sector.  But as of late 2014, GSG’s seed funding was nearly exhausted. To keep the accelerator and co-working space open, the GSG team decided to run an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign called“GazaStarts.”  After raising their original goal of $70K in less than one month, they decided to be as ambitious as their entrepreneurs, extend the campaign, and shoot for more. The extended campaign entailed frequent communication with potential donors and partners, tireless efforts at social media promotion, and numerous interviews with media to raise awareness of this work.

Work:

Minerva worked closely with the GSG team and Mercy Corps’ communication team to oversee all communication aspects of the campaign.  Our first order of business was to consolidate and unify campaign messages and ensure that all communications by GSG were consistently employing these messages.  As part of this effort, we conducted media and message training sessions via Skype with the Middle East-based GSG team, provided strategic advice on how to position GSG with journalists, and reviewed all of the team’s materials for consistency throughout the campaign including blog posts, campaign updates, social media posts, videos, and website content.

In addition to the messaging work, we jumped in mid-stride to pursue numerous media requests, focusing on the campaign’s extension into mid-January. We also managed the relationship with a Dubai-based public relations firm that conducted regional outreach in the Middle East.  This collective work resulted in more than 15 media placements in top outlets such as CNN Money,Fast Company’s Co.Exist, NPR, and popular Arab media outlets like MBC – Dubai and Sky News Arabia.

Work on GazaStarts happened at a fast-and-furious campaign pace, requiring almost immediate turnaround times and seamless, daily coordination – all with a 10-hour time difference between the Minerva team and our client.

Result:

The GazaStarts campaign exceeded its $250,000 goal, and raised $267,000 by January 19, 2015. Donations came from 60 countries and territories including the U.K., Poland, Israel, Hong Kong, and many more. According to Gaza Sky Geeks, it was the biggest crowdfunding campaign in the Arab world. The funds ensure that Mercy Corps’ Gaza Sky Geeks will remain operational at least through the end of 2015 – and hopefully beyond – with full staff, and they will host a major outreach event with outside investors and tech sector mentors.