Tunisian entrepreneurs are unanimous: people in their country don’t lack motivation and creativity but they need advice on how to apply it, from mentors and experienced entrepreneurs.
Here is a list of organizations in Tunisia to help you find a mentor or share your experiences.
Mentorship networks enable young entrepreneurs to meet more experienced counterparts who are ready to sponsor and support them over the years. These volunteers are eager to support entrepreneurship in their country and have a concrete experience. The main network in Tunisia is Réseau Entreprendre (which loosely translates to Networks for Entrepreneurs in English).
Réseau Entreprendre is a French association nearly three decades old, whose mission is to help companies generate jobs. In 2009, the association opened its first offices abroad, in Belgium and Switzerland, followed by Italy, Spain, and Morocco, and finally in Tunisia.
Réseau Entreprendre offers three types of support to recipients:
- Individual coaching: monthly meetings with designated volunteer CEOs.
- Collective coaching: monthly meetings where recipients can discuss their progress and help each other.
- Financial support: an unsecured loan without interest and guarantee, limited to TND 30,000 (around $17,500 USD) payable over five years, equalling the investment of the founder.
Since launching a year ago, Réseau Entreprendre Tunis has coached 15 participants with the help of 108 CEOs ready to give their time and money. The association just opened a section in the coastal city of Sousse and will open future branches in other cities to fulfill a commitment of helping 300 companies over the next three years.
Accelerators and incubators
The number of these support networks has grown significantly in recent years. Depending on the model, they offer coaching, investment, or even networking. Here are the main organizations in Tunisia:
Since 2007, Microsoft Tunis has offered, through its Microsoft Innovation Center (MIC), services to stimulate the local software economy, including programs for companies, students, and the curious. The center has expanded since its launch to include activities for companies offering non-software innovations. These services include:
- Through its Microsoft Student Program, the company supports 100
student programmers who aspire to work at a startup. Microsoft
co-signs their contracts at the end of the internship so the name
Microsoft appears on their CVs. Through this program, the startup
Famissima was able to
find its developers.
- BizSpark, a three-year program offering startups of less than
five years old to benefit from free Microsoft software.
- Annual Startup Program, an incubation program that aims to give 10 to 15 startups each year technical and business workshops.
Entrepreneurs can also utilize Wikistartup, a company operating as a consulting agency. It charges for services such as creating business plans, coaching for fundraising, and business development. Check our dedicated article.
Managed by the same group, Univenture is an incubator funded by Tunisian public entities – The National Agency for Research and the Deposits and Consignments Fund, the two investment vehicles of the government – and international ones, including GIZ (the German development aid agency) to support companies at the idea stage. Over the course of nine months, it offers organized trainings, and seed funding by business angels up to TND 120,000 ($76,000 USD) that might lead to funding at the end of the incubation program at the discretion of the sponsors.
Social companies also have their incubator: IMPACT, created by SOS group and LAb’ESS, offers one year of individual and collective coaching, hosting, and networking. Check our article.
Entrepreneur meetup events
Entrepreneurs can also attend networking events to meet other young and experienced entrepreneurs to share experiences and avoid common pitfalls.
These include the Aperos Entrepreneurs monthly meetings launched a few months ago, gathering around 150 people in a very casual setting. Cafes Carrefour Tunisia events also gather founders of innovative projects, local collectives, and companies around coffee.
Finally, there’s Social Media Club Tunisia, a local chapter in an international network. In three years, the Club has held 120 events worldwide, including entertainment events such as Instrameets and Fourthsquarthons, and professional ones such as Google Glass demos or community managers meetings. These events are the ideal place to network and communicate with peers.
Cafes Carrefour Tunisia is another series of event worth attending. Launched by the FING initiative in cooperation with Cogite, Social Media Club Tunisia, and BIL conference, last December, it gathers founders of innovative projects, local collectives, and companies around coffee to create an exchange platform focusing on innovation, and offers necessary tools to move from a simple idea to a concrete project.
Any other organizations you recommend?