A man walks past a Google sign at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.
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The Google Inc.-backed technology hub opened for business in October, with 42 startups plucked from among 250 applicants calling the sprawling ground-level space their home.While the Middle East and North Africa have about 200 million Internet users spending an average of six hours a day online, they mostly turn to providers outside the Middle East to access apps, content and business tools, according to Mohamad Mourad, managing director of Google Middle East and North Africa.The duo are behind Namshi, a Dubai-based online shopping portal with about $100 million in annual sales. They ran startup workshops across the region for several years before teaming up with Google to open the tech hub last month.Launching a startup in the Middle East isn't easy. AstroLabs and Google were especially interested in startups with ambitions beyond Dubai, Mekki said.Google is betting that its investment in Dubai's startup scene will help entrepreneurs connect with venture investors, and each other.The $25 billion initial public offering of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. last year was a wake-up call for global investors, who saw a non-Western tech company make history with the largest-ever U.S. IPO.
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