There is absolutely no shortage of innovative Middle Eastern entrepreneurs, who, especially in recent years, have risen above any and all expectations of a region often framed as being “resource-poor,” providing everything from solutions to region-specific issues, like Gaza’s electricity cuts, to a beach-lover’s wet dream in the form of a beach mat with a charging portal and a place to cool your drink.
But ever since the Arab Spring, one particular country has been rightly garnering some extra attention: Tunisia. In 2018, the country became the only one in the Middle East to sign a Startup Reform Act, with a 20-measure law and a legal framework supporting entrepreneurs and helping reduce the bureaucratic dead-ends known to put an abrupt end to a huge number of startups in the region. According to World Bank data compiled by The Economist, one of the main causes behind regional startups’ failure is high levels of bureaucracy combined with lack of government support.
Tunisia, however, is beginning to set an example for regional governments to follow suit, and these super innovative and out-of-the-box startups serve as prime examples of the realm of opportunities that a more open, supportive environment allows. Scroll below for 5 useful Tunisian startups, from a trans-continental career-finder app, to an app that helps save bees.
1. Epilert | A bracelet for epileptic individuals that alerts a relative or friend when they have a seizure.
Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, this Tunisian startup, formed in 2018, developed a bracelet for epilepsy patients that detects heartbeat, temperature, neurological activity and other physiological data, in order to identify a seizure within 30 seconds from when it begins. The patient has an account on their application, which includes all their relevant medical information and their caregiver’s number. The caregiver then receives an automatic alert via SMS alerting them if the patient has a seizure, identifying when it started and where the person is located.
2. SmartBee | An application that monitors bee-hive activity for bee-keepers.
Launched by Tunisian beekeeping startup IRIS Technologies in 2019, SmartBee uses a device that can be plugged into a beehive to test humidity, temperature, and quality. The device sends alerts via an app installed to the beekeeper’s phone whenever there are any changes to the atmosphere of the hive, in an effort to prevent bees from dying due to unwarranted and unexpected issues like heat spikes, and to increase cost-efficiency for beekeepers.
3. WattNow | An application that monitors any home’s electricity usage, sending reports and alerts when there’s a spike in usage.
Founded by Issam Smaali in 2016, Wattnow is an application that records home and company owners’ electricity consumption in real-time, helping users save up to 30% off of their electricity bills and prevent overconsumption. The startup sells hardware that is then installed in the building, and linked to a web-based database that the application uses.
4. Think-It | A start-up that teaches and allows aspiring engineers to work on coding and software engineering in partnership with global tech companies from their home in Tunisia.
Approaching both a global issue of a lack of tech talent, and the Tunisia-specific issue of unemployment (as well as the increasing phenomenon of Tunisians, and Arabs in general, having to immigrate for job opportunities abroad and a subsequent 'brain drain' in the Middle East), this startup offers the best of both worlds from the heart of Tunisia. Launched in 2017, Think-It offers a fellowship opportunity for software engineers to learn how to code and navigate the newest technologies, to then partner them for work with global tech companies, remotely.
5. CURE | Develops customisable 3D-printed bionic hands for amputees.
CURE, founded in 2017, uses 3D-printing technology to create affordable bionic limbs (as opposed to medical prosthetics which normally cost over $10,000). It also aims to help young amputees to get rehabilitation and training on how to use the hands, using virtual technology and gamification technology. The hands are easy to assemble, and come with a solar and wireless charger. They imitate all hand movements, and cost $1000 - a whopping tenth of normal prosthetics’ cost.