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Top tech companies scout for start-ups in Gaza

The French Cultural Centre in Gaza City was buzzing with activity as some of the world's top technology companies descended on the city to scout for ideas for business start-ups.

150 finalists were shortlisted to compete for funding from more than 650 who entered. Of the 25 teams, 16 were led by women with many of those vying for a prize for the best women's team.

Competitor Hala Naji said the initiative helped local talent.

"These kind of events offer a platform to owners of the ideas to provide something. Because they take care of the talents, it helps to get our ideas out."

Organisers of the Gaza Startup Weekend 4.0 said the event focused on marketing and outreach.

"This is a competition for talented ideas in Gaza. The participants will show their ideas to investors and crowd. They will work so their projects can reach the finals. The companies will work to get an idea of who can win," one of the organisers Saeed Hasan said ahead of the announcement of the winners.

Startup Gaza was launched by Google, SADAF Technologies, Mercy Corps, PalTel, and many other partners four years ago.

Haya Naji, who like her relative Hala was taking part in the event, said the competition empowered women and young people.

"There is an intellectual blockade, but we do not see it as an obstacle. Young people have lots of ideas, but there is no interest for these ideas to reach the people," she said.

Four prizes were up for grabs -- for Best Validation, best Women's Team, Best B2B Idea and Best Overall Idea.

Participants were encouraged to come up with ideas that would work for a large market in the Middle East, United States, Europe, China or Africa.

The Best Women's team award went to the group that created Bzzra, an online community for home gardeners.

The creator of a mobile app and website for expecting and new mothers won a special prize. 14-year-old Eyas Syam took a prize for Fun Labs, a web-based game that allows children to do science experiments online.

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