Iliana Montauk is the director of Gaza Sky Geeks, the first startup accelerator in Gaza, launched in 2011 by the global humanitarian organization Mercy Corps. Gaza Sky Geeks fills a critical need in Gaza, where young tech talent is abundant but opportunities are in short supply. Initially, the Mercy Corps program provided technology entrepreneurship training and competitions. Over the last year, the program has ramped up its efforts as a full-blown startup accelerator, bringing in the first private international investment to Gazan startups, and providing valuable mentorship opportunities for startup founders, particularly women.
Montauk’s interest in harnessing tech entrepreneurship for development in conflict areas arose from her past experience at Google, Monitor Group (now part of Deloitte Consulting), a microfinance organization and Wamda, a magazine focused on startups in the Arab world.
She graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in 2006 with a degree in history and literature of France and the Middle East and completed a Fulbright in Jordan in 2012 on startups as a type of social innovation. Originally from Poland, Belgium and the San Francisco Bay Area, Montauk speaks five languages, including Arabic.