Startups and surfing: Blue House attracts entrepreneurs to Moroccan village

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Taghazout is a small fishing village in southwest of Morocco. The inhabitants – mainly of Berber origin – have traditionally derived their incomes from fishing and the production of Argan oil. Tourism has been on the rise in recent years as Europeans have discovered the excellent surfing the village has to offer.

Idyllic as it sounds, you would still be surprised to hear that Taghazout may yet turn into a Mecca of sorts for startups looking to get their creative juices flowing. But that is exactly what Aline Mayard, founder of the Blue House, is trying to do.

The Blue House launched earlier this year, providing startups with rooms, food, laundry services, high-speed internet, transport and discounted sport offerings. A shared room for a week costs EUR300 (US$340) all inclusive, a private room is EUR450 (US$510). Startups are free to work on their projects with no distractions. Well, apart from surfing.

The Blue House’s mission statement is clear. “We believe people do a better job when they’re happy and feel good. We believe people are more creative when their environment is stimulating. We believe people take better decisions when they’re relaxed. We believe people have outstanding ideas when they get out of their comfort zone and discover new things,” it reads.

And finally: “We believe in the power of the soothing sound of the waves.”

For Mayard, startups and surfing have always been linked.

“There has always been a lot of entrepreneurs that are surfers, because it is a sport where you have to be really resilient and empty your head. It is a sport where you have to take a step back,” she told Disrupt Africa.

Only four hours from Europe, Taghazout is easily accessible for entrepreneurs seeking a more relaxed setting. Mayard says the village is the perfect place to get inspired and really think about your startup.

“It is really calm, the landscape is amazing, so it is really inspiring,” she said.

The Blue House, she said, does not consider itself a co-working space in the traditional sense, as its offering goes far beyond that.

“Our aim is to give space and inspiration to startups. We’re giving them time to focus on what they are doing. What we offer is different,” she said.

The Blue House got going by running two-week residence programmes, allowing entrepreneurs to focus fully on their startups while meeting like-minded peers and sharing ideas.

“All they have to do really is just work and discuss and meet awesome entrepreneurs,” Mayard said.

Mayard – who has funded the project with her own savings – is taking a summer break to nail down partnerships and sponsors, but will relaunch the Blue House later this year, by which time it will also run off-site events and acceleration sessions. Most of the marketing efforts have gone into Europe for now, with entrepreneurs visiting from the United Kingdom (UK), France, Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as the United States (US). Yet she hopes to attract visitors from elsewhere also.

“Europe is where I have put all of my efforts, it is where my networks are. But word is spreading across the Arab region, and as soon as the programme is starting and we have sponsors I would like to have a sponsor bring in some African startups and really create that mix. That’s really something that I’m looking forward to,” she said.

“The goal is to have some locals in the long-term. I really want to create sharing between communities and cultures.”

Feedback from startups has been positive so far.

“It really depends what the startups are coming for. Last session we had one startup coming to think about their global expansion, and they were really happy and nailed down their strategy,” she said.

“They were working more at the Blue House than they were back home.”

Well, there you have it. Fancy recharging your startup’s batteries and getting inspired in a Moroccan surf town? Apply here.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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