Sheraa’s entrepreneur-driven ecosystem transforms Sharjah into a home for innovation

Date: August 17, 2021

Emphasizing the formative role of entrepreneurship in building and sustaining competitive economies, the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) has consistently fostered innovation and growth opportunities for its thriving community of entrepreneurs, through a series of programmes, initiatives and collaborations, including the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival (SEF).

The 114 startups supported by Sheraa during the past five years have created more than 1,300 jobs and have registered a 65 percent survival rate.

More than 17,800 founders and ecosystem players have benefitted through their participation in Sheraa events, delivering the know-how integral to sustained entrepreneurial success. Since its inception, Sheraa has provided more than 3,000 hours of mentoring in collaboration with diverse ecosystem stakeholders. Accordingly, Sheraa has connected entrepreneurs to investors and customers for guidance and resources to commercialize ideas, accelerate growth and compete internationally.

Sharing the remarkable achievements of Sheraa’s five-year journey, Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa, commended the resilience, resourcefulness and agility of Sheraa’s growing community of entrepreneurs and changemakers in navigating the unprecedented challenges of the coronavirus pandemic last year.

She said: “Sharjah’s key strengths in building a globally connected ecosystem and forging cross-sectoral partnerships have laid the foundation for aspiring entrepreneurs to scale up to global markets and access top-tier VCs in emerging economic domains. During the pandemic, Sheraa remained steadfast in its commitment to strengthening Sharjah’s role in providing our community ample protection from market volatility, and enabled startups in the UAE and the wider region to navigate the turbulence by shifting to new future-proof business models.”

Highlighting Sheraa’s supportive ecosystem and world-class opportunities, Siddiq Farid, co-founder, Smart Crowd, the Mena region’s first regulated digital real estate platform, said: “Our participation in the debut edition of SEF in 2017 provided our business with validation and exposure that attracted the attention of VC’s and potential partners. Sheraa’s $100,000 grant, as well as the programmes we participated in, is what has made our entrepreneurship journey possible.”

Describing Sheraa’s reputation for shaping top-notch entrepreneurs, Amna Al Jarwan, founder of the digital coaching enterprise solutions venture, KnackLab, said: “Sheraa’s founder-first approach to supporting community members is unique in the UAE. I was able to access mentors who supported commercialisation of my ideas and pushed me to take my business to the next level.”

The 114 startups supported by Sheraa during the past five years have created more than 1,300 jobs and have registered a 65 percent survival rate. Driving the diversification of the UAE’s economy, the total revenue generated by Sheraa-supported startups in the past five years is $130 million, who have collectively raised $87 million in capital. In addition, 48 percent of Sheraa supported startups are led by females.

Nader Amiri, founder of elGrocer, a Dubai grocery marketplace platform that accesses supermarkets and other stores for rapid home delivery, emphasised that Sheraa’s early support was integral in the forward journey of his startup. He said: “Sheraa’s accelerator programme led to an introduction to Sharjah Coop which crystallised into a strategic partnership. We also benefited tremendously from the media and public relations support Sheraa provided which enabled us to create a deeper connection with our customers and the communities we serve.”

Leveraging Sharjah’s historically strong trade ties and industrial competitive advantages to forge a globally connected entrepreneurship ecosystem, Sheraa launched several initiatives such as the Access Sharjah Challenge to attract high-potential entrepreneurs to the emirate and support startups and small and medium-sized enterprises to expand globally. The entity offered a 70 percent reduction in business startup costs through its partnerships with Sharjah’s free zones and a total of $1.3 million in grants and prizes was awarded to startups in collaboration with the public and private sectors.

In response to the pandemic, Sheraa also launched the $1 million Startup Solidarity Fund in May last year to support startups developing solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. The required support was provided through equity-free grants, commissioned projects, and in-kind partnerships.

SOURCE: Khaleej Times