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).
Commenting on the entity’s supportive ecosystem and world-class opportunities, Sheraa beneficiary, Siddiq Farid, Co-Founder, Smart Crowd, MENA’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.”
More than 17,800 founders and ecosystem players have attained similar benefits through their participation in Sheraa events delivering the know-how integral to sustained entrepreneurial success.
Cultivating 21st century changemaking and entrepreneurship skills through education
Since 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 commercialise ideas, accelerate growth and compete internationally.
Describing Sheraa’s incredible reputation for shaping top-notch entrepreneurs, Amna Al Jarwan, Founder of the digital coaching enterprise solutions venture, KnackLab, says: “Sheraa’s founder-first approach to supporting community members is unique in the UAE. I was able to access mentors who supported commercialization of my ideas and pushed me to take my business to the next level.”
Developing innovative, high-growth, high-skill sectors to adapt to the community’s evolving needs
The 114 startups supported by Sheraa during the past five years have created 1,300+ jobs and have registered a 65% survival rate. Driving the diversification of the UAE’s economy, the total revenue generated by Sheraa-supported startups in the past five years is USD 130 million, who have collectively raised USD 87 million in capital. Forty-eight 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.”
Connecting Sharjah to the world
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 70% reduction in business startup costs through its partnerships with Sharjah’s freezones and a total of USD 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 launched the USD 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.
According to Bashar Saleh, Founder & CEO of MENA’s the first online focused payment gateway for reward points and miles, Point Checkout: “Sheraa’s Solidarity Fund provided a lifeline that enabled PointCheckout to pivot and rebuild even stronger. When our business resiliency was tested, being able to reach out to members of the Sheraa community for support was vital.”
Five-year impact report charts Sheraa’s unparalled growth
Charting the journey of its unparalleled as a dynamic and powerful force in transforming Sharjah’s sustained and innovation-driven entrepreneurship ecosystem, Sheraa unveiled its five-year impact report in June this year.
The report titled, The Rise of an Ecosystem: 5 Years of Creating Impact 2016-2020, reveals that Sheraa’s founder-focused, ecosystem responsive and impact-driven strategy has supported 114 startups over the past five years, generated USD 130 million in revenue and raised investments worth USD 87 million.
It also offers insights into Sheraa’s emergence as a key pillar of the UAE’s ecosystem where it has impacted a community of over 17,000 changemakers across sectors, placing Sharjah strongly on the global startup map.
Five years of building an agile, resilient community of entrepreneurs
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.”