Sharjah: Through comprehensive efforts to enrich their thriving startup ecosystem, Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center held an enlightening roundtable event for a number of their growth stage founders, featuring the highly knowledgeable and experienced Mr. Imran Sayeed, a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management, and an illustrious figure in the realms of entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology.
Mr. Imran shared a wide range of insights on scaling startups, stating the importance of disciplined growth, diverse leadership, and strategic funding approaches, while also highlighting the significance of exits and the value of region-specific ventures in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The roundtable discussion gathered an impressive array of founders from Sheraa’s community, each representing a unique facet of Sharjah's entrepreneurial landscape. Hailing from startups such as Elgrocer, Almentor, Jalebi, Smart Crowd, FortyGuard, Outreal XR, and Cycled Technologies, their presence demonstrated the rich diversity of entrepreneurial talent in the region, united by a shared commitment to innovation and a drive to scale their ventures.
Within MIT Sloan’s School of Management, Mr. Sayeed specialises in disruptive technologies & platforms as well as entrepreneurship at scale, and has enriched countless aspiring business leaders through the years with his insights. Beyond the classroom, he is the co-founder of ‘Teach the World Foundation’, which is dedicated to enhancing children's literacy through affordable tablets. He also serves on advisory boards for ‘Disrupt.com’ and ‘HERE Technologies’ and boasts an impressive record of advisory roles with Fortune 100 companies in the digital health sector.
The intricacies of scaling startups
The senior lecturer guided Sheraa founders through the intricacies of scaling startups through personal insights gleaned from his extensive experience in entrepreneurship and innovation, shedding light on both the challenges and opportunities that a great deal of companies face.
Referring to a recent survey of established startups and businesses, it was clear that a disciplined approach to scaling is crucial. Rushing to hire costly talent before understanding the business dynamics can be a pitfall. Mr. Sayeed stressed achieving a solid product-market fit and understanding customer needs, cautioning against assuming initial success guarantees long-term scalability.
Commenting on a strong topic that arose during the survey, the MIT stalwart stated, “There seems to be a clear difference in the rates of success between companies with just one founder compared to those with 2-4 co-founders. Startups shouldn’t undervalue the strength that diverse leadership and teams can have within the business and I always strongly encourage entrepreneurs to join startup forums and communities like you have here at Sheraa, to help forge these connections.”
Mr. Sayeed also noted the importance of "exits" for the entrepreneurial ecosystem, which benefited both investors as well as original founders, enabling entrepreneurs to explore new ideas or even become investors themselves.
The million dollar question
MIT Sloan offered valuable advice on funding a venture, pressing the importance of a strategic approach. He recommended starting with a well-structured business plan that clearly outlines the vision, objectives, and growth potential. Building a robust network within the entrepreneurial community and seeking mentorship, according to him, can provide valuable insights and connections to help secure capital.
“When approaching investors or lenders, try to identify those who align with your business and goals while tailoring your pitch to their specific interests. Diversifying your funding sources and considering options like angel investors, venture capital, crowdfunding, or grants can also help secure the necessary capital. Additionally, maintaining financial discipline, demonstrating traction and scalability, and consistently tracking and communicating your progress are key factors in attracting and retaining investors' confidence,” he explained.
The MIT faculty guest praised Sheraa's efforts and expressed excitement about the ecosystem they are building, while enabling their seasoned entrepreneurs to return and share valuable lessons they have learned on their journeys.