Sharjah: Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) welcomed 20 fellowship students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship, along with a group of the 2022-2023 Foundry Fellows, at its headquarters in Sharjah Research and Technology Innovation Park (SRTIP).
Sheraa opened its doors for the MIT Legatum students shining light on the opportunities available for startups in the emirate, and helping them understand the support the Sharjah government provides for the development of entrepreneurship in the region. With a focus on impact entrepreneurship, the Legatum Center is a global leader in supporting entrepreneurs providing funding, mentorship, and resources to help early-stage entrepreneurs build and scale their ventures.
The students, who are being mentored in exploring emerging global markets, also engaged in a panel discussion entitled “How Sharjah is an Ideal Market to Serve as a Launchpad for Startups”. The panel, moderated by Dr. Rodrigo Basco, Professor and Sheikh Saoud bin Khalid Al-Qassimi Chair in Family Business at American University of Sharjah (AUS), featured top executives and entrepreneurs, including Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa, Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of SRTIP, Mohamed Al Musharrakh, CEO of Invest in Sharjah, Farida ElAgamy, Co-Founder of Kyma, and Sohail Dahdal, Founder of 5th Wall Immersive Media.
Sharing her vision with students attending the panel discussion, Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa, said: “At Sheraa, we are keen to act as a bridge between academia and the startup world. Entrepreneurship is not a linear journey and hence, helping students with a platform that creates a growth mindset and brings in practical elements to connect both locally and on a global scale has been our focus since its inception. We are looking for innovative concepts that will impact the economy and the society as a whole.”
Panelist Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of SRTIP, said: "The UAE aims to build a knowledge- and innovation-based economy, with each of its seven emirates having its policies to support this goal. In Sharjah, our focus is on four key areas to foster entrepreneurship: infrastructure development, talent development, technology transfer and adaptation, and partnerships to boost the local economy. We also actively engage with young people to tap into their innovative ideas and provide support for bringing them to life."
Mohammed Musharrakh, CEO of Invest in Sharjah, highlighted the easiness of doing businesses in the emirate.: "Sharjah has a rich history as a robust industrial centre and trading hub, boasting a GDP of USD25 million and a reputation for its cutting-edge infrastructure and security measures. The process of setting up a business in Sharjah is so streamlined that one can obtain a business license within 45 minutes, making it no surprise that the city is becoming increasingly popular among entrepreneurs seeking to launch their ventures."
Dr. Sohail Dahdal, Founder and Creative Director of Fifth Wall Immersive Media Lab -- a Sheraa startup --said: “The proximity of Sheraa to the University City is what inspired me to launch my dream idea here. Within the creative sector, traditional storytellers are excited about the use of technology but find it hard to access it, whereas tech innovators who have built the power to narrate tales often do not have the depth of storytelling. I ventured into building a business solution tapping this gap and working together at spaces with storytelling potential like museums and libraries. With flourishing student talents who are keen to explore opportunities, we are keen to expose them to different industries as early as possible.”
Another panelist and Sheraa startup, Farida El Agamy, co-founder of Kyma, shared her experience of starting a manufacturing business in Sharjah, with support from Sheraa. "My goal was to contribute to the sustainable growth in the diverse economy of Sharjah and, with my co-founders, we made a commitment to follow all international best practices in our business endeavours. Sustainability shouldn't be a privilege or luxury, and we wanted to leverage our expertise and resources to work with established companies and create a sustainable product."
The panel discussion also explored the advantages of Sharjah as a market for startups, including the government's support for entrepreneurship, the availability of funding and resources, and the growing ecosystem of startups in the region. The experts also discussed the challenges and opportunities for startups in Sharjah, and the role that the Legatum Center can play in supporting their growth. The visit is an important step in establishing a partnership between the Legatum Center and Sheraa, as both organisations share a commitment to supporting entrepreneurship and innovation in emerging markets.