Mental health report by EMPWR, WAMDA, and Microsoft for Startups: 55% founders rate 'raising investment' as the prime stress factor

Impact of pandemic on the wellbeing of regional entrepreneur

Ally Salama, CEO Founder, EMPWR; Mental Health Ambassador

Ally Salama, CEO & Founder, EMPWR; Mental Health Ambassador

  • EMPWR’s role involved guiding the direction for the survey, formulating the questions & enabling strategic partnerships required for the research 

EMPWR, a UAE-based digital media agency dedicated to mental health, and an authority in mental health research in the region, is an exclusive mental health partner for WAMDA and Microsoft for startups, to create and publish a research report on the mental health challenges and wellbeing of entrepreneurs due to Covid-19 in the MENA region.

EMPWR has helped to formulate the questions for the survey, monitored the progress of the report, and led the project, along with Lara Fakih from WAMDA. EMPWR has also been instrumental in enabling the partnerships needed to generate the report – which included Labayh from the KSA; O7 Therapy from Egypt; Nafas from Oman; and My Wellbeing Lab, Takalam, Mindtales, and H.A.D. Consultants from the UAE. 

The report is the first to record data regarding the mental health and wellbeing of entrepreneurs in the region, with a specific focus on the impact of Covid-19 pandemic. The results of the research indicate that startup founders undergo higher levels of stress, than the rest of the region, with twice the likelihood of developing depression issues. 55% of Startup founders said that raising investment has caused the most stress; the pandemic was the second most-cited reason, by 33.7% of respondents. 35.9% of founders rate the state of their mental health as ‘bad’, and 44.2% spend at least 2 hours a week trying to de-stress. The report also includes a mapping of the mental health startups in Mena, a third of which were launched over this past year.

“It has been fascinating to witness the impact of relationships between start-up co-founders and their companies, in the aftermath of the global pandemic,” comments Ally Salama, CEO at EMPWR. “Many described their relationships with such partners and cohorts as being more like family. We found that entrepreneurs operating as a team were more likely to have a stronger sense of wellbeing, and suffer less loneliness. We have only begun to scratch the surface of this issue. Nuanced and detailed research is needed, to develop a more sophisticated understanding of this phenomenon”, added Ally.

Other insights, uncovered by the report, include:

  • A good relationship between co-founders can help startups navigate the pandemic-hit market. More than 95% of entrepreneurs view co-founders as family members and/or friends
  • More research is required around the pressure created by the need to achieve growth, fund-raising; as well as by the risk of failure
  • Many entrepreneurs live well below their means to fund their ventures, leading to stress that is detrimental to their health
  • Entrepreneurs are increasingly valuing their mental health more than ever, yet results show only 9.9% rate their mental health as good
  • There is a critical need for accessible, and affordable mental health services, that cater especially to entrepreneurs.

In the past, EMPWR has worked with government entities – including the government of Canada, the Dubai Police, and the UAE government entity, Sharjah Capability Development as well as several leading corporates; to offer research related to mental health. EMPWR is also in the process of launching a culture-oriented, centralised, and comprehensive network, aimed at providing youth in the region with a peer-support and mental health resource. This initiative will lead to the EMPWR app, and the upcoming EMPWR Hub, in an attempt to increase conversations around mental wellbeing, among young people in the region. EMPWR’s extensive experience and strengths prompted market heavyweights like Microsoft and WAMDA, to partner with EMPWR, to create this report on mental health and wellbeing report.

With only 2% of healthcare budgets in the MENA region currently spent on addressing mental health, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young entrepreneurs and achievers could lead to an economic burden of $1 trillion, by 2030.

“28% of the population of the Middle East is between 15 and 29 years old. Mental health issues are widespread among them but less than half are willing to seek help, due to cultural stigmas and stereotypes. Our attempt, at EMPWR, is to mainstream the conversation around the issue, so this silent epidemic, which is particularly rampant among the region’s youth and entrepreneurs, can be addressed”, Ally reiterates.



EMPWR have liaised with partners from across the MENA region for this report; each of whom has shared special offers on their mental health related services for the region’s entrepreneur community. 

From Saudi Arabia:

Labayh are offering the technology ecosystem a 20% discount on their online mental health services for 2 months.

Promo code: empwr – with the offer valid until 29th of October

From Egypt

O7 Therapy are offering 50% off their online mental health services, for 50 Entrepreneurs in the MENA region.

Promo code: Entrepreneur50 - valid until December 1st 2021

From the UAE:

My Wellbeing Lab are offering 20 one-on-one coaching sessions to entrepreneurs that wish to be coached and helped; alongside unlimited access for any entrepreneur to their “Discovery Lab”, a platform that gives entrepreneurs and leaders insights into their mental wellbeing as well as their team’s.

Promo code: MWL21

Takalam are offering 10% off for three months.

Promo code: Impact

Mindtales are offering the MENA ecosystem 50% off their services for one month. Their App can be downloaded here.

H.A.D Consultants are offering 20 one on one coaching sessions to entrepreneurs.

Promo code: HAD_SME01

From Oman:

Nafas, A meditation app focused on reducing stress, anxiety, and help with insomnia, is offering access to its platform. Register as a user on this link, to redeem benefits (please skip the payment page to access)

About Ally Salama

Ally Salama is a ‘Forbes 30 Under 30’ social entrepreneur, and the Middle East's mental health ambassador.  Through his online platform, EMPWR Mag, and his podcast channel “Empathy Always Wins”, he is bringing together youth leaders to create an ecosystem that is grounded in trust and communication. His work in the field of mental health has been recognized globally, including by the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, and the Canadian Mental Health Association. With his thought-provoking keynotes and engagements, he shows entrepreneurs and youth alike how to have simple, relatable, and actionable conversations on mental wellness.  


EMPWR is a tech startup developing a platform solution with the sole aim of reinventing the future of wellbeing in MENA. Founded by Ally Salama as the region’s first mental health magazine in 2019, today it has earned recognition by Harvard, WHO and the United Nations in its efforts to provide and facilitate mental health solutions for major stakeholders in the ecosystem, advising government and corporate entities on best practices in creating safe environments where leaders of tomorrow can emerge & thrive. 

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Neha Kaul
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