Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center announces Ubuntu Care And Nurture 'UCAN' global initiative

To support high-impact startups in health and food tech

Najla Al Midfa

Najla Al Midfa

Sharjah: The Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) is launching ‘UCAN’ or the Ubuntu Care And Nurture initiative with a $250,000 equity-free prize purse open to top startups from the Middle East and Africa. The platform aims to empower entrepreneurs invested in creating high-impact tangible solutions for current and pressing global challenges imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The UCAN initiative is looking for entrepreneurs working on socially-minded innovations specifically under the two tracks of ‘Healing the World’ for healthtech and ‘Feeding the Future’ for foodtech. To be eligible for the competition, startups must have a fully developed product or minimum viable product (MVP), showcase growth and impact, and be interested in expanding to the MENA market.

Finalists will be selected in both categories, and will have to pitch their ventures to a jury of prominent industry experts. Winning startups in each track will be awarded a US$100,000 grant each, while runners-up will receive a grant of US$25,000 each.

Sheraa reinforces commitment to the global #UbuntuLoveChallenge

Part of Sheraa’s wider response to the Covid-19 crisis, UCAN reinforces their commitment to the #UbuntuLoveChallenge – a global movement founded by Sheraa Chairperson Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi and Africa 2.0 Foundation founder Mamadou Kwidjim Toure, to inspire changemakers worldwide to actively help their communities during the Covid-19 crisis and beyond.

Previously, in May, Sheraa launched a US$1million solidarity fund to help startups that are under strain due to the coronavirus pandemic through grants, commissioned projects and competitions.

Najla Al Midfa: Entrepreneurs are inherently wired to look for silver linings during a crisis

Announcing the launch of UCAN, Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa, said the new initiative seeks to harness the potential of entrepreneurs to generate positive social impact through tech-enabled ventures, particularly in the industries most relevant to a post-COVID world.

“UCAN reinforces Sheraa’s commitment to fostering a vibrant culture of impactful entrepreneurship, and we are excited to be expanding our efforts globally in partnership with the Ubuntu Love Challenge. Through this initiative, we want to support startups whose unique health-tech and food-tech solutions are meeting the urgent needs of not just the communities they serve but the world at large. These talented changemakers are everywhere, and we aim to ensure they have a platform that elevates the impact they’re making.” 

Prizes and benefits

Alongside notable financial rewards, Sheraa will facilitate the winning startups’ entry into the fast-developing MENA region market, widen their network of connections with the UAE’s leading public and private entities, and also arrange virtual mentorship sessions with experts from around the world.

Additionally, Sheraa will leverage its partnership with the Sharjah Research, Technology, And Innovation Park (SRTIP) to enable winning entrepreneurs’ avail several incentives and subsidies in the form of free licensing and office set up support. Global partner GEN Accelerates also provides all startup applicants with a comprehensive content library to help strengthen their applications. Selected startups will also get exclusive access to media and PR support services via Sheraa’s partnership with Entrepreneur Middle East.

Finally, Sheraa will enable winners of UCAN gain access to conferences, networking opportunities and mentorship with industry experts to build their presence in the region, scale up and grow.

About Sheraa (Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center):

Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) was launched in January 2016 to support and grow early stage, tech-enabled ventures. It is the first step of the entrepreneurial journey, supporting founders as they develop their ideas, build, and launch their initial products, and become investment ready. Sheraa also provides a soft-landing offering to established tech startups that want to build a presence in Sharjah, helping to transform the emirate into a thriving entrepreneurship hub.

Sheraa - meaning ‘Sail’ in Arabic – is cultivating an entrepreneurial culture that empowers founders to improve their communities and change the world.

Sheraa, a non-profit government organisation, is headquartered at the American University of Sharjah and hosts a thriving community of ambitious entrepreneurs. The second Sheraa hub, launched in September 2018, is located at the University of Sharjah.

Since its inception, Sheraa has successfully built a community of over 10,000 entrepreneurs and ecosystem players. Over 113 startups have graduated from Sheraa’s programmes, generating over $81 million in revenue and raising over $70 million in investment. In addition, Sheraa startups have created over 1,300 jobs.

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