Compared to much of the Arab world, Bahrain's entrepreneurs are very well-supported. They have the advantages of Tenmou, Tamkeen, the Bahrain Development Bank, and even a new iPad app tailored for Bahrainis. Now that support is set to accelerate even further, with the launch of several new initiatives that have been announced recently.
The most recent is Ebtikar Bahrain, an association that encourages and supports innovative Bahraini entrepreneurs and was launched just last week, by Osama Al Khaja, Ebtikar's founder and president. Al Khaja's career focused on finance, banking and investment for 25 years working respectively at Bahrain Development Bank as Head of Business Development and Project Finance, then at Kuwait Finance House (Bahrain) as Head of Project Development, involved in developing and setting up new businesses and projects, primarily in the GCC and the Middle East, which explains his interest and expertise to built a platform like Ebtikar.
“Ebtikar is a crossroads of ideas, innovators, and investors. Many enablers from the public and private sectors already support entrepreneurship and innovation in Bahrain, and Ebtikar will be a platform to channel and develop these efforts,” said Al Khaja, during the launch ceremony. At this "crossroads", Ebtikar aims to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas into startups by connecting them to support institutions and investors.
Essentially it seems Ebtikar will function as a matchmaker, hosting networking events where innovation-related topics are presented by regional and global innovators and leading entrpreneurs.
Their first mission is to help university students, especially those at Bahraini universities and government schools, to turn their ideas into viable businesses.
“In today’s world, innovation is a major driver behind the creation of businesses, particularly SME’s, the creation of job opportunities and the enhancement of efficiency,” El Khaja added. “Ultimately, Ebtikar aims to stimulate economic and social growth and translate it into sustainable business and to further economic prosperity.”
Bahrain has also witnessed the rise of Tenmou, a business angels company that works to train both startups and angel investors on best practices (a partner for Wamda's Mix N' Mentor Manama taking place on May 10th). As well as the Arab International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Investment recently launched by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).
When asked about how Ebtikar plans to be sustainable, Al Khaja explains that they definitely have to find a way in the long run, but for now they are relying on sponsorships.
It's clear that Bahrain's government has been playing an active role in supporting these initiatives; the launch ceremony was held under the patronage of the Minister of Transportation and the acting CEO of Bahrain Economic Development Board, Kamal Ahmed.
Ebtikar also encourages new applications to the association's programs to stimulate the exchange of ideas and further business development in Bahrain.
Wamda’s 2013 Mix N’ Mentor Roadshow will be coming to Manama on May 11, 2013.