First Collaborative Entrepreneurship workshop, Wamda and Expo2020 get started

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Habib Haddad kick starting the day (Images by Wamda)

Expo 2020 Dubai and Wamda’s collaboration is already underway. By acting as the convener, Expo 2020 Dubai and Wamda, aim to unlock the potential of corporate-startup collaboration in MENA, fostering a Collaborative Entrepreneurship initiative that will benefit the growth of the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the region.

With the goal of bringing together large corporations and startups the recently announced ‘Collaborative Entrepreneurship’ initiative saw the first meet up  hosted by the two entities in Dubai last week, to mark the start of a dialogue which will continue throughout the planned phases of the initiative.

A select group of 17 corporations and 18 entrepreneurs took part in the day, participating in a one hour workshop followed by a fireside chat.

The workshop looked at the ways in which large corporations and startups could benefit from one another.

The former, who tend to innovate in-house, can benefit greatly from the flexibility of innovation-driven startups. Equally, SMEs and startups can also leverage big organizations’ resources to scale-up at a sustainable rate, a challenge they currently face.

In the image above, one of the breakout groups during the workshop 

The workshop focused on exploring research outcomes, exploring suggested partnership models, and offering insights into how the business community can help implement the findings, building on an insight report published earlier in January.

“I believe MENA startups are ready from their first operational day, it should always be a gradual and scalable type of partnership depending on their capabilities,” said Hussein Wehbe, country general manager at Aramex, UAE.

Under this partnership as well, the Wamda Research Lab will be soon publishing a report giving an in-depth look at the main trends and obstacles affecting collaborative entrepreneurship in the region, and set out recommendations for progress.

The report will include the results of interviews with more than 120 business leaders and a survey conducted amongst over 800 startups in the Middle East region.

Advice from corporations for startups looking to become ‘scaleups’

After brief discussions with some of the corporations who participated in the day, three key pieces emerged as advice for entrepreneurs looking to work with them:

“Have full confidence and be persistent while approaching big companies like us, nobody is big enough to ignore the importance and power of startups,” - Hussein Wehbe, Aramex.

“Keep an open mind and understand that big corporations cannot move as fast as you. While processes might not fit the needed fast pace, that’s how big corporations can control their business. Understand the structure and the needs of these corporations to both cater to them and get things done swiftly,” - Ali Nehme, managing director at Starcom.   

“Scale fast through collaboration with the larger organisations. They might not want to waste their employees time in ventures that might not see the light and startups have resources and want to get things done as efficiently as possible,” - Ali Nehme.

What are the startups offering?

Throughout discussions with some of the attending entrepreneurs, we  gained an understanding of the value of their product for a corporation.

Karim Aly from Taskspotting said that they would help transform a corporation's target consumers into brand advocates who create digital word-of-mouth at scale.

Kunal Kapoor, from The Luxury Closet, said that having nearly half a million visitors a month from the region, and globally, who are high spending customers, would be of great benefit to a corporation looking to expand their customer base.

Some corporations’ initiatives to support startups already out there:

Aramex: Mentoring sessions, and the launch of the Aramex Startups team last year, dedicated exclusively to serving and supporting startups on their day to day challenges and opportunities.

Starcom: The Publicis90 program where all employees are encouraged to submit their startups or ideas. If shortlisted they get six months to focus on it, as well as the chance at a $500k fund. In addition to this they have a monthly digital forum where they bring in startups, that might benefit their clients, to look at collaboration possibilities.

Visa: Fostering innovation is vital across all types and sizes of organizations. At Visa we are starting to open up our Visanet network to give developers access to our APIs. We will announce concrete plans around that soon but what’s exciting about that is that the diverse talent pool of developers and startups around the world can tap onto the Visa trusted and secure network of products and solutions – all ultimately aimed at benefiting the end consumer, - Hadi Raad, regional head of emerging products and innovation and VISA.

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