An ecosystem building series, an innovation lab, an idea lab and a growth lab - these are the first four programs coming with the launch of Sheraa.
The name, which means the sail of a boat, is given to the new Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center, launched this week.
An initiative of Shurooq, the Sharjah development and investment authority, Sheraa plans to offer a range of programs and activities to help not only students, but also alumni and faculty of University City, and local SMEs at different stages of their entrepreneurial journey.
“Here at Sharjah, we are witnessing the birth of a new initiative for the future of the nation,” explained HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq.
“Entrepreneurship is one of the most important determinants of economic growth in the various countries of the world. Why the university? Because the university embraces the youth, global entrepreneurs started their work at universities.”
The first trial of the innovation lab happened during the second half of the launch day and was led by Maurizio Travaglini, a research fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and managing partner at Architects of Group Genius.
Talking about the innovation lab and its intentions, Najla Al Midfa, general manager of Sheraa, said that it would be there to help “all the main ecosystem players in the Emirate of Sharjah to answer questions on how can Sheraa best serve its community. It is the first of what will be an ongoing process of co-developing needs-driven programming alongside our clients and partner ecosystem stakeholders.”
Amongst the guests in attendance of the launch was Sheikha Bodour al Qasimi. In her opening remarks she said that history had shown that the future doesn’t wait for anyone. “We are facing a new world full of opportunities for governments,” she said. “The private sector, and the education sector, and for young people to invent new ways of cooperation and integration among us to turn these opportunities into reality.”
The event also included keynote remarks from Christopher Schroeder, author of Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East, who then led a panel with AUS alumni turned entrepreneurship success stories - Ginger Dosier, CEO of BioMason; Khalifa Al Jaziri, founder of eHome Automation; Iba Masood, cofounder and CEO of Gradberry.com.
Now a part of Silicon Valley incubator, Y Combinator, Gradberry’s Masood said developing an early adopter system is among the key aspect that make many entrepreneurial hubs in the United States great. Early adopters are those that use technology as soon as it becomes available and typically are highly influential in their circles.
“If startups come up with new ideas and new ways to do things, then companies and consumers [can become] more receptive to purchasing those things,” Masood said. “So If we can create an early adapter ecosystem and make sure companies and enterprises are willing to interact with startups incubated at Sheraa, then that would be a great starting point.”
Al Jaziri said Sheraa could also benefit from a legal forum.
“Sheraa has checked a lot of boxes already,” he said. “Giving the young entrepreneurs a legality forum before taking it to the big companies would help because if it’s bad, you kill it bad. I lost millions because I didn't have a Sheraa to pull me in the right direction.”
The launch also featured a panel discussion with Fadi Ghandour, managing partner at Wamda Capital, Badr Jafar, CEO of Crescent Enterprises, Dr Youssef Hamidaddin, CEO at Oasis500, Dina Sherif, director of Entrepreneurship Center at American University in Cairo and Al Midfa, moderated by CNN’s John Defterios.
Ghandour called for a change in classroom pedagogy to encourage entrepreneurship.
“It is not in the classroom that we learn, we learn by doing,” he said. “The universities need to move from lecturing students to telling them how to do things, creating an environment of questioning and curiosity. We want to tinker more and be lectured less.”
Held at the American University of Sharjah on January 17 notable guests also included His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammed Al Qasimi.