“At Sheraa, we are committed to providing a platform to amplify entrepreneurial networking through events such as Wamda’s Mix N’ Mentor,” stated HE Najla Al Midfa, general manager at Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa) during the kick-off of Wamda’s first Mix N’ Mentor in Sharjah. The event, which took place on February 20, happened concurrently with Sheraa’s Second Accelerator Cohort.
Al Midfa continued: “Sheraa aims to boost knowledge sharing among the entrepreneurial community and offer the right tools and resources to accelerate the growth of startups in the region. Partnering with industry-leading entities such as Wamda is a big step forward.”
Sheraa was launched in January 2016, under the patronage of Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi - chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) - to provide a launchpad for aspiring and established entrepreneurs in the UAE, and to empower them to navigate through the processes of launching sustainable businesses. Sheraa’s coworking facility is housed at the American University of Sharjah and hosts a community of students and entrepreneurs. It runs the country’s first university-based ‘accelerator’ program, offering a mentorship-driven, three-month entrepreneurship bootcamp to support teams that demonstrate entrepreneurial spirit and courage. The accelerator also provides seed funding, mentorship by industry professionals, in addition to other services.
“Hosting Mix N’ Mentor in Sharjah for the first time, and under the umbrella of Sheraa, was a natural step in our long-term collaboration with the hub. It was a great opportunity for us to welcome new entrepreneurs at diverse stages of their startup journeys to our signature event,” said Kamel Al-Asmar, Wamda’s head of communication & community engagement.
The event welcomed key opinion leaders from the startup industry including Wamda Capital’s managing director, Walid Faza, CEO and founder of LMTD, Will Hutson, and Helen Al Uzaizi, CEO of BizWorld, among many others.
Startups received mentorship and advice
Roundtable discussions focused on common challenges between entrepreneurs from various industries and members of over 25 startups shared the obstacles they are facing. The event also had skill building games and relationship building activities.
When speaking about the market size and the scope of the business, Hutson brought startups various advices. He said: “As an entrepreneur, the worst person to lie to is yourself. You can’t be everything to everybody, find your scope early.” enticing B2B startups to own their category online. He added: “Throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.”
Al Uzaizi enticed startups to hire fresh graduates as interns and train them exactly the way needed. “They are not expensive, loyal, and can be trained effectively,” she said.
During the ‘fireside chat’, participants gathered to share the day’s most insightful tips and stories, marking the end of the event.
Attracting profit-generating startups
When it comes to Sheraa’s Second Accelerator Cohort Showcase Day event, 10 startup groups presented their growing businesses.
It is worth mentioning that these startups were at advanced development and operation stages. Some of which were even at Series A levels. This further accentuates the role Sheraa is playing when it comes to supporting later stage startups and businesses.
Faza said that what Sheraa started is different from what any other accelerator did. “It is attracting top companies to participate in their programs and this puts Sharjah at the forefront of attracting top notch technology startups.”
Startups included: Slices, a homegrown F&B company that aims at transforming eating habits in the UAE through wholesome meals with an annual turnover of almost $5 million, The Tempest, a media company targeting millennial women with a 500 percent year on year growth, Rise, a wealth management platform for migrants which raised a $1 million seed round, C3, a UAE-based social enterprise recognized as UN Social Development Goals Pioneer in the UAE, Savarin, a supplier of desserts ranked in the top two in hygiene and food safety by Sharjah Municipality, Meet the Locals, which provides opportunities for visitors in the UAE to enjoy the nation’s hospitality and has so far delivered over 1,000 authentic Emirati experiences, Soukare, a healthcare tech startup founded in 2016 and achieved $350,000 in revenues a year after, Monda Gallery, which offers an collection of works primarily from the Middle East and Asia and managed to achieve $240,000 in revenues though only founded in 2017, Protenders, which lets you manage your tenders and find new partners and has 700,000 monthly active users and an 800 percent month-on-month growth, and Asm3ni, an Arabic audiobooks platform launched in 2017 and has so far over 25 published audiobooks.
Al Midfa said: “It has been our honor be part of your journey, to share your triumphs, and to help you navigate whatever obstacles have come up along the way. It goes without saying that the bonds we have' built will last far beyond your graduation from the accelerator.” She added: “This is how Sheraa has operated from day one: running lean experiments that help us connect the dots and better understand the gaps in the ecosystem.”