Sharjah to continue evolution as global entrepreneur hub
Data and business intelligence are emerging as valuable resources, and companies that shift their strategy to incorporate emerging trends are often able to pivot into successful ventures
Sharjah has continued to evolve as a global destination for entrepreneurs, with the emirate’s startup ecosystem and business friendly policies promising a strong foundation for anyone with an idea, experts highlighted at the 2021 Sheraa Ramadan Majlis.
Held in partnership with Alef Group at the Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP), the Sheraa Ramadan Majlis brought together senior government officials and entrepreneurs from Sharjah, and the UAE, to discuss how agile and adaptive measures are elevating the emirate’s appeal as one of the leading SME hubs in the region. Investors and entrepreneurs representing a wide spectrum of business sectors also showcased their success stories at the 2021 Sheraa Ramadan Majlis, detailing their experiences of setting up businesses in Sharjah and across the UAE, and suggesting ways to further grow the startup ecosystem in the emirate.
Most of the discussions at the event revolved around the Covid-19 pandemic, and how it impacted the SME landscape in the country. Speaking at the event, Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa), noted that even when the Covid-19 pandemic posted a threat to the global entrepreneurial landscape, SMEs across the UAE showed their resilience, and proved to be a key factor in the country’s recovery from the pandemic.
“We were among the first in the ecosystem to provide financial aid to startups, launching a $1 million solidarity fund to support founders whose businesses were adversely affected by the pandemic,” she said. “This fund also enabled founders from across the region to develop various products and solutions in critical sectors such as healthcare.”
She also highlighted how Sheraa, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary of operations, has evolved to needs of entrepreneurs today. During its five-year journey, Sheraa has set a precedent in building a world-class, founder-centric and inclusive ecosystem of founders, who have collectively generated a sizeable Dh477 million in revenue and raised investments worth Dh320 million.
Najla Al Midfa also spoke about Sharjah’s invaluable contribution to SME community, highlighting how the emirate’s pro-entrepreneurship attitude has turned it into a home for innovation and impact. “Since 2016, Sheraa has inspired a community of over 17,000 changemakers and has graduated 114 startups. These startups have contributed significantly across sectors and created over 1,300 jobs. I am also very proud to say that of the total startups that graduated from Sheraa, 48 per cent were women-led.”
Another key topic that was discussed at the event revolved around companies strengthening their ‘digital first’ approach and investments in technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), data, and blockchain. Many experts said that passion, combined with innovation, and a keen focus on technologies that are set to transform the business landscape are what will be needed for future successes.
“Data is the future,” said Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq). “It is great to see how diverse Sharjah’s startup ecosystem is, and how many different nationalities from around the world are bringing their innovative ideas to the emirate. Our role is to support everyone as they excel from one level to another by providing opportunities and guidance. My advice right now is to look at data, and to look at industries that the whole world is talking about. Think about investing in artificial intelligence, data management, drones, machine learning, and robotics.”
Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of the Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park, noted that the SRTIP’s partnership and collaboration with Sheraa falls in-line with its strategy to supporting start-ups in Sharjah, especially when the emirate is ranked among the world’s high-growth startup ecosystems according to the Global Startup Ecosystem.
“Sharjah is also a pioneering global hub for startups seeking unique innovation, research and entrepreneurial success, thanks to its approach in sustaining a knowledge-based economy that encourages and inspires an innovative business ecosystem, as well as the continued development of its scientific and applied research sector. These efforts have strongly contributed in bolstering Sharjah’s position as a regional hub for entrepreneurship and innovative start-ups, and reinforces its competitiveness globally,” he said.
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