The Thomson Reuters Accelerate SME Platform Has Resources Aplenty For MENA Entrepreneurs
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Thomson Reuters Accelerate SME was launched in September 2016 with an aim to become the digital gateway for the SME ecosystem in the MENA region, and with over 4,000 entrepreneurs, startups and small business owners having already signed up for its offering, the portal now seems to be well on its way to realizing its vision.
It’s easy to see the reason for these good figures though- not only is it a one-stop-shop providing access to resources and solutions for business owners at any stage in their enterprise lifecycles, Accelerate SME is also completely free to join, making it a valuable resource for cash-strapped enterprises in the region.
“We offer an extensive and growing repository of industry insights, practical advice guides, business tools and easy-to-use templates,” explains Tina Ghanem, Head of Accelerate SME. “Members are able to create a profile and get their services listed on Accelerate SME, or simply connect and network with other business owners and entrepreneurs via our online community hub. We have also joined forces with some of the region’s premier firms to create a marketplace for fast-track funding and financing solutions, and discounted business services on Accelerate SME. Our members are able to quickly search, view and apply directly online via our platform for the services they need.”
With the platform having already secured a sizeable audience in the region, Accelerate SME is now gearing up to broaden its scope and build itself up further. “We hope to continue growing our community and onboard a wider network of financial, government and technology partners from across the MENA ecosystem,” Ghanem says. “Our future plans for Accelerate SME also involve launching a network of country-specific portals to provide SMEs with access to localized resources and partners, which we’re very excited about. First up, we are launching Accelerate SME Jordan in partnership with Bank al Etihad.”
Accelerate SME is built in such a way that it has something to offer businesses at all stages of their lifecycles. “For businesses in the early-stage and growth-stage, we provide a wide array of business resources to help them plan for business expansion to new markets, leverage digital marketing to grow their customer base, improve management of their cash flow, among others,” Ghanem explains. “Through our business services marketplace, everyone from startup companies to established businesses can find what they’re after. We have built a curated marketplace, partnering with various providers, to create discounted, ready-to-go service packages exclusive to our members with anywhere up to 15% discount on the providers’ standard rates. Our members can apply for discounted services ranging from internal and external audit support, credit and financial advisory, insurance and much more.”
For an entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s growing so quickly, Accelerate SME’s presence in the MENA region bodes well for the upstarts that are making inroads into this realm. “We offer a great starting point for any new entrepreneur or startup owner simply looking to arm themselves with the insights and knowledge to handle some of the big decisions required when setting up a new company,” Ghanem notes. “Our online Community Hub also provides a fantastic space for them to connect with other entrepreneurs who are looking to make the leap, and bounce ideas off of. For startup founders, we offer specific how-to guides, custom toolkits, and other resources to support many of their key decisions and business activities from the start. We help them figure out where to set up their business, how to price their products or services, how to pitch to investors, and much more.” Suffice to say, there are a lot of benefits entrepreneurs can enjoy by joining Accelerate SME—so, what are you waiting for? Head to AccelerateSME.com and sign up now!
Developing an ecosystem: Q&A with Tina Ghanem, Head, Accelerate SME
Q What do you think is missing from the MENA entrepreneurial ecosystem today? What factors do you think can contribute to its improvement?
A “The entrepreneurial ecosystem in MENA is growing rapidly. We are seeing more and more incubators and accelerators launching to support entrepreneurs; with a 10-fold increase in number of MENA-focused accelerators since 2013. Limited access to finance has been one of the greatest headwinds for MENA startups, but we are starting to see the barriers to finance for local start-ups steadily breaking down. There has been rapid growth in alternative financing options from venture capital firms, angel investors and peer-to-peer lenders. Much of the growth in investment and support is prioritizing innovations in the digital technology space, and innovative tech startups with rapid growth potential. So, access to finance for more traditional, less tech driven startups is still a challenge.
Going forward, to help support existing startups and build a new generation of startup founders, there needs to be greater focus on providing entrepreneurs with direct access to the educational resources and guidance they need, as well as finding a way to bring the ecosystem together so that there is transparency and entrepreneurs are able to reach out directly to partners for support. This includes bringing together technology and cloud service providers to help startups build the right infrastructure from the start; incubators and accelerators to provide the space and support programs to prepare founders; government supported initiatives and programs; and commercial and alternative financing providers.”