Meet The Finalists of Dubai Startup Hub's Smartpreneur Competition 6.0: Soul Artists
"The platform acts as a dedicated space for performing artists and musicians to manage their bookings and tap into a new pool of growing clients, using a unique business model that takes zero commission from the artists, and simply charges clients an industry low agency fee when making a booking."
Soul Artists is one of the top 10 startups pitching for prizes worth a total of AED150,000 at the finals of Dubai Startup Hub's Smartpreneur Competition 6.0, which will be staged as part of Entrepreneur Middle East’s Enterprise Agility Forum 2022 at Expo 2020 Dubai on January 20, 2022. Register HERE to be a part of the event.
Suhail Khoury is a performing artist and entrepreneur who is perhaps best known today for being the the co-founder and CEO of Soul Artists, a UAE-based talent management company. However, that’s not how he started out his career trajectory. "I have had a love for performing arts since I was a child, and for over 10 years, I dedicated much of my free time exploring dance, magic shows, and fire arts,” Khoury says. “However, when I came to Dubai, I started working in a bank, selling credit cards to make a living, then I moved to real estate, and then to corporate events, until I realized that I was neither happy nor able to make ends meet.”
“What would I do if money was no object?” That’s the question many creatives stuck in the corporate world often ask themselves, and that’s also what led Khoury to think of performing arts as an alternative career. "I instantly picked myself up and created the best resume and promo videos that I could at the time, in order to share it with all the event managers and companies in the country,” he says. "However, I received no response from any of those companies.” This experience made Khoury aware of a market gap- a lack of online platforms that housed performing artists looking for gigs, while also offering event creators a roster of talent to choose from. “I realized that I was meant to create it,” Khoury says. "I reached out to my brother Zaid Khoury, and we scrapped all the money we had around to build our first prototype.”
Source: Soul Artists
Before long, the two brothers raised a seed investment, and today, according to Khoury, Soul Artists hosts the largest roster of MENA-based performing artists, allowing anyone to discover and book an entertainer for their event. “The platform also acts as a dedicated space for performing artists and musicians to manage their bookings and tap into a new pool of growing clients, using a unique business model that takes zero commission from the artists, and simply charges clients an industry low agency fee when making a booking,” Khoury explains. But Khoury’s work on this startup was not without obstacles, the most challenging one being educating the industry as a whole that the Soul Artists model was how entertainment booking would be made for generations to come. "This was mitigated a couple of years later, when we were able to prove that our platform and technology work, and that the people behind it cared and offered excellent support and service throughout the booking process,” Khoury says.
Once it became clear that Soul Artists was a sustainable entrepreneurial venture, Khoury started taking part in startup competitions, one of which was the Smartpreneur Competition 6.0, an annual startup contest by Dubai Startup Hub, the entrepreneurship arm of Dubai Chamber. The company has now been shortlisted as one of the contest’s finalists, and Khoury has only good words to say about his experience in the competition. "We were in several startup competitions in the past, but we have never seen this level of care put into each entrepreneur,” Khoury says.
"We have had multiple private one-on-one sessions that have been very valuable to us.” With Dubai Startup Hub having opened this year's Smartpreneur Competition to technology startups who have solutions in the fields of opportunity, sustainability, and trade, Khoury explains that Soul Artists, at its core, is about offering opportunities to all artists and creatives out there."Our solution not only documents professional artists from this region for the first time in history in one dedicated space, but it also gives any event creator or entertainment seeker a true insight into the artistic landscape within their country in seconds,” he explains.
Source: Soul Artists
In terms of preparing for his pitch at the finals of the Smartpreneur Competition 6.0, which will be staged as part of Entrepreneur Middle East’s Enterprise Agility Forum 2022 at Expo 2020 Dubai on January 20, 2022, Khoury says that he is revisiting the startup’s pitch deck and its core values. "One tip I can give to my fellow entrepreneurs is to remember why they did this in the first place, and to reignite that passion,” he adds. “They need understand all aspects of the business and its numbers, and then to explain it to the judges as if they were explaining it to a kindergarten class, as judges like things simplified and easy to digest.” The other tips he’d give his fellow entrepreneurs would be to compete only with themselves, to be open to feedback, and not to shy away from asking for help. When it com
es to deciding on a location for a startup, Khoury believes that Dubai can serve as a fertile ground for all kinds of entrepreneurial ideas- his own story is an example for that. "I honestly don’t think we would have been successful if we had started up anywhere else,” he adds. "Dubai is perfect for startups as the infrastructure is built from the ground up to support innovation and technology, and the vision of UAE’s leaders of always looking to the future trickles down into the economy, markets, and each individual, and we are eternally grateful for this.”
As for the road ahead, expanding Soul Artists across the region is on Khoury’s agenda for 2022 and beyond. “We want to provide all performing artists and event creators in the Arab world with the same benefits and leisures enjoyed by the UAE from our solution,” he concludes.
Soul Artists is one of the top 10 startups pitching for prizes worth a total of AED150,000 at the finals of Dubai Startup Hub’s Smartpreneur Competition 6.0, which will be staged as part of Entrepreneur Middle East’s Enterprise Agility Forum 2022 at Expo 2020 Dubai on January 20, 2022. Register HERE to be a part of the event.