The MENA Startup Ecosystem Comes Together In Sharjah In its second edition, the 2018 Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival sees more than 3,000 people in attendance.

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More than 3,000 attendees and 100 prominent regional and international speakers converged on Sharjah in November 2018 for the second edition of Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival (SharjahEF).

Dubbed the fastest growing entrepreneurship festival in the region, the two-day SharjahEF event is the brainchild of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center, Sheraa. "SharjahEF is a prestigious platform that enables ecosystem stakeholders to network and collaborate with like-minded members of the region's entrepreneurship community, fueling them with the spirit and passion to build a better future, and providing them with the opportunity to scout for investment and mentorship," said Najla Al Midfa, CEO, Sheraa. "What makes this festival different is that it emphasizes constructive conversations on the challenges faced by the ecosystem, on the opportunities that are being created, and on how to take your startup to the next level. Sheraa has established itself as a key player in this ecosystem, and the success of SharjahEF furthers our vision of making Sharjah a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship."

Mohamed Alabbar, Chairman, Emaar Properties, at the SharjahEF 2018. Source: Sheraa.

The SharjahEF 2018 edition featured Emaar Properties Chairman Mohamed Alabbar, VaynerX Chairman Gary Vaynerchuk, Huda Beauty co-founders Huda and Mona Kattan, MindValley founder Vishen Lakhiani, Decoded CEO Kathryn Parsons, Samasource founder Leila Janah, author and research neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield, Mumzworld founder Mona Ataya, BMB Group cofounder Bilal Ballout, Saudi serial entrepreneur Adwa Al- Dakheel, and many others.

"Honestly speaking, you can't achieve anything if you don't persevere and aren't determined or diligent," said Alabbar, in his keynote speech titled The Price of Entrepreneurship. "You need to focus day and night on how to improve day after day. Without working day and night, you will not achieve anything. Time is precious, and valuable."

Furthermore, H.E. Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Executive Chairman of the Department of Government Relations, Sharjah, noted in his keynote address that the region's startups have the potential to create companies that are globally renowned and recognized. "Entrepreneurs and technology can be born out of this part of the world. My message to you, the entrepreneur community, is don't get complacent, and don't get comfortable. Let's raise the bar, let's dare to be different, not for the UAE, but for the world."

H.E. Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Executive Chairman of the Department of Government Relations, Sharjah, at the SharjahEF 2018. Source: Sheraa.

In a much-anticipated session titled Dare to Dream, Gary Vaynerchuk said: "We are at a time where there's so much potential in this region. The greatest thing about a CEO, founder and entrepreneurs is that when there is success you get a disproportionate amount of the credit. The problem with entrepreneurship is when it fails, you have nobody to blame. To build a meaningful company takes a very long time, and is very difficult, and more importantly, what is happening in the startup community, everybody now is pandering to venture capital or raising capital, not to actually building a business."

VaynerX Chairman Gary Vaynerchuk at the SharjahEF 2018. Source: Sheraa.

The event also recognized notable achievements in the UAE's startup industry with the second edition of its annual SEFFY Awards, initiated last year by Sheraa Chairperson H.E. Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi as a "tribute to rule-breaking, status quo questioning entrepreneurs." This year's Entrepreneur of the Year award went to Rami Shaar and Jad Halaoui, co-founders of Washmen; the Tech Rising Star award went to sales gamification CRM Digitteam; and the Sheraa Rising Star award went to industrial advanced technology company Airspace Blockchain. The 2018 Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival also conducted the 100k Pitch Competition which was won by Bluephin, an intelligent autonomous waste collecting robot powered by AI, which can collect up to 350kg of trash in two hours in an environmentally friendly manner that emits zero carbon emissions.

Huda Beauty's Huda and Mona Kattan at the SharjahEF 2018. Source: Sheraa.

The 2018 Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival was staged with the support of Gold Partners Sharjah Islamic Bank, Sharjah Asset Management, and Sharjah Media City (Shams), as well as Silver Partners Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sharjah for Capability Development, Sharjah SME Ruwad, and National Paints.

Related: Follow The Leader: Najla Al-Midfa, CEO, Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa)

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