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Five Startup Networks At Your Fingertips In The UAE Five networks available in the UAE that can help you progress with your startup- through advice from experts to professional business services.

By George Hojeige

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For entrepreneurs launching their own startup in the UAE, there is no shortage of support to tap into from other business owners. However, finding the right networking group for you and your business is a matter of trial and error. In fact, it's often worth joining more than one network: you will soon get an idea of which ones are giving you what you need. In this article, we've picked out five networking groups in the UAE that are worth looking into.

1. Dubai Startup Hub

Dubai Startup Hub is a network of complementary professionals and trusted partners, who work together to provide clarity and direction for entrepreneurs based in the UAE. A government-supported initiative run by Dubai Chamber, it was set up to encourage startups to take root in the UAE by providing support and guidance.

An extensive list of trusted partners can be accessed to provide professional advice and services to improve startup brands and answer any questions they might have. Plus, a calendar of regular events allows startup owners to network with experienced professionals, who are happy to share their experience of doing business in the UAE.

What Dubai Startup Hub can do for you: For anyone starting up in a new country, a word from a fellow entrepreneur with a few years under their belt can be invaluable. As a member of Dubai Startup Hub, you will be able to call on the experience of other members for guidance, as well as having access to a roster of trusted providers for the business services you need. You will also be eligible to enter competitions, such as Dubai Smartpreneur, with the opportunity to win funding from top investors.

Related: Why Startup Hotspots Around The World Can't Match The UAE For Global Appeal

2. Startup Grind

Startup Grind is a global startup networking community, powered by Google for Startups. The whole network connects 1.5 million entrepreneurs in 500 cities around the world. In the UAE, we have local chapters of Startup Grind in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. These groups help entrepreneurs by nurturing startup ecosystems through monthly events, media and strategic partnerships with organisations like Google for Startups.

What Startup Grind can do for you: As a member of Startup Grind, you will be able to attend inspirational and insightful talks from successful entrepreneurs. Previous speakers include Mona Ataya, founder of online marketplace Mumzworld, and Haider Ali Khan, co-founder and CEO of UAE property portal The global structure of the organization also means you can attend Startup Grind events anywhere in the world, including the annual global conference, and network with members from overseas.

3. Virtuzone Startup Database

As the UAE's longest established company formation specialist, working in the region since 2009, Virtuzone has helped more than 15,000 businesses to set up in the UAE. Our database provides us with a powerful tool for connecting entrepreneurs with complementary skills and interests. We can put you in touch with other business leaders in the UAE who have experience or skills that can help you raise your business profile. We also have our list of trusted partners, who provide specialist business services, including logistics, office space and radio advertising.

What the Virtuzone database can do for you: The Virtuzone database is a rich source of expertise, covering the gamut of business disciplines in the UAE. If you need a particular service to help you move your startup forward, we can carry out a quick search and provide you with trusted contacts. Our database is a practical resource for Virtuzone customers, helping startups to continue growing long after we have helped them to set up.

Related: Building Bridges: Dubai Startup Hub's New Mentorship Program To Foster UAE-Africa Cooperation

4. BNI

BNI is the world's leading networking and referral marketing organisation. Its aims are to create a forum for members to share ideas, contacts, networks and, in particular, referrals. The latter is a key part of the BNI philosophy, and you will be expected to provide your share of referrals in order to maintain your membership. There are a number of BNI chapters in the UAE, but they all operate under the same rules. Meetings take place at 7am and each group is limited to one member representing any professional specification. That means no competition within the group.

What BNI can do for you: If you like the idea of a strictly disciplined and regimented approach to networking, BNI is worth a try. The competition-free structure means that you will be the sole specialist in your field within your BNI chapter, which should mean a higher concentration of referrals coming your way.

5. Dubai Entrepreneurs Network (DEN)

DEN is a Dubai-based networking group that holds weekly networking sessions where members come together to share ideas. The network welcomes aspiring entrepreneurs (i.e., those still in employment or studying) as well as fully fledged startup owners. It's a good place to pick up some valuable advice while you're still laying the groundwork for your new venture. There are weekly meetings scheduled as well as guest speaker events, but the chief resource is the discussion board where members can post messages about the services they offer or those they need.

What DEN can do for you: With over 6,000 registered members, the DEN discussion board is a resource that can help you to find contacts and promote your services. The weekly meetings take place in a local cafe and are free to attend.

The right networking group for you

A quick internet search will bring up a variety of networking groups, including specialist groups for businesswomen, young entrepreneurs, specific business sectors and even specific nationalities. The five I've picked out are a recommended starting point, but my advice is to try a few. After all, the more you learn about other people's businesses, the more people will learn about yours.

Related: Matchmaking For Entrepreneurs: Dubai Startup Hub Launches Co-Founder Dubai Program

George Hojeige

CEO at Virtuzone

George Hojeige is CEO at Virtuzone. As CEO, Hojeige ensures the company maintains its position as one of the fastest growing business setup operators in the region. Born in Beirut, his family emigrated to Canada in 1986 where he grew up in the English-speaking suburbs of Montreal. A natural communicator and networker, Hojeige held sales positions in the telecoms industry and medical field in North America before moving to Dubai to run the family business in construction. Since then, he has taken on high-profile sales roles – including as Group Commercial Director at ITP Media Group, working on prestigious titles such as Arabian Business and Esquire Magazine. Hojeige graduated from Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering.

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