Sheraa's Five-Year Impact Report Showcases Sharjah's Transformation Into An Innovation-Driven Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
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The "founder-focused, ecosystem-responsive, and impact-driven strategy" of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) in the UAE has produced remarkable achievements over the past five years, according to a report recently released by the startup incubator.
The Rise of an Ecosystem: 5 Years of Creating Impact 2016-2020 states that Sheraa has, since its inception, supported 114 startups that have created over 1,300 jobs, generated US$130 million in revenue, and raised investments totaling $87 million. While the average survival rate of these businesses has been pegged at 65%, the report also noted that 48% of the companies supported by Sheraa have been led by women.
“Sharjah’s key strengths in building a globally connected ecosystem and forging cross-sectoral partnerships have laid the foundation for aspiring entrepreneurs to scale up to global markets and access top-tier venture capitalists in emerging economic domains,” said Najla Al Midfa, CEO, Sheraa, in a statement. "During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sheraa remained steadfast in its commitment to strengthening Sharjah’s role in providing our community ample protection from market volatility, and enabled startups in the UAE and the wider region to navigate the turbulence by shifting to new future-proof business models.”
Sheraa’s founder-first philosophy that drove Sharjah's transformation into an entrepreneur-friendly and impact-driven entrepreneurship ecosystem was presented in June to H.E. Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, the UAE Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises, during a roundtable discussion with Sheraa’s management and 40 of its portfolio startups.
H.E. Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, the UAE Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises, and Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa, during a rountable discussion with Sheraa startups.
“The Ministry of Economy and our partners are keen to constantly and actively engage with entrepreneurs and SME owners in the country to find effective solutions to the challenges that businesses face in the post-COVID-19 phase,” H.E. Dr. Ahmad Belhoul said. "By working together, we will be able to better capitalize on emerging opportunities; better utilize local funds in supporting entrepreneurs, make their voices heard, and collaborate on development and support programs at the local and federal levels.”
Since inception, Sheraa has provided more than 3,000 hours of mentoring in collaboration with diverse ecosystem stakeholders. In addition, more than 17,800 founders and ecosystem players have attained similar benefits through their participation in Sheraa events delivering the know-how integral to sustained entrepreneurial success. Siddiq Farid, co-founder of Smart Crowd, the MENA’s first regulated digital real estate platform, noted how his participation in the debut edition of the Sheraa-organized Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival in 2017 provided the business with validation and exposure that attracted the attention of venture capitalists and potential partners.
Similarly, Amna Al Jarwan, founder of the digital coaching enterprise solutions venture, KnackLab, said that she was able to access mentors who supported commercialization of her ideas. Meanwhile, Nader Amiri, founder of the UAE-based grocery marketplace platform, elGrocer, noted how Sheraa’s accelerator program led to an introduction to Sharjah Coop, which crystallized into a strategic partnership. "We also benefited tremendously from the media and public relations support Sheraa provided, which enabled us to create a deeper connection with our customers and the communities we serve," he added.
Sheraa had also launched the Access Sharjah Challenge to support startups and SMEs to expand globally by offering 70% reduction in business startup costs through its partnerships with Sharjah’s free zones. Furthermore, a total of $1.3 million in grants and prizes was awarded to startups in collaboration with the public and private sectors. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Sheraa launched the $1 million Startup Solidarity Fund in May 2020 to support startups developing solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. The required support was provided through equity-free grants, commissioned projects, and in-kind partnerships.