Dubai Chamber GBF startup community for web
A total of 10 startups from the UAE selected by the Chamber participated in the Chamberthon, in Kigali Image Credit: Supplied

The line between success and failure is often paper-thin in business. A recent survey by US data firm Kabbage revealed that 92 per cent of small business owners acknowledge the impact of mentors on their businesses’ long-term viability. Yet nearly two-thirds of owners lack any professional support when launching their businesses.

To bridge this gap and provide startups with the best opportunities to thrive, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry has bought together small businesses alongside business leaders and captains of industry as part of its Global Business Forum (GBF) Mentorship Programme in Dubai this year.

The programme is aimed at fostering cross-border cooperation between startup communities by pairing entrepreneurs with mentors. The first-of-its-kind initiative saw startups from the UAE and Africa team up with eight prominent business leaders from both countries. Selected startups will now showcase their business concepts and solutions at the 5th Global Business Forum on Africa in Dubai to boost their exposure within UAE and African markets and business communities.

Four UAE startups, who are members of Dubai Startup Hub, who were selected to take part include Evolvin Women, a startup helping unemployed women from developing countries; Symmetry, a gender balance consultancy; Tuitify, a startup using AI and virtual reality to improve employee training and productivity; and Designhubz, a SaaS platform that enables retailers and brands to sell their products in 3D.

The remaining startups are from Africa. They include Farmcrowdy, a startup using advanced technologies to connect international buyers and farming clusters;, an online marketplace for renting and selling construction equipment; Engineering Hub Ltd, a provider of IT services and solutions for mobile and banking integration platforms; and RideSafe, a mobile application offering real-time health solutions.

High-profile mentors

Eight prominent business leaders were selected to mentor the startups from the UAE and Africa participating in the programme over a three-month period.

Four UAE-based mentors and four Africa-based mentors with a wealth of expertise in fields such as technology, education, retail, construction and finance, were part of the programme.

All the mentors have a proven track record in building business and driving the growth of startups. The UAE-based mentors teamed up with selected African startups and guided them over a three-month period, while the Africa-based mentors did the same for the UAE startups.The eight mentors who joined the programme are: Aboyeji Iyinoluwa, Managing Partner at Street Capital; Chris Folayan, Founder and CEO of Mall for Africa; Eghosa Omoigui, Founder and Managing Partner of EchoVC; Jonathan Berman, CEO of J.E. Berman Associates; Nassib Boueri, CEO of Wunderman MENA; Chris Thomas, Co-CEO and Co-founder of Eureeca; Cynthia Corby, the Middle East Construction

Industry Leader for Deloitte and Nader Amiri, Founder and CEO of el Grocer.

The second phase of the programme involved intensive training and mentorship sessions. A total of 10 startups from the UAE selected by the Chamber participated in the Chamberthon, attended the Africa Tech Summit in Kigali, and joined their African counterparts for a full day of interactive sessions.

Participants were divided into mixed teams of African and UAE entrepreneurs, representing many sectors and fields, including agriculture, healthcare, environment, fintech, climate change, social responsibility, construction, and customer experience among others.

The startup teams developed and presented a wide variety of innovative and practical ideas that will be used to structure Dubai Chamber’s Global Business Forum Mentorship Programme.

Fostering innovation

The GBF Mentorship Programme is an extension of Dubai Chamber’s Global Business Forum on Africa platform and event series. “Startups are playing an active role in fostering innovation as they leverage and test out cutting-edge technologies that improve the way we live and work,” said Hamad Buamim, President & CEO of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“The GBF Mentorship Programme provides an ideal platform for high-potential startups to develop their business concepts, benefit from collaboration, access new growth opportunities through the Global Business Forum on Africa platform, and build valuable partnerships,” he said, adding that such efforts fall complement Dubai Chamber’s programmes and initiatives offered to entrepreneurs through Dubai Startup Hub.

African startups are on pace to set new records in 2019. In 2018, African startups raised a historic $725 million. So far this year, top startups have already secured $699  million, according to data provided by GreenTec Capital Partners’ Maxime Bayen.