Mohammad Al Musharrkh (left) and CEO Sarmad Al Zadjaly during the launch ceremony of at Sharjah Research and Technology Park Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa) has shared its achievements since its inception in 2016, including the fact that it has supported 114 start-ups over the past five years.

It follows Sheraa’s impact report released in June. The report, titled ‘The Rise of an Ecosystem: Five Years of Creating Impact 2016-2020’, revealed that Sheraa has supported 114 start-ups over the past five years, generated $130 million (around Dh477 million) in revenue and raised investments worth $87 (around Dh319 million).

Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa, said: “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 VCs [Venture Capitalists] in emerging economic domains.”

She added: “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 start-ups in the UAE and the wider region to navigate the turbulence by shifting to new future-proof business models.”

Attracting attention

Sheraa beneficiary Siddiq Farid, co-founder of Smart Crowd, said: “Our participation in the debut edition of Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival in 2017 provided our business with validation and exposure that attracted the attention of VCs and potential partners. Sheraa’s $100,000 [around Dh367,000] grant, as well as the programmes we participated in, is what has made our entrepreneurship journey possible.”

More than 17,800 founders and others have attained similar benefits through their participation in Sheraas’ events. Since inception, Sheraa has provided more than 3,000 hours of mentoring in collaboration with diverse stakeholders.

Amna Al Jarwan, founder of KnackLab, said: “Sheraa’s founder-first approach to supporting community members is unique in the UAE. I was able to access mentors who supported commercialisation of my ideas and pushed me to take my business to the next level.”

Sarmad Al Zadjali, co-founder and CEO of Mughammer, a Sharjah-based start-up operating under Sheraa designed as an online platform to aid travel enthusiasts and adventurers plan their trips by exploring adventure activities at their chosen destinations, praised Sheraa’s role in helping entrepreneurs achieve the success behind their business ideas, which in turns strengthens Sharjah’s position on the global entrepreneurship map.

Al Zadjali said: “The impact we aim to achieve through is to attract adventure enthusiasts to the UAE to live a tourism experience unparalleled in the world."

Creating jobs

The 114 start-ups supported by Sheraa during the past five years have created more than 1,300 jobs and have registered a 65 per cent “survival rate”. Meanwhile, almost half (48 per cent) of Sheraa-supported start-ups are led by women.

Nader Amiri, founder of elGrocer, said: “Sheraa’s accelerator programme led to an introduction to Sharjah Co-op which crystallised 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.”

Global connections

Leveraging Sharjah’s historically strong trade ties and industrial competitive advantages to forge a globally connected entrepreneurship ecosystem, Sheraa launched several initiatives such as the ‘Access Sharjah Challenge’ to attract high-potential entrepreneurs to the emirate and support start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises to expand globally.

The entity offered 70 per cent reduction in business start-up costs through its partnerships with Sharjah’s free-zones and a total of $1.3 million (around Dh4.78 million) in grants and prizes was awarded to start-ups in collaboration with the public and private sectors.

Solidarity fund

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sheraa launched the $1 million (around Dh3.67 million) ‘Start-up Solidarity Fund’ in 2020 to support start-ups developing solutions for “the world’s most pressing problems”. The support was provided through equity-free grants, commissioned projects, and in-kind partnerships.

Bashar Saleh, founder and CEO of PointCheckout, said: “Sheraa’s solidarity fund provided a lifeline that enabled PointCheckout to pivot and rebuild even stronger. When our business resiliency was tested, being able to reach out to members of the Sheraa community for support was vital.”