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THE SHE FACTOR: Zap The Startup Gap

By Sandhya D'Mello Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "SMARTup" is a platform that focuses on creating quality conversations between early stage startups and prospective investor and mentors. It has been a huge success in India and now the platform is expanding internationally.


Bridging the gap between investors and startups is something that is not only a high-risk business venture, but involves high rewards too -- and this is exactly evident from the efforts undertaken by Hardika Mehta, partner for community building (Dubai) at ah! Ventures, who is striving to strike right deals in the region through her platform SMARTup.

"We started off our initiatives in the UAE by bringing our interaction platform SMARTup to Dubai in June in association with in5. SMARTup is a joint initiative of ah! Ventures with," she says.

"ah! Ventures is India's largest early-stage investor network with more than 50 funding deals totaling about $20 million in the last few years with 1,900 investors. is India's largest aggregator community platform for coworking and flexible workspaces present across more than 18 cities in the country with more than 120,000 seats. SMARTup is a platform that focuses on creating quality conversations between early stage startups and prospective investor and mentors. This has been a huge success in India and Dubai was our first international foray," says Hardika.

The platform recently organized an event in Dubai, giving a platform to almost 20 investors from India and the UAE's local fraternity with a participation of 15 startups.

"We are an international early-stage platform with an investor network from around the globe, including Dubai and other UAE centres. We find this to be a flourishing and progressive market with some wonderful startups and excellent support initiatives. We are currently exploring how we may add maximum value to this vibrant ecosystem. While we have an investor base here already, our organized presence in the UAE is still work in progress and I am leading that exploration. I am on lookout for capital efficient companies with a unique product or service filling an urgent market need," she stresses.

Hardika opines that she met a significant number of women entrepreneurs, building businesses not just for the UAE but also targeting international markets. Some of these have had very robust and interesting business plans and Dubai is an encouraging market for women entrepreneurs.

Asked on how she balances work and home, she says: "Balancing family and work is a top priority for me, and I treat it as such. I actually put specific family time and events on my calendar so that precious time is dedicated and properly blocked off from any work that may try to sneak its way into my schedule," says Hardika.

ah! Ventures is currently focusing on initiatives that are limited to community outreach and connecting interfaces.

"We are encouraging UAE startups and investors to interact more actively with their counterparts in other parts of the world, especially India, where we are headquartered. We are looking forward to firming up further our investor base in the UAE for which I am actively holding conversations," Hardika adds.

"We are also looking to create a platform for not just the UAE but for Mena startups as well as those from Africa to showcase themselves at valuable investor and mentor interfaces. We created our first community interface called SMARTup between startups and our investors in June and had a very positive and encouraging response. We have plans to repeat these interfaces in coming months," said Hardika.

Her ambition to establish a strong platform that bridges the gap between investors and startups makes her believe that to attain higher heights one does need to dream big.

"Dream big and chase your dreams. You can't raise your net worth until you raise your self worth, so my biggest advice would be to lift yourself up high and follow your dreams. The world is ready and welcoming," Hardika concludes.

Keep this in mind: . The core of business today depends on building valuable networks and constantly creating value for others that do business with you . Staying focused on creating value rather than being transactional has worked both for me individually as well as for ah! Ventures, and SMARTup . Getting started is important; the willingness to start is the smallest thing that makes the biggest difference . Don't ever take a short cut, there is no alternative to hard work

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