By Sandhya D'Mello Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) In an effort to promote entrepreneurship, prominent names like Turn8, in5, Yvolv, AstroLabs, Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA) and more are gearing up to mentor talented entrepreneurs across the UAE.
Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Innovation has become a norm in the ever-vibrant entrepreneurial UAE.
New ideas are on a roll and so are startups in the country. However, merely having an idea without proper mentorship can be disastrous if not nurtured properly, making the role of accelerators, incubators or mentors all the more crucial.
The startups are facing challenges on many fronts from incurring legal costs, office space, right technology investment, payment gateways and many more.
Prominent names like Turn8, in5, Yvolv, AstroLabs, Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA) and more are gearing up to offer the best to mentor and combine the rich expertise of talented entrepreneurs with innovative ideas of the millennial generation.
It is evident that with abundant support to the UAE startup ecosystem what will remain vital is choosing your right mentor. A combined research by Google, DSOA and YouGov indicates that out of 150 entrepreneurs who participated in a survey, technology, SME and startup entrepreneurs are young with 88 per cent being 35-year old or below.
These are not your average businessmen/women but are full of ambition, exhibit leadership qualities, dedication and a strong desire to challenge themselves and 'take the road less travelled'. So how do you guide such an enthusiastic generation to choose the right mentor, accelator or incubator so as to avoid possible pitfalls in their journey and manifest their idea into reality?
"Focus on the product and continuously experiment and learn how to make it better. Don't do a startup just because it is cool, don't waste your or investor's money trying to market a bad product," said Louis Lebbos, founding partner, AstroLabs.
The firm provides coworking space for tech companies and has more than 100 startups from more than 20 countries around the world. It also helps startups set up a legal company, provide access to mentors, investors and partners.
Lebbos says people have to be clear that in general, an incubator takes early stage teams with ideas and helps in bringing these ideas to life, usually over the course of a long period of six months to more than a year. An accelerator, on the other hand, takes existing businesses and over the course of a shorter period, usually, three months, supports the team in scaling these ideas to a wider market.
Accelerators usually have a fund and they cover their costs from management fees taken from those funds. But the way the model works is by taking shares of the companies. They take on usually five to 15 per cent and cash in those shares years later when some of these companies become successful.
"Globally the best practice is to join an accelerator run by successful entrepreneurs and investors who can add real value to the startup and with a track record of helping startups grow and succeed. The earlier you get investors to invest in your company the lower the valuation as the company has not proven itself yet so generally it is best to get traction and raise funds at a later stage, or better yet, get it profitable and avoid having external investors," said Lebbos.
In5 -- home to 160 startups and entrepreneurs who raised over Dh140 million in funding and engaged with over 4,000 technopreneurs and an overall community of 20,000 -- does not take equity and provides workspaces at competitive rates allowing startups to get off the ground first before having to worry about financial implications.
Mohammed Al Zubi, in5 mentor, said in5 was set up as a response to a need in the market for ecosystems helping entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life. By helping businesses reach maturity, in5 is paving the way for more homegrown enterprises to thrive.
The high growth figures prove that entrepreneurship is increasingly a calling of choice in the region and the ever-growing ranks of entrepreneurs, experts and venture capitalists all agree that the industry is advancing and Dubai is staying at the forefront of pushing its boundaries, added Zubi.
He advises aspiring entrepreneurs to look at three key features when choosing the right place to start-up: their financial requirements, the tools and infrastructure they need to develop and prototype their product, and what kind of community or network they would like to access.
In5's offering might thus be relevant to entrepreneurs who would benefit from a flexible arrangement that exposes them to investors and opportunities without giving equity; who are looking for customised workspaces, cutting-edge facilities, labs, studios; and who want to mingle in Dubai's tech, media or design industries in particular.
The rise of this phenomenal interest in supporting UAE startups is not limited locally but even has spilled over into overseas markets.
Kushal Shah, head of Roland Berger and founder of Dubai Angel Investors, said global venture capitalists are willing to invest and global accelerators are ready to develop their business here in the region.
Paris-based Blacksmith is one of the incubators/accelerators that has partnered with Yvolv -- established in 2015 as a technology joint venture between Meraas and Alibaba Cloud -- to introduce Yvolv Ignite that is aimed to assist startups to focus on driving their core businesses rather than focusing on technology operations, which consequently helps them reach their growth targets faster and smoother.
"The startup ecosystem will change in the years to come. The approach to early-stage ventures will become more professional and entrepreneurs will need serious players such as Yvolv to build sustainable technologies and businesses. We are happy to partner with Yvolv on that mission on the Middle East, aligned with the strong ambitions in the region," said Alexandre Pereira, CEO and founding partner of Blacksmith.
The Yvolv Ignite programme helps startups by providing them access to elastic in-country cloud resources, sharing guidance on how to build their technology platform and define a successful customer experience, as well as mentoring them on how to fast-track their growth.
"Being a startup ourselves, we fully understand the needs and challenges that other startups face during the early stages. Therefore, we have tailor-made this programme along with our partners to best help companies at the start of their journey," said Fahad Al Hajeri, CEO of Yvolv.
The Ignite program offers free Alibaba Cloud Credit, Digital Innovation consultation, mentorship, as well as networking and PR support where they will be invited to events sponsored by Yvolv and Alibaba Cloud, in addition to media coverage.