The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become synonymous with entrepreneurship, fostering a fast-growing startup scene that encompasses nearly every fathomable area of business. Much of this ecosystem’s success has arisen from the support of local incubators and accelerators that are helping budding startups to find their footing in the local market.
The Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center, which is known more commonly as Sheraa, is one of the Emirates’ biggest up-and-coming startup accelerators. Established in 2016, the center is fostering innovation by supplying the expertise and resources that local entrepreneurs need to cultivate and expand their ideas on a global scale. Sheraa is accomplishing this from its main hub at the American University of Sharjah and at its newest location on the University of Sharjah campus. Within these facilities, entrepreneurs in all phases of idea generation can gather and help their concepts to flourish.
Here are five of the best reasons to participate in the acceleration programming at Sheraa:
It has programming for startups in all stages.
Sheraa has designed its unique programming to meet the needs of startups of all sizes and capacities, ranging from those that are still developing their ideas to others looking to grow. Startups interested in the organization’s Pre-Seed Program, for example, have an opportunity to take their most basic concepts and develop them into a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) within a few short months. For each cycle, Sheraa selects 20 startups to participate during which time they receive the individual support they need to align their ideas with real business models and test their product prototypes. The Pre-Seed Program also prepares startups for the Launch Phase by helping them align their finances and solidify their teams.
Startups that have been in operation for between three and six months can also find a home at Sheraa, which operates a Seed Program for these budding entities. In selecting participants for this program, the center looks for those that have a real chance at scaling both locally and internationally. To this end, the Seed Program helps them to engage more consumers and increase their revenue. Throughout the program, startups work hand in hand with Sheraa’s mentors to establish a foundation for growth and prepare a pitch for the Center’s Showcase Day.
Startups that complete Sheraa’s Seed Program become eligible for its Series-A Program. Designed for startups that have been operating for at least two years, this initiative focuses heavily on future growth and business strategy. In addition to helping its participants prepare for future rounds of funding, the Series-A Program awards a $50,000 prize to the winning startup from each cycle.
It helps entrepreneurs get all their paperwork in order.
Sheraa offers more than just business acceleration. It is helping local startups to acquire all the paperwork that they need to thrive in the UAE. For instance, the center frequently works with the alumni of its accelerator programs to help them obtain the business licenses required for an entire year of operation. These startups can receive free trade licenses worth up to $5,000.
Through Sheraa, startups can also acquire business contracts in both Sharjah and the rest of the UAE. The center’s vast network enables the alumni to develop contacts within private and government sectors.
It provides access to key funding.
Investment is one of the tactics that Sheraa uses to support the growth of the startups in its acceleration program. Throughout each cycle, the center connects its startups to essential business services worth more than $150,000. The most successful graduates receive funding grants from Sheraa, which recognizes particularly innovative startup ideas with extra financing.
The three-month acceleration program at Sheraa culminates in Showcase Day, an event which provides startups with an opportunity to come face-to-face with some of the region’s most experienced investors. The gathering enables entrepreneurs to pique the interest of investors by providing a forum in which they can demonstrate their startup ideas before an audience.
It helps startups align their concepts with consumer needs.
Committed to helping its startups to create MVPs that will achieve market success, Sheraa operates an Idea Lab that teaches entrepreneurs how to bridge the gap between their business ideas and consumers. The community program ensures that the center’s participating entrepreneurs understand how to create the best product for their given market by responding to consumer behavior and developing offerings that address real-life problems.
During their time in the Sheraa Idea Lab, entrepreneurs learn the fundamentals of business model creation within a collaborative setting. Part of this involves an exploration into the best methods of interviewing customers to gauge their reaction to their products. Entrepreneurs also learn how to best capitalize on their ideas through the use of an agile revenue strategy and business model affirmation.
It has partnered with several local entities.
Sheraa is broadening its support of the local startup scene through a collaboration with some of the biggest entities in the UAE. In 2018, the center made headlines by signing a groundbreaking Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ajman University. As per this agreement, these two entities are working together to facilitate more seamless connections between industry and the fields of education and research. The Ajman University Innovation Centre is doing its part by helping local professionals, businesses, and even its student body to find solutions to pressing issues in society.
In 2018, Sheraa signed another MoU with Al Ansari Exchange, a money transfer organization, to provide more assistance to fintech startups. By providing these growing businesses with access to assistance from corporations, the partnership is providing them with more opportunities for growth.