7 of the Best Ways to Fund Your Startup in the Middle East

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Startups face many different challenges. However, finding a way to obtain working capital is one of the most important and most stressful. Whether you are trying to get your business out of the starting blocks or looking to enter into a new period of growth, you will find that funding your startup can take a lot of time and effort.

Entrepreneurs in the Middle East can alleviate some of the difficulty finding capital for their startup by turning to one of the many sources of funding available to them. From crowdfunding platforms to one of the region’s many accelerators, here are a few of the best ways to fund your startup in the Middle East:

 

  1. Venture capitalists

The majority of entrepreneurs in the Middle East turn to venture capital (VC) when funding their startups. In recent years, the region has seen an influx of venture capitalists that are looking to support the growth of startups of all kinds.

wamda capitalWamda Capital is the most prolific of all VC firms in the region. It focuses primarily on budding technology startups. Headquartered in Dubai, this firm offers support to startups in both the seed and growth stages. Wamda facilitates several funding rounds before navigating its startups towards a successful exit.

Another of the Arab region’s biggest VC firms is Middle East Venture Partners, which supports early and growth-stage businesses. This entity is unique in that its leadership team is comprised of entrepreneurs, who offer an array of funding options to startups.

 

  1. Crowdfunding

You can also turn to the peer-to-peer funding strategy known as crowdfunding to obtain capital for your startup. Unlike other types of funding, you do not need to go through a financial institution to obtain money via crowdfunding. There are numerous crowdfunding entities in the Middle East, each of which caters to different funding needs.

eureecaEureeca is one such platform. It can connect your startup to a vast network of potential investors ranging from individuals to companies. Based in the UK with an office located in Dubai, this entity allows members of its network to invest in your startup by purchasing shares. The money you receive will act as working capital for your various operational needs.

The Middle East is also home to Zoomaal, a unique crowdfunding platform that allows you to raise money for your startup online. On this site, you can create a submission page for your startup and garner support from other users. Friends and strangers alike can provide funding for your startup. In return, you can post updates on your Zoomaal page to help your supporters see where their money is going.

 

  1. Individual funding

It is fairly common for entrepreneurs to fund their startups on their own. You shouldn’t overlook this option when financing your own business. When your startup is in its earliest stages, you should consider investing up to 20 percent of your savings. Any more than this and the potential risks will outweigh the benefits.

You can also turn to your friends and family when funding your startup in its pre-seed stage. However, you shouldn’t let business interfere with your personal relationships. It is important that you treat your funding partnerships with the utmost transparency.

 

  1. Angel investors

angelinvestmentnetworkThe Middle East is home to a plethora of angel investors. They will help fund your startup in return for some level of ownership or convertible debt. Across the region, you can find both individual investors and angel firms that will support your business.

To find the right partnership, you can turn to such entities as the Angel Investment Network. This organization helps connect angel investors with startups that are looking to raise money.

 

  1. Accelerators

The Middle East has become known for its network of startup accelerators. These entities provide opportunities for investment, training, mentorship, and more.

Oasis 500 is an accelerator that serves the needs of technology startups. Participating startups receive a seed investment of $14,000 USD. They also have the opportunity to pitch their business ideas to other potential investors.

Each accelerator offers its own level of financial support to startups. Some programs, such as Berytech and Twofour54’s Ibtikar Creative Lab, regularly make investments worth several million dollars. Whatever acceleration program you select for your startup, you will gain access to both funding and vital operational assistance.

 

  1. Bank loans

Numerous banks in the Middle East have loans that are ideal for startups, offering attractive interest rates for young businesses. You should check with both your current banking institution and other local banks to find the best loan options for your startup’s needs.

Depending on your situation, you can obtain loans with repayment plans at intervals of several months or two years. Some banks even have their own startup funds, so you can also investigate those.

 

  1. Startup competitions

Within the thriving Arab startup ecosystem are numerous events and competitions. These help local entrepreneurs obtain funding for their businesses while marketing their brands to a wide audience.

From the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival to the TechCrunch Startup Battlefield, these events award varying sums of prize money to budding entrepreneurs. Startup competitions will also open the door to new professional connections and additional investment opportunities.

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7 of the Best Arab Startups for Everyday Needs

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For a working professional, some important daily tasks can fall by the wayside. Between maintaining responsibilities in the home and in the office, it can be challenging to find time for such tasks as grocery shopping and home maintenance.

Within the booming entrepreneurial scene of the Middle East, there are a number of up-and-coming startups that cater to busy individuals by helping them fulfill some of their most important everyday needs. Here are a few of the best Arab startups that are making life just a little bit easier:

 

  1. iMoneh

iMonehHeadquartered in Amman, Jordan, iMoneh is helping even the busiest locals find the time to shop for the groceries they need every week. Available as an app for iOS and Android devices, this platform allows users to view available items at designated grocery stores in their area. iMoneh frequently offers deals on groceries, so its users can save on their favorite essentials. Once they compile their grocery lists, users can place their orders in app.

iMoneh tackles the hassle of shopping on their behalf before delivering their purchases directly to their doors at the time they specify. The startup accepts cash on delivery and even allows its users to return items that don’t meet their expectations. With 50 Jordanian supermarkets in its network, iMoneh serves a user base of more than 1,000 shoppers.

 

  1. Maharah

MaharahThe Lebanon-based Maharah is helping its customers find qualified professionals to complete their home maintenance projects. Using this mobile application, users can submit requests in seconds and receive a recommendation for a skilled professional (Maher) who can get the job done. From home projects to office maintenance needs, Maharah handles a variety of requests.

Those who contact Maharah for help can view the estimated cost of service for any project they need to complete. After connecting with one of the platform’s Maher, they can work together to arrange maintenance services that meet their schedules. Whether they need to paint their home, install new flooring, or maintain their plumbing, Maharah users can find help for any project.

 

  1. Smart Washr

smartwashrDoing laundry doesn’t have to be a hassle with startups like Smart Washr. Since its inception in 2017, the startup has allowed its users to schedule laundry services through their mobile devices. Upon signing up for Smart Washr, users can choose from a list of clothing and specify whether each item needs pressing, washing, or dry cleaning.

Most recently, the startup incorporated more premium services for those that need to clean formal items and wedding dresses. To make the process as seamless for its users as possible, Smart Washr picks their items up from their specified locations, completes the requested services, and returns them in only 24 hours.

 

  1. Melltoo

melltooEstablished in 2014 and based in the UAE, Melltoo is helping locals unclutter their homes by giving them a place to sell their unwanted items. A peer-to-peer marketplace, the startup has categories for nearly every item around the house. Whether users need to find a new home for their vehicles or sell old baby items, they can use Melltoo to make deals with other users on their secondhand items.

To address potential issues with lack of trust between buyers and sellers, Melltoo has incorporated the Pay & Ship SECURE system to ensure that all transactions go smoothly. The startup receives the payment from each deal, delivers the purchased items, and then sends the money to the seller.

 

  1. Helmii

helmiiWith a name that means “my dream” in Arabic, Helmii is promoting better, deeper sleep among the residents of the UAE. The startup has designed its own mattress, which leverages memory foam and 2,000 pocket springs to provide the most comfortable sleep possible.

Through Helmii, individuals can create their own beds using the online design tool. This feature allows them to select the textures and colors that best accommodate their personal style. Helmii also offers an array of pre-made furniture pieces for those looking to complete their bedrooms.

 

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  1. Elves

ElvesOne of Egypt’s leading startups, Elves acts as a personal helper to its users in every aspect of life. When users need an assistant, they can contact the startup and connect with someone who can help them. From booking excursions to delivering items, Elves provides a personalized concierge for nearly any service.

Users who need recommendations can also work with their assigned helper to discover new items based on their preferences. Once they make a decision, Elves helps them complete their purchase and ensures that it makes it to its destination on time.

 

  1. Designer-24

designer24Women looking for the right outfit for both everyday activities and special events can find what they need through Designer-24. This online platform allows its users to rent clothing and accessories from its own collection, which they can search by style or occasion. To make the process as easy as possible, Designer-24 provides direct-to-door shipping, pick-up, and dry cleaning services with each rental.

A Look at the Challenges of Building a Startup Team

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Like a good recipe, there are many ingredients that must go into a business to put it on a path toward success. From innovative products and services, to financing, to effective leadership, each element plays its own part in the development of every thriving startup.

Unfortunately, the prognosis for most startups isn’t very encouraging. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly half of new businesses will fail within five years. In assessing the “post-mortems” of startups that have failed, CB Insights found that one of the main reasons why these businesses close their doors is that they did not have the right team. Of the 101 startups interviewed, 23 percent of respondents identified this as one of their biggest problems.

Your team will be instrumental to the success of your startup, acting as the primary force behind its growth and progress. Whether you’re getting ready to establish your first startup or you’re a serial entrepreneur, building the right team for the job at hand can be a surprisingly difficult task.

Here are some of the biggest challenges that you can face when building your startup team and how to overcome them:

 

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Making sure you have all the players you need

Most startups begin with relatively small teams, but you should be sure to fill the most essential roles as quickly as possible. Without these team members in place, your business could stall coming right out of the blocks.

Every great startup must begin with a visionary. Whether this is you or a co-founder, this person is responsible for generating the initial concepts for the entire business. Your visionary should not only imagine your products or services on the global scale, but he or she must be able to connect the remainder of your team to the significance of your concept. This person will help to keep everyone in line with your startup’s vision while focusing on the logistics of bringing your concept to life.

Your startup must also have someone at the helm of operations. Typically, co-founders fill this position, but you can look elsewhere for the expertise needed in this role. Primarily, this person will be the one to pitch your startup to outside entities, run day-to-day strategy, and navigate the business toward its target.

In the beginning, you’ll also need someone who specializes in technology. This individual will head up product development and determine what needs to be done to get your product to its end goal.

 

Not finding the right candidates for the job

You may have a list of roles that you need to fill at your startup, but it can be challenging to find candidates who are skilled enough to take on each job. Looking for talent in your local area is the best jumping off point when beginning the hiring process. However, you may find that there aren’t enough qualified individuals in your city. What’s more, you won’t encounter many professionals who will want to relocate their families to work at a new startup. In another blow to your hiring prospects, bigger companies typically onboard the most talented candidates before startups have the chance.

As challenging as it can be to find the best candidates for your startup team, there are a few ways that you can fill some of your most important roles early on. When looking for developers, for example, you may need to cast a wide net and hire professionals from outside of the country. You shouldn’t fill every open position with candidates from abroad, but diversifying your talent pool will allow you to build a strong team.

In a similar vein, you should also consider hiring freelancers to work at your startup. From market research, to website building, to advertising, you can find a freelancer to accomplish nearly any task.

 

board room

 

Managing a dispersed team

Telecommuting has become a crucial aspect of running a startup. Whether your team is spread across several continents or you simply don’t have a central office, you will need to know how to manage a team of remote workers.

Communication (or lack thereof) is one of the biggest challenges of leading a dispersed startup team. Since your team can’t meet in person, you must maintain open lines of communication to collaborate on projects and drive your startup forward. Moreover, communication is vital to maintaining team morale when your employees are all in separate locations. With the Internet, you can leverage countless tools to ensure that your team is interacting even from across the globe. Ensure that these lines of communication always remain open. Remote workers should be just as available as those working in-house.

 

Growing your team

Eventually, your startup may be in a position to begin expanding its workforce. While this bodes well for your growing business, it can also be a tricky process to manage. How do you know exactly when to onboard new employees? You shouldn’t hire staff before you need them, because they will affect your bottom line, but you shouldn’t wait too long because your team could buckle under growing workloads.

It’s important to base your decision to grow your team on these two factors, but make sure to leave yourself enough time to find the right person for the job before your existing staff becomes too overwhelmed. Plan for team growth at least a few months ahead of when you estimate you’ll need the extra pair(s) of hands.

5 of the Best Reasons to Accelerate Your Startup at Sheraa

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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.

sheraalogoThe 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:

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

7 of the Most Beneficial Startups for Businesses in the Middle East

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The Middle East is home to an ever-expanding network of truly innovative startups. Whereas some provide e-commerce platforms to the public, others are leveraging technology to connect locals to the services that they need. In addition, there is a growing market for startups that serve other businesses in the Middle East and beyond. These entities are supplying companies in all industries with the tools they need to grow and succeed.

From customer engagement platforms to office supply retailers, here are some of the Arab startups that are making a major impact on other businesses:

 

  1. ShortPoint

shortpoint logoEstablished in 2015, ShortPoint is a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform that enables businesses to build and improve their websites. Possessing offices in Dubai, the startup has designed a wide array of extensions for platforms such as SAP Portal, SharePoint, and Office 365. By deploying ShortPoint within their websites, businesses can leverage these web design features to overhaul their sites.

For example, by using ShortPoint’s theme builder, customers can easily develop unique themes for their SharePoint platforms without the need to code on their own. When designing their website layouts, businesses can incorporate maps, exciting animation, unique tabs, typography, and much more. ShortPoint also offers different Intranet kits for organizations in every industry ranging from education to travel, making it easy for any customer to create their own perfect website. More than 3,000 businesses across the globe rely on these innovative services for their design needs.

 

  1. Cognitev

cognitevlogoEgypt-based Cognitev has taken traditional business marketing to new heights by using artificial intelligence (AI) to fully automate its customers’ advertising processes. Believing in the power of cognition as a catalyst for “human progress,” the startup has developed a groundbreaking platform called InstaScaler. Designed for startups and small businesses, this product is the first of its kind to allow its users to put “advertising on autopilot.”

InstaScaler can help its clients to drive Internet traffic by identifying their existing content and determining where they can find a better audience for their type of business. Once it does, the platform creates targeted ads that help to send more online users to their pages. InstaScaler does all of this work for them, so they don’t need to rely on their own marketing capabilities to facilitate successful advertising campaigns. To get started, businesses only need to specify which webpages and countries they would like to target.

 

  1. OfficeRock.com

officerocklogoFounded in 2011 and headquartered in the UAE, OfficeRock.com has become the go-to website for businesses that need office supplies. Since launching in a warehouse, the startup has grown to include a stock of more than 30,000 products for nearly every business application. OfficeRock.com not only features basic office supplies such as storage cabinets and desk necessities, but it also provides its clients with various kitchen products, electronics, and even furniture.

OfficeRock.com also prides itself on its customer service, offering some of the lowest prices and expedited, free shipping on every order. In order to ensure that transactions go smoothly, the startup takes all the primary forms of payment and allows its clients to return items within five days of delivery if they are not satisfied with their purchases.

 

  1. Nibras

nibraslogoNamed as one of Forbes’ Top 100 Startups in the Middle East in 2018, Nibras enables businesses to expand their employees’ capabilities through online courses. The startup offers more than 250 courses for professionals looking to enhance their leadership skills, productivity, business etiquette, and more. Businesses can also use Nibras to teach their employees about teamwork and other crucial intra-office capabilities.

 

  1. Crowd Analyzer

crowdanalyzer logoSince its inception in 2013, Crowd Analyzer has provided businesses across the Arab region with a platform to assist them in the management of their social media presence. To this end, the startup has combined natural language processing, AI, and machine learning to help its clients gain a better understanding of their brand perception online. Not only can Crowd Analyzer understand different Arabic dialects, but it can also assess social media posts to determine how other users feel about their brand.

As part of its services, Crowd Analyzer works hand-in-hand with its clients to help them get a firm grasp on their social media efforts. The startup can advise businesses on their digital branding efforts, track the success of their campaigns, and assist them during public relations crises.

 

  1. Near Motion

nearmotion logoHeadquartered in Saudi Arabia, Near Motion has developed an array of solutions for customer engagement and loyalty to help businesses in nearly every sector. Businesses ranging from retail storefronts to transportation companies can leverage technology to enhance their customer interactions.

Near Motion has developed a location-based marketing system that enables businesses to connect with customers in their vicinity. The platform can detect customers’ smartphones, which can enable businesses to send push notifications for product giveaways, discounts, and ads while they are still nearby. Users can also create digital maps of their buildings to make it easier for customers to find their way around.

 

  1. Visage

visage logoServing some of the biggest startups in the UAE, Visage streamlines the hiring process by providing businesses with a fully automated candidate recruitment system. The site leverages AI and crowdsourcing to identify the most qualified individuals for the positions that its clients need to fill. After businesses submit the requirements for the roles they are offering, the Visage team will find candidates on their behalf and create a short list of the best ones. Within three days, they will be able to interview prospective hires and move that much closer to acquiring the talent they need.