Sharjah: More than 3,000 people gathered on November 20 and 21, 2018, at the Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club to participate in the second annual Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival (SharjahEF), the fastest growing entrepreneurship festival in the region.
Organized by Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center, Sheraa, the two-day event brought together youth, entrepreneurs, government partners, investors and industry veterans from the global business community, along with a showcase of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s 70 best startups at SharjahEF's Startup Town.
This year’s SharjahEF was staged with the support of Gold Partners Sharjah Islamic Bank, Sharjah Asset Management, and Sharjah Media City (Shams), as well as Silver Partners Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sharjah for Capability Development, Sharjah SME Ruwad, and National Paints.
SharjahEF’s two-day event agenda featured more than 100 prominent regional and international leaders, mentors, experts, and decision makers from government, academia, technology, business, and other key sectors, delivering talks, discussions, and workshops into a range of topics including social entrepreneurship, creative economies, future and disruptive technologies, fintech, and the cultivation of the startup ecosystem.
In his keynote speech titled “The Price of Entrepreneurship,” Mohamed Alabbar, Chairman, Emaar Properties, and founder of Noon, urged youth keep learning, not waste time and persevere to build startups that cater to the region.
In a candid address, he said, “Honestly speaking, you can’t achieve anything if you don't persevere and aren't determined or diligent. You need to focus day and night on how to improve day after day. Without working day and night, you will not achieve anything. Time is precious and valuable. ”
He also advised aspiring entrepreneurs to do what they love and focus on catering to the region's population of more than 300 million people. “The number of people in the U.S is also 300 million. This is something that makes us understand we have great potential,” he said.
H.E. Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Executive Chairman of the Department of Government Relations, Sharjah, noted in his keynote address that the region's startups have the potential to create companies that are globally renowned and recognized. “Entrepreneurs and technology can be born out of this part of the world. My message to you, the entrepreneur community, is don't get complacent and don't get comfortable. Let's raise the bar, let's dare to be different, not for the UAE but for the world.”
The 2018 Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival also speakers like VaynerX Chairman Gary Vaynerchuk, Huda Beauty co-founders, Huda and Mona Kattan, MindValley founder Vishen Lakhiani, Decoded CEO Kathryn Parsons, Samasource founder Leila Janah, author and research neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield, BMB Group co-founder Bilal Ballout, Saudi serial entrepreneur Adwa Al-Dakheel, and several others.
In his session titled “Dare to Dream,” Vaynerchuk said: “We are at a time where there's so much potential in this region. The greatest thing about a CEO, founder and entrepreneurs is that when there is success you get a disproportionate amount of the credit. The problem with entrepreneurship is when it fails, you have nobody to blame. To build a meaningful company takes a very long time and is very difficult and more importantly, what is happening in the startup community, everybody now is pandering to venture capital or raising capital, not to actually building a business.”
The event also recognized notable achievements in the UAE’s startup industry with the second edition of its annual SEFFY Awards. The 2018 edition of The Seffy Awards, initiated last year by Sheraa Chairperson H.E. Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi as a “tribute to rule- breaking, status quo questioning entrepreneurs,” commended some of the most innovative individuals and enterprises in the UAE. This year’s Entrepreneur of the Year award went to Rami Shaar and Jad Halaoui, co-founders of Washmen, Tech Rising Star went to sales gamification CRM Digitteam, and the Sheraa Rising Star went to industrial advanced technology company Airspace Blockchain.
The 2018 Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival also conducted the 100k Pitch Competition over the course of its two days, which had some of the region’s most enterprising startups pitch for their chance at winning AED100,000. The contest was won by Bluephin, an intelligent autonomous waste collecting robot powered by artificial intelligence, which can collect up to 350kg of trash in two hours in an environmental friendly manner that emits zero carbon emissions.
Commenting on the festival, Najla Al Midfa, CEO, Sheraa, said: “SharjahEF is a prestigious platform that enables ecosystem stakeholders to network and collaborate with like-minded members of the region's entrepreneurship community, fueling them with the spirit and passion to build a better future, and providing them with the opportunity to scout for investment and mentorship. What makes this festival different is that it emphasizes constructive conversations on the challenges faced by the ecosystem, on the opportunities that are being created, and on how to take your startup to the next level. Sheraa has established itself as a key player in this ecosystem, and the success of SharjahEF furthers our vision of making Sharjah a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.”
H.E Dr. Khalid Omar Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Media City (Shams), emphasized that Sharjah Media City’s commitment to participating in the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival is part of its efforts, in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, to contribute to building a dynamic community and an ideal environment for entrepreneurship and innovation. He stressed that Shams is proud to be a vital and active strategic partner of Sheraa in its various activities and businesses. “Sharjah Media City was established to support and empower young people and provide them with the knowledge and tools of creativity and innovation,” H.E. Al Midfa added. “We are dedicated to utilizing all resources, in collaboration with various entrepreneurship foundations and innovation sectors, to contribute to achieving creative entrepreneurship and inspire business development. We, at Shams, support a dynamic community to innovate, live, learn and create together. Therefore, naturally we find ourselves a contributing entity to this unique gathering of entrepreneurs.”
On behalf of Sharjah Islamic bank, Jassim Al Baloushi, Head of Organizational Excellence, said: "We at Sharjah Islamic Bank (SIB) aim to strengthen and enhance our relationship with the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center ‘Sheraa’. It gives us great pleasure to be an active partner of the festival. This partnership is a magnificent opportunity for the Bank to contribute to the accomplishment of the objectives of the 2021 National Agenda under ‘an innovative knowledge-based economy.’ This festival is a perfect platform for all of us to explore the global and regional entrepreneurship sector while having a chance to connect and network with the experts that have been instrumental in the development of the entrepreneurship sector in Sharjah and the UAE.”