UAE’s first government-backed startup studio will take startups from idea to company, and position them to power the nation’s digital transformation
The Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) has launched its latest program, the Sharjah Startup Studio (S3), designed to build enduring businesses that will accelerate the region’s digital transformation and contribute to the growth of the non-oil economy in the UAE.
The first government-backed startup studio in the UAE will go beyond the traditional method of education-based programs, taking a more hands-on approach to venture building. S3 will dedicate a team of experienced experts to work alongside founders, and will get actively and operationally involved in the co-creation of their startups.
“The launch of Sharjah Startup Studio is a watershed moment not just for Sheraa, but for the ecosystem as a whole,” said Najla Al Midfa, chief executive of Sheraa.
She said the new initiative represents a turning point in the role accelerators must play to support startups, not only ensuring they provide founders with the best possible foundation to launch their business, but also build it alongside them.
She said S3 marks an essentially transformative era for the startup community in the region, especially in the midst of an unstable funding ecosystem that continues to affect founders and their abilities to gain access to key resources to jumpstart their startups.
“Through our startup studio, we can now help founders build and launch sustainable, successful and profitable businesses. By taking all the lessons we have learned over the last five years, including the turbulent challenges of the pandemic last year, S3 is the answer to how a founder can finally harness the full opportunity of becoming a key stakeholder to UAE’s economic growth and diversification,” she said.
The studio model lays the foundation for home-grown entrepreneurial success by working with founders from the earliest stages of their startup journey, helping them to validate their idea and determine whether to take it to market. In addition to extensive market research, this will involve the participation and feedback of relevant S3 corporate and government partners to ensure that pertinent problems are being solved, and to evaluate the proposed solution.
Concepts deemed viable will receive technical and financial resources from the S3 ecosystem to build and launch the product. The deep engagement with startups continues beyond graduation, with S3 leveraging its extensive market access to support startups with customer acquisition, and helping them integrate into local and global supply chains.
In keeping with Sheraa’s ‘founder-first’ philosophy, S3 is the first startup studio in the region to use a revenue-sharing model, with founders retaining full ownership of their businesses. This model provides founders with $30,000 in preseed funding and allows them to focus on building a high-quality product, achieving sustainable growth and profitability, while also creating impact.
“Our revenue-share model is deeply inspired by our founder-first ethos, which means that these startups will graduate not just investment-ready, but with their full equity intact. We are tremendously excited to share this journey with our founders, and co-build impactful, high-growth startups that have the potential to transform Sharjah, the UAE, and the world,” Najla Al Midfa said.
Access to coworking space
Startups in S3 will receive a host of benefits, including business incorporation in Sharjah and access to a state-of-the-art coworking space at the Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP). Founders will also have opportunities to raise follow-on funding, through Sheraa’s investment partners, after graduating from the studio.
S3 was designed by Sheraa based on the culmination of challenges and difficulties which startups in the UAE and the region have encountered over the course of many years, including the obstacles faced during the pandemic last year.
Support to non-oil growth
It is expected that S3 will be a leading contributor to the region’s economic structural reforms to boost non-oil growth. According to a study published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in late 2020, providing financing options for startups is among the crucial measures recommended to achieve long-term private sector led growth as part of a wider post-COVID economic recovery plan.
S3 is a synergistic convergence of Sheraa’s venture-building experience, access to market, and leading product development partners. Combined with a unique founder-first ethos, the program will result in a new generation of startups positively contributing to the region’s socio-economic growth.
Aspiring founders and entrepreneurs from across the Mena region are invited to apply for S3 through Sheraa’s official website.