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The final ceremony of the Dubai Smartpreneur Competition 5.0 presented by Dubai Startup Hub and Dubai Chamber Of Commerce And Industry was staged virtually in a special edition of Entrepreneur Middle East Live on August 27, 2020.
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The event saw 10 startups pitch their ideas to compete for the top three prizes as well as an alumni jury prize in the presence of an esteemed panel of judges.
Open to all entrepreneurs in the UAE and abroad, the Dubai Smartpreneur Competition provides an opportunity to become part of the Dubai Government’s strategy to elevate the city into a global platform for innovative startups.
Dubai Chamber’s second Vice Chairman H.E. Hisham Al Shirawi kickstarted the event by encouraging startups to leverage the potential of the Smartpreneur competition, while also commending the calibre of the finalists this year.
H.E. Al Shirawi noted that the fifth edition of the Dubai Smartpreneur competition witnessed a 23% increase in applications compared to last year, while 82% of submitted business ideas were from UAE-based startups. “The prestigious competition is a key pillar of Dubai Chamber’s comprehensive entrepreneurship strategy, which aims to provide entrepreneurs with the knowledge and tools they need to thrive and grow,” he noted.
The keynote speaker for the event was H.E. Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, UAE Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs. In a conversation with Entrepreneur Middle East Editor in Chief, Aby Sam Thomas, H.E. Al Falasi discussed the significance of the SME sector in the UAE. He pointed out that the UAE ranked fifth in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) in 2019, with the sector contributing 53% to the country’s overall GDP in 2018.
“SMEs are the backbone of contemporary economies,” he said. “Thanks to the directives of its wise leadership, the UAE is considered one of the leading countries in the region in the development of a legislative and institutional framework that supports entrepreneurship and SME incubators, believing in the importance of the sector as a major engine that drives diversification, innovation and competitiveness in terms of economic performance.”
H.E. Al Falasi further spoke about the performance of the SME sector during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. “Dubai has been a hub for attracting talent, investors, but I’m in a listening mode to understand what areas can be improved for us to make our #SME sector more competitive. I’m listening to banks and other platform s to understand how to improve the SME sector. Dubai has a wealth of opportunities which is up for grabs. We’re looking for solutions to help #SMEs regarding current working capital issues,” he added.
On a closing note, H.E. Al Falasi shared some words of encouragement to budding entrepreneurs in the region, sharing ” “The business plan is important, but 60% [effort] is from the entrepreneur itself. Being scared is good. As humans our risk profile changes as we grow. Don’t be risk averse. At least try, you’ll learn, even if you fail.”
The ten startup finalists – ProvenMed Global FZ-LLC, VYND, PlasticFri, Callix, uqudo, Caddie Engineering LLC, Lexyom, beXel, Cerebian, and ONE MOTO – pitched their businesses to two sets of judges.The panel of judges included the Smartpreneur Alumni jury consisting of Tuitify co-founder and CEO Mohammed Alamii, and Design Hubz founder and CEO Nadim Habr; while the Competition Jury consisted of Global Entrepreneurship Network Saudi Arabia CEO Amal Dokhan, Saudi Venture Capital Company Investment Director Rayan Sindi, and GINCO Investments CEO Mohammed Gheyath.
ProvenMed, a UAE-based medical devices innovation startup, won first place with a cash price of AED75,000, Callix, a UAE-based startup offering intelligent cloud-based call answering solutions, won second place with a cash prize of AED50,000, and PlasticFri, a Swedish social enterprise with a mission to tackle plastic pollution by transforming renewable plant resources, won third place with a cash prize of AED25,000. All the shortlisted startups will get the chance to exhibit at Expo 2020 Dubai.
Following the final ceremony, the 10 finalist startups also got a chance to pitch their businesses to eight investors from MENA in the afternoon. The panel of investors included Shane Shin, Founding Partner at Shorooq Partners; Yagub Yousef Alserkal, CEO at YAS Investments; Heather Henyon, Founding General Partner at Mindshift Capital; Sergiy Stupak, Investment Analyst at VentureSouq; Basil Moftah, General Partner at Global Ventures; Lucy Chow, IC Executive Board at WBAF Angel Investment Fund; Hasan Haider, Partner at 500 Startups; and Hans Christensen, VP, Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus – Dtec.
The fifth cycle of the Dubai Smartpreneur Competition saw the participation of 315 smart business ideas that were aligned with the Dubai Expo 2020 sub-themes of Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability.
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