This October The Fintech Times celebrates partnerships and collaborations, as part of this we speak with Natalia Sycheva, Manager of Entrepreneurship at Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Here she talks about the Dubai Startup Hub journey and the crucial role of partnerships in supporting Dubai’s entrepreneurial community.
Natalia currently oversees the development and implementation of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s entrepreneurship strategy. Having grown Dubai Startup Hub customer base from a dozen to more than 5,000 technology entrepreneurs, Natalia and her team deliver a portfolio of programs catered toward tech startups, enabling their growth, while simultaneously addressing regulatory barriers and acute ecosystem challenges.
Describe your organisation’s journey:
Since its establishment in 2016 as an initiative of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dubai Startup Hub has grown rapidly and expanded its offerings in line with the changing needs of Dubai’s maturing entrepreneurial community. What began as an online interactive portal offering resources and information has evolved into a one-stop-shop for all things startup, providing entrepreneurs access to a wide range of programmes, initiatives, events and tools designed to help them build viable businesses and partnerships. Dubai Startup Hub is the engine driving Dubai Chamber’s entrepreneurship strategy, while it provides an ideal platform for collaboration between key players who make up Dubai’s startup ecosystem.
How has partnerships and collaborations played a role in that?
Partnerships have played a crucial role in Dubai Startup Hub’s growth and success over the years. Not only do our partners complement the programmes and initiatives we have developed Dubai’s startup community, but their support has proven to be very valuable in terms of providing our members access to growth opportunities, whether they be here in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) or in global markets.
Dubai Startup Hub organises a portfolio of programs catered toward both locally based startups keen on expanding their businesses beyond borders, while we have also collaborated with Dubai Chamber’s representative offices to assist international startups with their entry into the Dubai market.
Our strategic partnership with Dubai Technology Entrepreneurship Campus (Dtec), a wholly-owned tech co-working space by Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority, has created many benefits and advantages for our members. For example, thanks to the partnership with Dtec, we are able to provide participants of the Emirati Development Programme with tailored mentorship and support in key areas enabling aspiring Emirati entrepreneurs to hone their skills and turn their business ideas into reality. In the past, we have partners with Smart Dubai to support innovative startups offering cutting-edge solutions aligned with Dubai’s smart city vision.
The Dubai Tech Tour is the product of a cross-border partnership between Dubai Chamber, Startup India and Mumbai Fintech Hub to attract high-potential Indian startups to Dubai. The first-of-its-kind virtual trade mission to Dubai, joined by Indian startups specialising in health-tech and fintech, was a major success, while it introduced delegates to prospective business partners and collaboration opportunities. This partnership would not be possible without the valuable support of Dubai Chamber’s Mumbai office, which maintains close relationships with key stakeholders in the Indian market, as well as Dubai-based entities such as Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Dubai Healthcare City Authority and many others.
How has partnerships with your eco-system players and understanding their needs allowed for Dubai Startup Hub to grow?
Continuous collaboration with ecosystem peers played an important role in helping us support our fast-growing network of 8,000 entrepreneurs. Dubai Startup Hub’s programmes are designed to support our members throughout all the stages of an entrepreneurial journey. Our partnerships with startup eco-system players such as incubators, accelerators and mentors offered support and guidance in key areas where young businesses are trying to improve. At the same time, we at Dubai Startup Hub are always happy to share our experience, lessons learnt with organisations, corporate and government, who are just about to start their collaboration with startups, introduce a dedicated program.
A few years ago, we noticed that a growing number of our members were seeking information and support in setting up a bank account, while others had questions about funding. In response to this, we launched an entrepreneurship advocacy series, which has spurred collaborations between various public and private sector stakeholders and address key challenges facing startups and SMEs in Dubai. As the startup landscape continues to evolve in the COVID-19 and post-pandemic eras, we are closely monitoring the demand in the market and exploring new ways to support businesses.
What advice and recommendations do you want to give future businesses in the region looking to grow?
It is common to hear from today’s serial entrepreneurs commenting that when they started back 15, 10 and even 5 years ago there was not even a fraction of support available for aspiring entrepreneurs that there is today. The best place to start is education. Take the time to educate yourself on all support and programs available and take advantage of the platforms that are available, whether they be Dubai Startup Hub programmes, competitions, and networking events or accelerator and incubation programmes in Dubai. Another useful piece of advice would be to stay connected. The fact that Dubai Startup Hub saw strong participation at its virtual events in 2020 is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit and appetite among startups to build meaningful connections and valuable partnerships that can unlock new growth opportunities.