Dubai tech start-up set to take on the world at global finals

Marhababy, started by a Danish entrepreneur in Dubai for mothers, will take on foreign start-ups from around the world in a contest run by the Chinese tech conglomerate Alibaba.
From left: Tech entrepreneur PK Gulati, Hans Henrik Christensen, the director of the DSOA, Pieter Sleebom, the managing director of the winner Marhababy and Yiping Gong, the general manager of Alibaba Cloud Global MEA and India. Courtesy : Alibaba
From left: Tech entrepreneur PK Gulati, Hans Henrik Christensen, the director of the DSOA, Pieter Sleebom, the managing director of the winner Marhababy and Yiping Gong, the general manager of Alibaba Cloud Global MEA and India. Courtesy : Alibaba

A Dubai start-up is gurgling with delight today after being named the winner in the regional finals of a competition that will see the firm take on the rest of world in Hangzhou, China, next month.

Ten local technology start-ups covering multimedia, gaming, e-commerce, online-to-offline (O2O), social media, and the Internet of Things took part in the competition.

Coming out on top was Marhababy, an online firm that provides free boxes to new and expectant mothers with different samples and brochures from relevant companies (nappies, detergents, baby creams and shampoo samples, for instance).

Pieter Sleeboom, the managing director of Marhababy, told The National today the company was delighted with its win, which also included a cheque for US$50,000.

“It is an amazing feeling, we work every day very hard to build a good business and get some recognition for it makes you feel very happy,” he said.

Marhababy was founded in 2013 by Eveline Sleeboom, a Dutch entrepreneur in Dubai, while she was expecting her first son. Mrs Sleebom said she realised that when pregnant, especially for the first time, the need for information and support is high.

She said pregnant mums cannot wait to discover and try out everything that can help with their journey into motherhood – and she also quickly found out that this can be a quite expensive period in a mum’s life. It was this experience that prompted Mrs Sleebom to offer mums support under one roof, and become a relevant, fun and indulging source for mothers in the UAE and Middle East.

Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group, and Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA), the regulatory body for Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO), jointly hosted the Dubai session of Create@Alibaba Cloud Startup Contest (CACSC) at the Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Centre (DTEC) – DSOA’s wholly owned technology incubation centre and the largest of its kind in the region.

CACSC is part of Alibaba Cloud’s global start-up programme, Create@Alibaba Cloud, highlighting start-ups and maximising their potential.

“Alibaba is a great help for the business with their technical know-how and also the support they will offer us in the cloud computing space as well as in the mentorship,” Mr Sleebom said.

“We are currently reaching out to nearly 35 per cent of all new moms in the UAE and for a few months now we are live in KSA and our reach is growing. We are not sure where we are going to end, but we are very open to grow this business.”

Shahla Ahmed Abdul Razak, the deputy chief executive of the DSOA, told The National her organisation was keen to push the local start-up scene and provide as much encouragement as possible .

“We remain dedicated to support the local technology entrepreneurship scene and our collaboration in this start-up contest accurately demonstrates our commitment,” she said.

“Since establishment, DTEC has enhanced the status of entrepreneurship in the UAE and the wider region by providing an ideal environment for start-ups and techs-enterprises. We are excited to work closely with Alibaba Cloud on this initiative and provide entrepreneurs with a great opportunity to interconnect and access global resources.”

Alibaba Cloud’s general manager and the vice president of Alibaba Group, Sicheng Yu, said the region was a hotbed of opportunity for those wishing to set up business in the tech sector.

“We see great potential in the Middle East market and local start-ups and entrepreneurs are critical in contributing to market growth,” he told The National.

“As the largest facility of its kind in the region, and the top supporter of technology entrepreneurship, DTEC was the perfect partner to host the Dubai session of this contest.”

CACSC is an extension of Alibaba Cloud, providing cloud computing technologies and services to the Middle East and formed a joint venture with Meraas, the Dubai-based holding company last year.

In addition to Alibaba Cloud, judges for the Dubai competition included local tech players Souq, Careem, Payfort, Dubai Internet City, In5 and Flat6labs.

The start-up culture in Middle East has seen unprecedented growth and contribution from developers and businesses inspired by technological innovations, Alibaba Cloud said.

Dinesh Ajmera, the senior vice president of technology at, said his company had long championed the local tech entrepreneur sector.

“Souq was always supporting the start-up community from the very beginning. In fact if you look at Souq itself there are a lot of smaller companies became bigger entities through their collaboration with,” he told The National.

“Payfort is one of the examples. Technology start-ups in the region have significantly less issues and challenges than start-ups globally face. Local entrepreneurs definitely have the edge over global players and we believe there will be a lot of great start-ups born here in this region.”

Mr Sleebom said he and his colleagues were looking forward to the global finals next month in Hangzhou, China.

“We are super excited and we will do our best to win,” he said.

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Published: September 21, 2016 04:00 AM


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