Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre sets up $1m fund to help start-ups affected by Covid-19

The funds will be distributed among entrepreneurs through equity-free grants and commissioned projects

The Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa) has created a $1 million (Dh3.67m) solidarity fund to assist start-ups struggling to cope with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The money will be distributed among entrepreneurs through equity-free grants and commissioned projects, helping start-ups "to remain afloat and tide over these uncertain times", the incubator said in a statement on Monday.

“We believe that the entrepreneurial community will play a critical role in the recovery of our society … so these grants will be used not only to help our start-ups survive but also to enable founders to develop solutions that will create a better future for our world,” Najla Al Midfa, Sheraa’s chief executive, said.

This fund has been established in place of Sheraa’s annual entrepreneurship events, which have been cancelled to adhere to safety guidelines set by the authorities.

“Instead, all allocated resources are being used towards the solidarity fund. Grants will be awarded to entrepreneurs committed to creating real impact and building a future we, and the generations to come, deserve,” it said.

Sheraa, meaning to sail in Arabic, is Sharjah’s initiative to build a start-up ecosystem in the emirate. It is headquartered at the American University of Sharjah and its hub, launched in September 2018, is based at the University of Sharjah.

It has helped founders scale their businesses through workshops, mentorships, introductions to investors, government partners and corporate entities to help them secure access to growth capital.

So far, over 100 start-ups have graduated from its programmes, generating over $35m in revenue and raising over $50m in investment.

Last month, the Sharjah government announced a series of measures aimed at protecting people from the economic impact of the coronavirus including the suspension of all eviction judgements and imprisonments relating to rental disputes. Tenants in government-owned facilities such as the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry building and Expo Centre Sharjah were also given three-month waivers on rents. Three-month exemptions were also made for companies renewing licence fees and on parking fees in the emirate. Discounts were offered on traffic penalties and taxi rental fees, among other measures.