Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre and CE-Ventures provide Dh700,000 in Covid-19 grants to start-ups

Funding given to eligible companies based on their performance before the pandemic and how they reacted to it

Sharjah waterfront. The Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre provided equity-free grants to 11 start-ups. Courtesy Shurooq. 
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The Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre, or Sheraa, and the venture capital arm of Crescent Enterprises are providing Dh700,000 in grants to help start-ups cope with coronavirus-induced challenges.

The centre said yesterday that 11 start-ups in the retail, property, FinTech, travel and tourism, agriculture, education, technology and creative sectors had received equity-free grants.

“Injecting emergency capital into Sheraa start-ups that have been unduly affected by the pandemic has been a top priority to ensure they are able to quickly recover and resume their stride,” said Najla Al Midfa, chief executive of Sheraa.

Tushar Singhvi, director of CE-Ventures, said the start-ups had “demonstrated a culture of resilience, continued to have robust business models and proactively pivoted to weather the crisis”.

They are expected to keep a “tight rein” on operational costs to navigate the challenging environment without undermining their ability to do business or expand their operations in the future, he said.

The pandemic has disrupted business around the world and prompted governments to unveil huge stimulus packages to support companies and people affected by the crisis.

Sheraa partnered with CE-Ventures to help start-ups that will benefit from the funding in the long run. CE-Ventures invests in early-to-late-stage high-growth companies and global and regional venture funds.

In May, Sheraa said it created a $1 million (Dh3.67m) Start-up Solidarity Fund to help start-ups struggling to cope with the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

The grants consist of ticket sizes of up to $50,000, and are part of the solidarity fund commitment, according to the Sharjah incubator.

Applications for the grants began in the same month and a committee formed by CE-Ventures, Sheraa and an independent venture capital company came up with a shortlist of the eligible businesses. Each start-up was evaluated based on qualitative and quantitative cash flow, business model, product and employee data.

“This allowed a definitive assessment on key business functions of the start-ups, as well as their outlook post-Covid-19,” Sheraa said.

Candidates had to submit detailed business plans to show how their start-up performed, based on revenue and profitability before the pandemic.

The committee also reviewed the ability of entrepreneurs to manage their business during the current crisis and use funds effectively.

Sheraa, which means sail in Arabic, was established in January 2016 to support and grow early-stage technology ventures. The non-profit government organisation is based at the American University of Sharjah.

Its second hub, which was opened in September 2018, is at the University of Sharjah.

So far, 113 start-ups have graduated from the incubator’s programmes, generating more than $63m in revenue and raising more than $87m in investment. In addition, Sheraa start-ups have created more than 1,300 jobs.

In June, the northern emirate of Sharjah was ranked at the top spot in a list of high-growth, activation-phase start-up ecosystems globally.

According to the Global Start-up Ecosystem Report, launched by policy advisory and research organisation Start-up Genome, an activation-phase ecosystem is characterised as having up to 1,000 start-ups.

Sharjah was also among the top 20 cities in Africa and the Middle East on the “Bang for Buck” list and among the top 30 in the region in relation to affordable talent, according to the report.