Young people shouldn't be afraid to try and fail, UAE entrepreneurs say

Getting a taste of the workplace as early as possible is crucial, Google event hears

Even if a business venture or job doesn't work out, there's growth in failure, say business leaders in the UAE. Getty
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Young professionals and entrepreneurs in the UAE shouldn't be afraid of failure when trying out a venture or job, a panel of business leaders has said.

Getting a taste of the workplace at a young age — from an early internship to a humble supermarket job — is also crucial.

At the launch of a Google Economic Impact report, which put the spotlight on the tech giant's support for SMEs in UAE, Saudi and Egypt, speakers said a fear of failure culture persists among many young people — and their parents in particular.

Hassan Al Sayegh, director of SME development at the UAE's Ministry of Economy, uses his experience in a start-up in his early career to help others get off the ground.

The pushback I got from people....'what exactly are you doing', [they said]
Hassan Al Sayegh, director of SME development at Ministry of Economy

When he finished his studies at the University of Nottingham in England, he joined a global consulting firm.

“A year into it, I decided the corporate was not for me and I was going to start my own business,” he said.

“And the pushback I got from people…

“'What exactly are you doing', [they said].

“You're leaving a corporate job for a slide deck that you need to go raise capital for ― and all of the risks associated with it.”

An Emirati and a chemical engineer by training, Mr Al Sayegh said he thrived in an early e-commerce start-up, even though the venture did not work out.

“The advice I would have liked to hear at that stage is: it doesn't matter if you fail,” he said.

Dubai, Feb 28, 2018: Donna Benton, Founder, The Entertainer pose during the interview at her office in Dubai. Satish Kumar for the National/ For Money & Me

“Be comfortable with failure, there's growth in failure. We went through the whole process. The business didn't turn out the way we wanted it to, but it set me off on my career.

“I went back into corporate after that. But I wouldn't have been able to get the roles that I've gotten if it wasn't for that start up experience.

“Go through it, fail, get bruised, get back up and move on.”

'Get a taste of the job market as soon as you can'

Donna Benton, founder of the Dubai-based Entertainer discount application, which she sold for more than $100 million four years ago, said a new visa introduced in January was a game changer for young people.

It allows any resident as young as 15 to get a part-time job, as is common in many other countries.

Few companies are yet to offer jobs to teenagers, but over time it is hoped culture will change. There are no legal barriers or requirement to stop a company from employing an over 15 and paying them for their work.

In September, 10 new types of visas will be introduced, including several that benefit students and self-employment.

“I love the initiative that the government has brought out that allows people to start work at 15,” said Ms Benton, who runs several UAE-based businesses, including the swimwear brand Caha Capo.

“So, my advice to them is to get a job at 15, not for their parents to mollycoddle them, go work in McDonald's, KFC, supermarkets, Spinneys — anywhere, doesn't matter. To get that work ethic into them, allow them to manage their own money.

“And from there they'll be able to see and grow

“I just love that concept. I've got my daughter prepped — she's 12.

“It gives them that sense of responsibility, independence and they feel proud of themselves. And then they'll want to go out into the workforce and fly with their own wings.”

Support for SMEs and Android developers

Google's Economic Impact Report is presented by Anthony Nakache and Jonathan Dupont in Dubai. Photo: Google

Google's inaugural Impact Report for the Middle East put the spotlight on the tech giant's economic benefit it had on its key regional markets: the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Services of the Google ecosystem have been estimated to steer about Dh11.3bn ($3bn) in the UAE and 12.2bn riyals ($3.25bn) in Saudi Arabia

Google says its Android developer system, which helps developers build applications, supports about 50,000 jobs in the UAE.

“We're deeply committed to continue investing and doing more through programmes and local partnerships,” said Anthony Nakache, managing director of Google Mena.

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Updated: May 29, 2022, 6:35 AM