UAE students a step closer in business competition

The Big Start, a student entrepreneurship competition, is in its second round with 15 candidates pitching their business plans to judges.

ABU DHABI // A group of university students will this month come one step closer to running their own business. The Big Start, a student entrepreneurship competition, yesterday announced the names of 15 UAE-based competitors who have progressed to the second phase of the contest. Run by Al Tamimi Investments, a venture capital company established in Dubai in 2006, the competition involves three rounds, each of which was designed to help participants refine their business plans.

The competition was launched in October 2009, and the first round saw 190 registered participants from across the Emirates submitting business plans for review. Al Tamimi will provide funding and support for the winners to establish businesses after graduation. The winners will be given a structured shareholding in the new venture and have the title of chief executive. In the second round, which starts on January 23, participants will take part in a workshop in which they will get the chance to strengthen their business plans with help from senior managers at Al Tamimi. In the final stage, those shortlisted will pitch their plans to a panel of judges before the winners are chosen.

Rachael Wunsch, the general manager of Al Tamimi, said the applications showed "the creative and enthusiastic entrepreneurial spirit" within the student body. "Now it's about honing those ideas, testing the financials and making sure the candidate has the right attitude and personality to meet the demands of a business start-up process," she said. Yahya Stapic, 21, a Bosnian who recently graduated from the American University of Sharjah and was shortlisted for the second round, said: "I've always dreamed of being my own boss. I'm really looking forward to the workshop, where I will hopefully get to meet the other contestants and learn how to deal with the most challenging parts of drafting a business plan, like the financial details."

The Big Start attracted entries from students in 34 universities across five emirates. The only requirement was that all entrants must be in their final year of undergraduate study. The majority of submissions were made by Emiratis. The competition will run for six months, and the winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Dubai on June 17.