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Dubai SME, Womena to empower Emirati women

Dubai SME, the agency of Dubai Economy mandated to develop the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, and Womena have jointly launched the ‘Future Founders and Future Funders Programme,’ aimed to draw on venture capital (VC) as an enabler of entrepreneurship among Emirati women.

Saeed Matar Al Marri, Deputy CEO of Dubai SME, said: “Entrepreneurship has a crucial role in women empowerment and Dubai SME is seeing a remarkable increase in entrepreneurial initiatives from women. To promote entrepreneurial talent and energise entrepreneurship Dubai SME is focusing on bridging gaps, particularly in terms of knowledge and funding. Our partnership with Womena marks an important step that will enable women entrepreneurs and investors to deploy their resources on successful and sustainable initiatives.”

The programme targets university-level Emirati women who are at the start of their careers, to develop a strong pipeline of investors and entrepreneurs. As part of the Mena’s angel investing and entrepreneurial community, Womena believes that Emirati women have an important role to play as entrepreneurs and investors. A 2017 Crunchbase report shows that only seven per cent of decision-makers at US VC firms are women. Female founders make up 14 per cent of Mena entrepreneurs (ArabNet 2017), and 10 per cent of Emirati entrepreneurs (UN women).

Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, added: “Womena is dedicated to empowering women in the Middle East, from investing in female entrepreneurs, to helping the investors themselves. We also understand the importance of sparking excitement and curiosity from a much earlier stage in their professional development. In Zayed University students, we see the future of entrepreneurship, and this future is female! We look forward to continuing to work with these young women as they become successful investors and entrepreneurs.”

The ‘Future Founders and Future Funders Programme’ was launched at the Women’s College in Zayed University, Dubai, and targeted women who were considering a career in finance or were interested in entrepreneurship. Over four weeks, the course ran two tracks; ‘Future Founders’ focused on enabling students to create a robust and innovative business. ‘Future Funders’ introduced finance students to venture investing, and enabled them to gain the skills needed to invest in startups or work with a VC firm.

Paul Williams, Dean of Zayed University, said: “An entrepreneurial mindset is at the core of our educational mission. Not only do our students develop skills and competencies in entrepreneurship from their academic studies, some of them put it into practice and become successful business owners. In addition, our faculty are actively conducting applied research into entrepreneurship, which is helping the UAE community to implement innovative and creative solutions to real-world small business problems.”

At the end of the programme, a final demo day was held, during which time the ‘Future Founder’ students pitched their business ideas to the ‘Future Funder’ graduates, who employed the skills they had learned to evaluate them from an investor’s perspective. Winning entrepreneur teams will receive support from Dubai SME that will give them the tools and resources necessary to begin building their businesses. High-performing ‘Future Funder’ students will be offered internships in angel groups and investment funds to enable them to begin to build their careers in venture finance.



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