Virtual Sharjah-Estonia Entrepreneurship Forum charts way forward for long-term partnerships to foster a thriving startup ecosystem in Sharjah
Sharjah – The virtual forum is in line with Sheraa’s mission to strengthen Sharjah’s position as the leading global startup hub.
by A Staff Reporter
The Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) recently hosted the Sharjah-Estonia Entrepreneurship Forum to exchange expertise to boost the emirate’s startup scene by building on the successful strategies implemented in Estonia’s thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Led by Eva-Maria Liimets, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia and senior officials from Sharjah and Estonia, the virtual forum unveiled strategies and processes to develop, support, and incubate innovative startups in the emirate, and scale ventures between Sharjah and Estonia.
Two panel discussions held at the forum focused on Sharjah’s thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem and explored the way forward to build strong corporate partnerships between Sharjah and Estonia.
In her keynote address, Eva-Maria Liimets congratulated the UAE on its 50th anniversary, and highlighted how tech has been driving the change for entrepreneurs in both the countries. “A commonality we share between the two countries is our strong digital vision. Estonia has the highest per capita of unicorns in Europe and the UAE is home to the birthplace of the leading unicorns of the region.”
Stating that the economic diversity, strategic geographic location, modern facilities, ports and free zones, and promising opportunities for growth have transformed Sharjah into a distinguished investment destination, Raghda Taryam, board member of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in her keynote that the forum was an important platform to push the horizons in the field of entrepreneurship.
Highlighting the strong relations of Sharjah and the UAE with Estonia, the SCCI board member praised the digital innovation and knowledge economy of the Baltic nation and expressed keenness to foster cooperation and exchange expertise to build sustainable economic partnership between the two sides, especially in the field of information and communication technology, to achieve aspirations of business communities in the emirate.
Highlighting the favourable conditions for mutually beneficial and long-term relationships between the two countries and the doubling of bilateral trade over the last five years, Eva-Maria Liimets said: “Diplomatic relations between Estonia and the UAE were established 15 years ago. Today this relationship has developed into a prosperous friendship that benefits both countries.”
Prominent dignitaries from the emirate at the Sharjah-Estonia Entrepreneurship Forum included Najla Al Midfa, CEO of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center; Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of the Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP); Mohammed Juma Al Musharrkh, CEO of Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah); Mariam Bin Al Shaikh, acting manager, Sharjah Business Women Council (SBWC); and Issa Ataya, CEO, Alef Group.
Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa, said: “The emergence of Sharjah as an attractive destination for entrepreneurs to set up their businesses is a positive result of the work Sheraa has done over the years. Sheraa was established to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Sharjah and the UAE and unleash the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
The Sheraa CEO added that the Estonian entrepreneurial ecosystem could serve as a model to contribute to the growth of entrepreneurship in Sharjah and across the wider region.
Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park hailed the growing momentum in relations between the UAE and Estonia and cited the two MoUs signed by SRTIP with Estonian institutions to promote the technology and ICT ecosystem of Estonia with Sharjah as a testament to the strength of relations between the two sides.
SRTIP is enhancing the entrepreneurial landscape of Sharjah by providing an enabling innovation ecosystem for entrepreneurs to develop products or test pilot projects and supporting them with access to emerging technologies including labs for virtual reality and augmented reality and 3D labs, he said.
Mohammed Juma Al Musharrkh, CEO, Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah) stated that the comprehensive support and personalised services offered by various government institutions in Sharjah to build up the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the emirate has made it a magnet for SMEs and startups from around the world.
He added that the presence of six free zones in Sharjah that cater to a cross-spectrum of industries and sectors, the extensive range of services and facilities offered in a cost-effective manner, and the fully integrated 360-degree government solutions and special business packages offered to SMEs by the Sharjah Investors Services Centre (Saeed) are further increasing the ease of establishing and doing business in the emirate.
Discussing the Sharjah Business Women Council’s (SBWC) holistic approach in promoting women in entrepreneurship in the emirate, Mariam Bin Al Shaikh, acting manager at SBWC, said: “Sharjah has cultivated an environment that supports women entrepreneurs, and our efforts are focused on bringing this community together to elevate their entrepreneurship skills and provide a sustainable and empowering environment for businesswomen to thrive and grow.”
She added: “To facilitate this, we provide various services such as business setup assistance, sponsorship, networking opportunities, trade missions, and skill building programmes while a special feature on the SBWC app grants members instant access to mentorship support. Our latest initiative is the Women Entrepreneurship Training programme, conducted in partnership with PwC, where participants receive intensive training in learning to pitch to investors.”
Arnaud Castaignet, head of Communications and Policy at the Estonia-based Skeleton Technologies, said: “What is important in the Estonian ecosystem is that most entrepreneurs want to give back to the community and support its development that has a snowball effect.”