Onward And Upward: Top 50 Startups Shortlisted For Dubai Smartpreneur Competition 4.0
Funding, fundraising guidance, introductions, networking opportunities and a launchpad – that’s what participants of the Dubai Smartpreneur Competition are all vying for as they pitch their ideas to judges.
More than 250 business ideas were submitted in the fourth round of Dubai Startup Hub’s Dubai Smartpreneur Competition.
Organised under Dubai Startup Hub in cooperation with Smart Dubai, the contest seeks to engage entrepreneurs with Dubai’s strategic initiatives, and empower them to participate in the Dubai Government’s strategy and plans to establish the city as a prime international destination for innovative startups.
A selection of the top 50 startups gathered at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday April to present their business ideas under the categories of blockchain, artificial intelligence and digital transformation.
Among them is Emirati entrepreneur Marwa Al Mansoori, founder and chief executive officer of malenaapp.com – a mobile booking platform for the aesthetic, cosmetic and plastic surgery industry in the Middle East.
Al Mansoori, a tourism management graduate from Edinburgh University, insists that startups should seize any opportunity to work with ecosystem supporters like the Dubai Chamber’s Dubai Startup Hub (DSH).
“We have had ongoing support [from DSH] when it comes to partnerships, introductions, training workshops, and media awareness” she said in an interview. “For me the pitching [experience], advice, feedback… this is the most important thing and it really helps me and guides me through my roadmap. There’s also been a lot of advice and consultations. It’s like a gift they’ve given us and my advice is to grab any such opportunities.”
Al Mansoori is seeking funding for expansion, with plans to launch an app update as well as enter the Saudi market in Q4 2019. The app already has 250 clinics on board marketing 10,000 services with 50,000 active users in the UAE, which she says proves demand for her platform.
“When it comes to digital marketing for clinics, they have no solid platform to have a guarantee in their ROI. They will just advertise anywhere [and] they get guided by inexperienced people. This type of marketing is not sustainable. Our customer retention is 74% and conversion is 30% right now.”
Quoting market research to further back her idea, Al Mansoori added that Dh20 billion is spent on the cosmetic industry every year in the UAE, and one out of 10 women pays Dh60,000 for aesthetic services in Dubai. She added: “Dubai, on it’s own has more clinics than Hollywood or Beverly Hills. All products have digital platforms and Dubai is turning into a Smart city, and has a focus on medical tourism, so we created a platform. This is a huge market.”
Meanwhile, in addition to funding, the founders of Hotel Data Cloud, Gregor Amon and Kevin Czok, are looking for support through introductions as well as the fundraising process.
Hotel Data Cloud is a distribution database for hotels to distribute their descriptive content to booking partners worldwide. “We give hotels the opportunity to upload all their data onto our platform – room descriptions, photos, amenities – and then it gets distributed to booking partners,” Amon explained. “The issue hotels have nowadays is they have a couple of partners they sell to and those partners sell to others and resell to others, and which each intermediary, the risk of wrong or outdated information, old pictures, wrong pictures, increases. So what we’ve seen is the hotel does not have any control of what is said about them on third party websites.”
The company has on-boarded 10,00 hotels globally so far and distributes to 1,500 booking channels worldwide.
“We are currently also in Intelak incubator to help us scale and be ready for funding,” Amon said.
“We came in contact with DSH at STEP Conference and since then we’ve been in very close conversation with them,” Amon said. “They’ve been very helpful. They [DSH] even released a whitepaper about fundraising and they’re very receptive to our feedback because we’re going through this whole process.”
Hotel Data Cloud has also submitted a proposal and is in talks with Expo 2020 for their content distribution.
Participant Sevan Kuyumjian is looking for funding to invest in further developing her gift registry platform Giftrapp. The app is designed to solve the issue of receiving unwanted or duplicate gifts.
“On Giftrapp, you can create wish lists and put items from any online or offline shop and share it with friends and family, and that way you can guarantee to receive or gift the perfect gift, with just a few clicks,” the founder explained. For gifts that run above budget, the app also offers the option to group gift.
“I’m here for the funds,” she said in an interview on the sidelines of the competition. “I can definitely use the money. So far it’s been funded by the prizes I’ve been winning. For the next development phase I’m at a pivotal stage and fork. The struggle has been pre-revenue – I’ve been turned down [for investment]. I’m looking at $100,000 (Dh300,000) of initial investment to give me a runway for about six to seven months.”
The Dubai Smartpreneur Competition is in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, to transform the emirate into the world’s happiest and smartest city.
The top three winners will be announced during the closing ceremony of Entrepreneur Middle East’s Enterprise Agility Forum 2019 on April 30, 2019. The winners will receive cash prizes and access to training and support to enhance their business.
Launched as an initiative of Dubai Chamber in 2016, Dubai Startup Hub is an interactive platform that connects startups, entrepreneurs, developers, venture capitalists and students, enabling them to learn about new opportunities and create new partnerships that stimulate economic growth.