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Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre Launches #UnitedForBeirut Initiative

Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre, Sheraa, has launched the #UnitedForBeirut initiative, setting up a US$100,000 equity-free fund to enable high-impact Lebanese startups bounce back after suffering huge losses in the aftermath of the recent tragedy that shook Beirut last month.

The initiative is geared towards reigniting the innovation movement in Beirut and enable these startups to contribute to the city’s recovery.

The fund setup by Sheraa will translate to grants of $10,000 each for 10 select startups integral to the redevelopment of Beirut. This initiative is part of a $1 million Solidarity Fund Sheraa announced earlier this year in honour of the #UbuntuLoveChallenge, a global initiative launched this April by Sheraa Chairperson, Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, and thought leader, Mamadou Kwidjim Toure, founder of the Africa 2.0 Foundation, to inspire changemakers worldwide to actively help their communities during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

The 10 startups, selected with the support of the MIT Enterprise Forum, MITEF, Pan Arab, will also receive up to $10,000 each in Amazon Web Services, AWS, Activate credits as part of the AWS Activate programme, and could also benefit from technical support, training, mentorship, and go-to-market support to help them develop and grow their business.

Commenting on the initiative, Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa, said, "Sheraa’s first priority is to support founders in their time of need, and that includes those beyond our borders who have been affected by the tragic Beirut explosion. By providing these leading Lebanese startups with financial grants, Sheraa is expanding its mandate beyond Sharjah to help empower founders across the region.

"We are proud to have partnered with MITEF Pan Arab to select 10 Lebanese startups to receive Sheraa’s grants, as they operate in sectors we believe will be vital to enabling Beirut’s local community. We are also proud to collaborate with Amazon Web Services to provide in-kind support."

Maya Rahal, Managing Director of MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab, said, "Despite the tragic event that hit Beirut and its people last month, we have hope that the future generation of action leaders, civil society, and entrepreneurs will lead for a better world. This partnership with Sheraa is yet another proof of the power of community, which we have witnessed recently on the ground in Beirut, and throughout our work during the past 14 years."

She added, "Our network of startup founders has shown unprecedented solidarity and support to their surrounding community, where they used their expertise to provide immediate food and shelter to affected people. While selecting the beneficiaries for this donation, we paid particular attention to the impact that the financial contribution will make in the short and long term. We have complete faith that our alumni will rise to the tremendous challenge ahead of them: to rebuild Lebanon and to thrive against all odds."

After carefully studying possible beneficiaries of the initiative, Sheraa has selected 10 high-potential and socially minded tech-driven startups, which operate in sectors like housing, water sanitisation, healthcare, e-commerce, among others – all vital to ensuring both immediate and long-term wellbeing of Beirut’s local community.

Winning startups were selected based on the impact they suffered due to the crisis, how they plan to use the grant donation, and a presentation of their two-year development plans based out of Beirut. All chosen startups also plan to leverage their regional connections and expertise to create jobs in the future and deliver a sustainable positive impact on Lebanon’s economy.

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