Bayt’s Entrepreneurship in the Middle East Survey  

As we are all well aware, entrepreneurship in the Middle East has exploded in recent years and becoming an important source of growth and employment in the region. Evaluating quantitatively entrepreneurship is difficult though and Bayt, the Middle East’s leading recruiting platform, has released several studies and surveys about entrepreneurship in recent years.

In November, Bayt published the results of one of their most comprehensive surveys into entrepreneurship the Middle East has seen. Bayt’s Entrepreneurship in the Middle East Survey 2015 set out to see what the state of entrepreneurship is in the Middle East and there were some very revealing findings. The clear result of all the data is that more and more people in the Middle East are interested in entrepreneurship and are looking to become entrepreneurs themselves.

Here are Bayt’s main takeaways from the results:

  • Given a choice, 64% of respondents would prefer to have their own business
  • The top advice respondents would give to aspiring entrepreneurs would be to not be afraid of failure (38%)
  • Almost half of respondents (48%) do not have any preference when it comes to the best time to set up a business
  • 7 in 10 respondents think that entrepreneurs are ‘profit-driven’
  • 97% of respondents know at least one successful entrepreneur in their country of residence

To see the full results, click here.

Introducing Our New Partners  

As you may have gathered from our Year in Review post, it’s been a busy year for WOMENA and that extends to partnerships! We believe the development of partnerships with other organisations in the entrepreneurship ecosystem is very important. We want entrepreneurs and investors we speak with to benefit as much as possible from the exciting entrepreneurship ecosystem and our partners all provide excellent resources and programmes for precisely that.

We’ve profiled our partners previously, which you can find here, here and here. So without further ado, meet our new partners!

Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority conserves and promotes the heritage of Abu Dhabi with a variety of programmes and events throughout the year. They are keen to promote entrepreneurship within the emirate and will support startups’ expansions into the UAE.

Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC) is the official organisation for women professionals and entrepreneurs in Dubai. They host business events across the year, designed to promote women’s involvement in business and entrepreneurship.

e7/Promise of a Generation is a year long programme for women aged between 18 and 25 to develop and implement projects that benefit their community with five participants from each emirate.

Iliad Partners is a Dubai-based venture capital firm that invests in seed stage and Series A startups that are globally minded.

in5 is WOMENA’s ecosystem partner and run an excellent coworking space for entrepreneurs in Dubai. They support entrepreneurs in various ways from licensing to acceleration.

MAGNiTT connects entrepreneurs to investors, mentors and cofounders.

Meera Kaul Foundation works to eradicate gender inequality in all walks of life through education, programmes, seminars and conferences.

Oqal is Saudi Arabia’s first and only angel group with branches in the Eastern Province, Riyadh and Jeddah.

Startup Weekend Dubai 2015  

Startup Weekend is one of the preeminent events in a city’s startup ecosystem. Bringing together dozens of entrepreneurs, developers and startup enthusiasts for 54 hours to create a new startup, the weekend event emerged from humble beginnings in Boulder, Colorado in 2007. Since then, Startup Weekend has expanded around the world with events in over 135 countries and 210,000 attendees a year.

With Dubai’s proliferation of startups and entrepreneurship events, it was only a matter of time for Startup Weekend to reach Dubai and it has been a big success since 2013. From 19th to 21st November, Startup Weekend Dubai returned with 103 entrants from across the entrepreneurship ecosystem taking part.

WOMENA was a partner of this year’s Startup Weekend and Chantalle was part of the judging panel. In first place was MyCars (pictured above, courtesy of Startup Weekend Dubai), a model to find cars to rent in different cities. Fitness Buddies, a model where fitness enthusiasts were matched to one another based on their workouts, came second. Wa9faat, a platform to facilitate access to Arabic receipts via referral, placed third. There was a separate prize for B2B (business-to-business) entrants, which was won by VVIP.

Congratulations to all participants and we look forward to seeing you next year for a weekend of inspiration!

Change to WOMENA’s Events  

It’s been a busy year for WOMENA (check out our review of 2016 here) and we’re always trying to refine our processes and events to deliver the best service to our members and entrepreneurs. To that end, we’ve been listening to your feedback about the structure and timing of our Pitch Meetings and have decided on two big changes starting in January.

First, the Pitch Meetings will move from being monthly to being once every two months. While the frequency of the Pitch Meetings may be cut in half, the number of pitching startups will double in number to four so over the course of the year members will see the same number of startups pitch.

Second, we will separate the education component of the Pitch Meetings into to its own separate event: our Series A(ngel) Workshops. Covering all bases of angel investing, attendees will finish the day with the foundation to become involved in angel investing themselves. The workshops are open to all women interested in angel investment, regardless of background or financial experience. The workshops are free for WOMENA members. 

With these changes, we are delighted to be announcing the Pitch Meeting and Series A(ngel) Workshop dates for the first half of 2016. To add the dates to your calendars, click any of the links below. To RSVP to the January Pitch Meeting, please email [email protected].

2016 Pitch Meetings

Monday January 25th

Wednesday March 23rd

Monday May 23rd

2016 Educational Workshops (Free for WOMENA Members)

Saturday February 20th

Saturday April 23rd

MENA Exits  

It’s an exciting time to be working in the Middle East entrepreneurship ecosystem. 10 years ago uttering the world ‘startup’ may have been met with a quizzical look. Today, there’s a real buzz and excitement from all those working in entrepreneurship (and many outside too) and the explosion in the number of startups is evidence of this.

While the increase in the number of startups across the Middle East has been very welcome, how has this translated to exits? The first ‘big’ exit, and arguably the catalyst for the growth in entrepreneurship in the Middle East, was the sale of Maktoob, the first bilingual Arabic and English email provider, to Yahoo! for $164m in 2009.

It was not until this year that this acquisition was matched in financial terms. First, Rocket Internet acquired Kuwait’s Talabat, the online food delivery service, for $170m in February. Only a few months later though, this was blown out of the water in terms of size with Delivery Hero’s acquisition of Turkey’s Yemeksepti, another online food delivery service. While you may not have heard of Yemeksepti, you are probably a lot more likely to know the name under which it operates in the GCC: Foodonclick.

In the preceding years, there were numerous smaller acquisitions in a variety of sectors, including (but not limited to):

  • Tiger Global Management bought Cobone, a daily deals website, for around $40 million
  • Thomson Reuters bought Zawya, the business information portal, for an estimated $40 million
  • PAYFORT acquired White Payments, an online payments solution, for an undisclosed amount
  • SAS Holding acquired Glowork, a Saudi company that connects women with jobs, for $16 million
  • OLX bought Dubizzle, the classified listings website, for an undisclosed amount
  • Japan’s Cookpad bought Shahiya, an Arabic recipe website, for $13.5 million

What’s interesting to see as well is the number of late-stage startups acquiring other early-stage startups to further expand. For example, Careem acquired Taxiii in Morocco and Souq acquired Sukar. Exits have not been limited to global investment management firms, private equity firms or the like. If anything, Middle East based firms have been more active than non-MENA firms with startup acquisition.

We’re also seeing an increasing number of large and later stage rounds in the region. Just last month, Careem, the car-hailing app, raised a $60 million Series C round. Fetchr was the recipient of New Enterprise Associates’ first investment in the Middle East as part of its $11 million Series A round and last year Souq raised a $75 million round.  

So what does this mean for MENA? Well it proves that the entrepreneurship path can lead to big rewards for founders, their employees and investors. There’s a clear uptick in both exits and large rounds across the Middle East and we only see that trend continuing. For angel investors, the trend is particularly welcome news. With greater exit opportunities for startups, the chance of seeing a return on their investment increases.

2015 in Review  

2015, where have you gone? It only seems like yesterday that we were hosting our second Pitch Meeting at Art Sawa in January. So with 2015 quickly drawing a close we wanted to look back and review the year.

From new members to new partnerships, below is just an idea of what we’ve been up to:


We’ve worked with some phenomenal entrepreneurs throughout the year who have made some amazing progress. It’s been inspiring and here’s a few stats about those that have pitched since we launched:

We’re so grateful for all the support we’ve received over the course of the year. It’s been humbling and really pushed us on further to support angel investing, women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship

Bring on 2016!

Venture Capital’s Extraordinary Impact on the US Economy  

Tomasz Tunguz is a partner at Redpoint Ventures and is an active blogger on all things VC. His blog is well worth a read and gives a real insight into what’s going on in Silicon Valley.

A recent blog of his – The Most Transformational Force in US Society – caught our eye and we wanted to share it with you. Tunguz visualises the extraordinary impact venture capital has had in the United States. As he states, Whatsapp delivers 50% more messages than global SMS volumes and we now have eggless mayonnaise. While the individual impact of a VC-backed startup might look pretty insubstantial in comparison to the enormous US economy, when considered together, the impact of all VC-backed startups is amazing.

To read the full blog click here and to subscribe to Tunguz’s blog click here.

Chantalle and Elissa win SME Businesswomen of the Year  

Every year Arabian Business, one of the leading business and startup news sources in the Middle East, hosts the “Arabian Business Startup Awards”, which celebrates the burgeoning entrepreneurship scene in the UAE and the Middle East. There are 12 awards given each year in a wide variety of categories from Startup of the Year to Incubator/Accelerator of the Year.

This year, Chantalle and Elissa were nominated for SME Businesswomen of the Year for their founding of WOMENA. They were nominated along with Sharene Lee, Cofounder of Melltoo (a WOMENA portfolio company), Alia Khan, Chairwoman of the Islamic Fashion and Design Council, Lamis Bin Harib, Founder and CEO of BioD, and May Barber, Managing Partner of The Cartel.

SME Businesswoman of the Year – Elissa Freiha and Chantalle Dumonceaux, WOMENA Arabian Business Start Up Awards 2015 Dubai, United Arab Emirates, November 23, 2015 (Photo by Aasiya Jagadeesh/ITP Images);23_11_15 Startup Awards 2015

On the night itself though, Chantalle and Elissa won the award! It was such an honour to be nominated, let alone win, and it was a wonderful evening. Thank you to the Arabian Business team for your continued support!

Winners Stage Shoot for Start Up Arabian Business Awards 2015 held at Ritz Carlton DIFC on November 23, 2015 Dubai UAE Photo by Lester Apuntar/ITP Images;Winners Stage

Startup of the Year went to Fetchr, which recently raised $11 million and are the first New Enterprise Associates (one of the oldest and most respected venture capital firms in Silicon Valley) portfolio company, and AlemHealth, another WOMENA portfolio company, were the worthy winners of the Innovation of the Year Award. The awards make you realise how each year the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the UAE gets stronger and stronger.   

For a full list of the nominees click here and for a full list of the winners click here.

Interview with Kate Dyer, Cofounder of Dish  

If you’ve ever attended one of our Pitch Meetings, you’ll know how fantastic the food is. That’s all down to the amazing Dish Catering & Events, one of the Middle East’s leading caterers. We don’t have a Pitch Meeting go by without someone sending us an email afterwards how much they loved the catering!

We had the chance to speak to Kate Dyer, the Cofounder and Stylist at Dish, who illuminated on Dish and what it’s like running a catering business.

Can you introduce yourself?

Kate Dyer – Cofounder and Stylist at Dish Catering & Events

What first brought you to Dubai?

Travel and opportunity, I was always interested in the region and I first landed here in 2005 at the ripe age of 21. I flew with Emirates for a couple of years before working in branding and marketing and then finally taking the plunge with my husband to open Dish.

Can you introduce Dish?

Dish Catering is a boutique, high end catering service with a focus on “service with personality and food that steals the show”.

Why did you found Dish?

Both Henry and myself have worked in catering and hospitality in Melbourne. We saw a real gap in the market for reliable service, exciting creative food concepts and most of all businesses run with passion and care.

What opportunities are there for caterers in the UAE?

Huge opportunities. It’s constant and growing. Just when you think it can’t get bigger, it does. Dubai is an amazing place, you just have to talk to people and show that you care about what you do and you can succeed. The events here are extravagant, luxurious and exciting. We are constantly evolving as our clients interests change and grow.

What’s been the strangest/craziest/most random catering job you’ve worked on in the UAE?

Ooh wow there’s been a few. Breakfast for 40 on hot air balloons, Eggs Benedict nonetheless, elegant luxurious sit down dinners in the desert for 500 – a sandy affair. We have also worked on gala dinners for 500 on Nurai Island, the entire operation has to go over on boats at 3am (ovens, water, gas bottles, tables – the works!…)

What are the strengths and weaknesses of setting up a business in the UAE?

Bureaucratically it’s difficult. There’s a lot of red tape and administration, hoops to jump through, especially when opening an operationally sound kitchen. On the plus side the strict guidelines in the UAE for food safely and handling means we know our kitchen is one of the best in the region, if not the world.

Do you have any advice for potential entrepreneurs looking to start a business in the UAE?

Yes be patient, find mentors, ask questions and always be on the edge of your comfort zone. If you’re not pushing yourself you’re not growing.

Is there anything you would have done differently when starting up Dish?

Yes – built a bigger kitchen! We started with a modest space but we outgrew it quickly, since we have built a kitchen 4 times the size, a 12 month process. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

How have you found being an entrepreneur and cofounder?

It’s exciting and challenging but very rewarding, Ours is also a family business, so Dish really is part of who we are.