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Global firm with big hopes for small start-ups chooses Dubai

Endeavor Global is opening a new regional office in Dubai as it aims to fast-track the growth of entrepreneurial ventures in the Middle East and North Africa.

A frenzy of entrepreneurial activity occurring in Dubai is solidifying the emirate's status as the Silicon Valley of the Middle East, and has attracted a global organisation that fast-tracks the growth of businesses in emerging markets.

Endeavor Global, which is set to open an office in Dubai for the Middle East and North Africa region, chooses a select portfolio of "high-impact" entrepreneurs and provides them access to a network of seasoned business leaders who act as strategic advisers, mentors and sometimes even investors. It also helps recruit business school students and professional services firms to work on entrepreneurial projects at low costs.

The organisation has partnered with Abraaj Capital, a private equity group based in Dubai, for the venture.

"The Middle East is really one of the hotbeds of entrepreneurial activity," says Linda Rottenberg, the co-founder and chief executive of Endeavor Global.

"A support office that could marry a lot of the investors and [business] networks that come through Dubai seems to mirror what we have found in Silicon Valley and New York City. This is an entry point where I hope to service entrepreneurs not only from the region, but in the UAE and GCC," says Ms Rottenberg.

In the UAE, specifically, efforts to boost the overall number of small to medium-sized businesses over the years have largely focused on the creation of new start-ups.

Many of the services offered through Abu Dhabi's Khalifa Fund provide Emirati entrepreneurs with start-up capital or advisory services focused on selecting a business idea and evaluating its feasibility.

A number of universities throughout the country have also created competitions that reward students who come up with business plans for new start-ups.

But there is also a growing effort to expand smaller firms into medium or even large-scale enterprises.

Last week, the economic development agency Dubai SME launched an initiative to teach small firms that are already established about how to create proper corporate governance structures. The goal is to help these businesses survive for the long-term by becoming more attractive to banks and outside investors, who might provide funding for expansion opportunities.

Endeavor Global, which opened a branch in Lebanon last year and plans to open one in Saudi Arabia during the first quarter of next year, customises its services depending on what an entrepreneur most needs. A larger business looking to expand into international markets might be provided with high-level strategic mentorship, while a smaller company could gain assistance with targeted employee recruitment or marketing initiatives.

Yet there is a downside when it comes to Endeavor because there are certain kinds of entrepreneurs that the organisation will not assist. "Endeavor does not work with start-ups or those writing business plans for future companies," says Carmen Saad, the managing director of Endeavor Jordan.

"Endeavor is there for the ones who want to go big."

To access Endeavor's network of experts, applicants must first pass a selection process that can take 12 to 18 months to complete and includes interviews with both local and regional panellists who scrutinise a company's strategy, growth potential and financials.

Hiba Jammal, the managing partner of El Matbakh, a full-service corporate lunch caterer, made the cut through Endeavor Egypt.

"It's a challenge when you're your own boss to keep a bird's eye perspective," Ms Jammal said.

nparmar@thenational.ae

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