x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Good karma for entrepreneurial start-ups in Dubai

Four of the five companies that graduated from the second round of DP World's Turn8 seed accelerator programme last month originated from outside the UAE.

From left: KarmaSnap founders Gautham N, Ram N, Jayana nd UC and Mahboob Imtiyaz, seated, won support from DP World’s Turn8 seed accelerator incubation programme. Jaime Puebla / The National
From left: KarmaSnap founders Gautham N, Ram N, Jayana nd UC and Mahboob Imtiyaz, seated, won support from DP World’s Turn8 seed accelerator incubation programme. Jaime Puebla / The National

Good deeds, like entrepreneurial ideas, sometimes need a push – and technology can help to provide that, say the founders of a new mobile application.

Billed as an app to provide “karma in a snap”, KarmaSnap helps non-profit organisations and foundations to crowdfund and crowd source social campaigns.

The idea started taking shape in November, when its current team of five co-founders from Bangalore, in India, were busy with jobs and education.

Soon, the team started looking for funding, and in February, they won support from DP World’s Turn8 seed accelerator incubation programme.

That gave them US$30,000 and four months to refine business plans and gather clients ready to pitch to potential investors.

“It took [them] 15 minutes to identify the opportunity in KarmaSnap, which is catering to corporate social responsibility and non-profit organisations to manage campaigns,” said Ram, the chief executive of KarmaSnap, who goes by one name. “The Dubai start-up ecosystem, though in its nascent stages, is somewhere between ‘what opportunity do you see [in a start-up]?’ and ‘what problem are you solving?’ which is a good balance.”

KarmaSnap is one of five start-ups, out of 10, that graduated from the Turn8 incubator’s second round last month. And it was not the only enterprise from overseas. Others included start-ups from Georgia, Australia and Egypt. After the first round last year, Turn8, which is managed by i360 accelerator, graduated nine start-ups, of whom eight travelled from Indonesia, Egypt, Pakistan, Belarus and Ukraine. The availability of better infrastructure such as an uninterrupted power supply, fast internet, a market for customer validation and seed funding are making Dubai a more attractive place for start-ups, say entrepreneurs.

“Dubai is one of the fastest growing cities in the Middle East in terms of the start-up ecosystem, and the connections you get here is more than enough to develop truly innovative global product,” said Bakar Maruashvili, a co-founder of the outdoor digital advertising platform Deehubs, from Georgia, a second graduate of Turn8’s second round. “From Dubai you can easily reach Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon.”

Moreover, as many major media and creative agencies have a presence in Dubai it is in Deehub’s favour to be based here, to showcase its product and receive feedback.

But “the bad side is the decision-making process is too stretched”, says Mr Marushvili.

While the number of start-up events such as competitions and networking activities are fewer compared to the United States or Europe, the ecosystem is more developed than, say, in Georgia and will scale up with time, he adds.

The company is currently registered in the British Virgin Islands but expects to have a branch in Jumeirah Lakes Towers free zone by the end of September.

Another Turn8 entrepreneur, Simone Perkins, a former marketing professional in Dubai, returned to the city from Australia for the incubation period with her start-up Forth Rabbit.

“Having lived in Dubai, I know the tourism market is very dynamic,” said Ms Perkins, who lived in the emirate for four years until 2007. The travel mobile app her team has developed aims to give city information to tourists as well as cruise lines, tourism bodies, hotels, restaurants and airlines.

Forth Rabbit also works from a co-working space in Brisbane called ilab.

“But the start-up environment there is quite nascent, so we made the choice to move into a space where there was a larger community,” Ms Perkins says. “Possible investors are more prevalent in Dubai.”

Rtopia from Egypt is the other overseas start-up from Turn8’s second round of incubation that is seeking to tap Dubai’s opportunities for its gaming application.

At a demo day in Dubai last month, the start-ups sought anywhere between $250,000 and $540,000 in funding from investors, and they say they are now in talks with a few of the attendees.

Turn8’s third round of incubation starts in August. It has already attended or will attend start-up events in a number of nations around the world including Poland, Tunis, Cairo, Beirut, Russia, Mumbai, Ho Chi Minh City and Kenya to scout for applications with more planned.

Back at KarmaSnap, the team members are now in India for a month to set up the technical team, and will return to Dubai to continue operations.

“With the new funding, we want it to be an end-to-end solution for campaign management,” Ram adds.

ssahoo@thenational.ae

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