x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Khalifa Fund’s entrepreneurship forum in Abu Dhabi opens

Top entrepreneurs, officials and investors descend on Abu Dhabi for the city's first entrepreneurship forum.

Hussain Jassim Al Nowais, the chairman of the Khalifa Fund, during the opening of the Abu Dhabi entrepreneurship forum. Sammy Dallal / The National
Hussain Jassim Al Nowais, the chairman of the Khalifa Fund, during the opening of the Abu Dhabi entrepreneurship forum. Sammy Dallal / The National

The former UK trade and industry secretary Peter Mandelson will today deliver one of the keynote speeches at the opening session of the Abu Dhabi Entrepreneurship Forum.

The two-day event organised by the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development has attracted more than 50 top entrepreneurs, investors and government officials from Europe, the United States and the Middle East as speakers and participants in various panel discussions and workshops.

The Khalifa Fund was set up in 2007 with the aim of supporting young Emirati entrepreneurs – especially those from Abu Dhabi. The fund is a crucial part of the government’s plan to diversify the economy over the next 15 years or so – the so-called Economic Vision 2030.

“After six years of experience at Khalifa Fund, we have developed the knowledge of what leads to the success of SMEs and the challenges that they face across different sectors, such as industries, services and retail,” said Hussain Jassim Al Nowais, the fund chairman. “The objective of the forum is to share this knowledge with small enterprises and those who would be interested in becoming entrepreneurs.”

This is the first time the Khalifa Fund has organised such an event. But it plans to hold the forum annually if it is successful.

There will be sessions on SME financing, microfinancing, e-learning for business education, youth and social inclusion. There will also be discussions covering the challenges that face entrepreneurs and start-up businesses.

Another headline speaker is Chad Hurley, the co-founder of YouTube, who is making his first visit to the UAE.

From the UAE, Rabea Ataya, the founder and chief executive of the Middle East job site Bayt.com, is among those representing long-established entrepreneurs; Buthaina Al Mazrui and Alamira Noor Bani Hashim, the founders of The Dinner Club by No. 57, are among the younger generation of innovators who will attend.

“The forum is also an opportunity to exchange views and develop business opportunities,” Mr Al Nowais said.

Aisha Saeed Harib, the founder of the UAE social start-up Socialbandage, agrees. She will be attending the forum as a speaker, but also views the event as a good networking opportunity.

“I see this as a place to learn about the other speakers, to hear their stories and to get inspired,” she said. “It’s good to get news of what other start-ups are doing and it’s always nice to meet people face to face.”

A total of 1,500 people are expected to attend the event at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. Also present will be 50 companies that the fund has supported over the past 14 months.