Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 25 April 2018

Women step in to fire start-ups

A partnership forged between the Emirates Foundation and Womena aims to match angel investors with young Emirati entrepreneurs.

ABU DHABI // What do you get when you match angel investors and young Emiratis with the next big idea? A new generation of financially and business-savvy social entrepreneurs ready to take their start-ups to the next level.

At least that is the thinking behind a new partnership forged between the Emirates Foundation (EF) and Womena, a relatively nascent group in the UAE for high-net-worth women seeking to invest in innovative, young businesses.

“We are confident that there is a huge need for this,” said EF chief executive Clare Woodcraft-Scott. “Young entrepreneurs are looking for not just the angel investment, but also for mentors. That is the advantage with an angel investor is that they provide you not just capital, they’re also providing you with business expertise.”

Womena launched in Dubai in 2014 as a platform for women to invest in start-ups from the Mena region. Its members pay and annual membership fee of US$2,500 (Dh9,181) and commit to invest at least US$10,000 a year. To date, the platform has attracted 43 active members and invested Dh1.8 million in seven technology start-ups. Every two months, the investors attend “pitch meetings” where they are introduced to four promising technology startups looking for financial backing.

“We have a dedicated investment analyst who sources the best deals from the Middle East ... then we have bimonthly pitch meetings where we choose the best ones from those to pitch to our investors,” said Christina Andreassen, Womena’s business development and education manager.

The average age of the women in the group is about 40, but the youngest member, a 23-year-old, was encouraged by her father to join, partly to learn how to invest.

Ms Andreassen said Womena will work with budding entrepreneurs enrolled in the EF’s Kafa’at programme, which offers Emiratis between the ages of 18 and 35 career development opportunities and mentoring.

“Our partnership is focused on helping to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs and investors. Many entrepreneurs don’t even know who the entities are that invest in the region and what they focus on and what they specialise in,” Ms Andreassen said. “The youth Emirates Foundation are working with are young, we don’t expect them to be building companies immediately, but we do expect that over the next 10 to 20 years the UAE will become a hub of innovation and that starts by having educated entrepreneurs and educated investors as well.”