x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Start-up group seeks to be hub of activity

Expected to arrive in the UAE by the end of the year, The Hub provides work spaces, resources and connections for entrepreneurs who have businesses that contribute to society

DUBAI // Social entrepreneurs will be able to join a global venture providing office space and access to like-minded colleagues when the The Hub opens in Dubai this year.

The Hub, a popular start-up support group, already has about two dozen branches from San Francisco to Johannesburg. The organisation provides office space, resources, connections, knowledge, experience and investment for entrepreneurs involved in community-focused schemes, such as educational projects.

Members pay fees depending on the amount of time - from one day to one year - they work from a Hub office. Subscriptions are available, and members can also pay by the hour.

Established centres help set up new ones, and The HubUAE has received support from the branches in Zurich, Amsterdam, London and Mumbai.

Najla al Midfa, Marwan Chaar, Aman Merchant and Habib al Assaad, who formed The Hub UAE, say they want to stimulate entrepreneurs by introducing community-minded goals.

"It's the place for people with ideas," Mr Assaad said.

"It combines the best of a business incubator, co-working space, think tank, members' club and innovation agency to create a different kind of innovation environment."

Last year, Masood Razaq founded Goodgate, an online philanthropy portal to help people find charities and non-governmental organisations across the Muslim world. He plans to join The HubUAE.

"I think it's a good idea, because it's not only about the physical place, but it's also about the community," he said. In this part of the world, he added, "there's nothing like that; it's always good to be co-located, and bringing people together in one community is very valuable."

Tamer Nahas decided to join The HubUAE because his company needs sound advice, as well as financial support. He is the founder of BoldTalks, which organises events that include wide-ranging discussions designed to stimulate thought. Talks include subjects such as health, culture and psychology, but avoid politics and religion.

"The entire concept supports these up-and-coming entrepreneurs with vision who don't have millions of dirhams as capital," he said. "I go through the same process to set up my business as big companies, but it's easier for them because they have a PR team, whereas I am an individual with a smaller capital."

Zeyna al Jabri established Buzoor three years ago to promote Arabic reading among children by distributing books at schools and setting up Arabic libraries. Her office will move from Al Barsha in Dubai once The HubUAE opens.

"Working alone can be very detached from anything other than what you're doing inside your office," she said. "The Hub offers that opportunity to network by providing synergies with other people going through the same things as you."

Another social entrepreneur planning to set up shot in The Hub UAE is Nabila Usman. She teaches basic business skills to unemployed people who want to start a business.

"It's aligned and specialised with social entrepreneurship, which is the right place for me to be in," Ms Usman said of The Hub. "Its core focus is very much relevant to what I'm trying to do. The kind of people I'll meet there will help me, and I can help them. I'm really excited for its opening."

cmalek@thenational.ae