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The UAE S100 - using networks as start-up support

By Debbie Blinder - Posted on 16 January 2014

Debbie Blinder, marketing manager at Strathclyde Business School in UAE, looks at the growing importance of international networks in the modern business world…

The UAE is a land of opportunities, where markets are growing rapidly and where entrepreneurs can dream big. When it comes to making those dreams a reality and launching a new enterprise however, success does not necessarily come easily. Making a start-up successful takes capital, courage, and perhaps most importantly, a serious support network.

After all, the assistance that emerges from such networks can take the form of financial investments, connections to relevant people and business opportunities, informal advice and mentorship, or even formal board relationships and partnerships.

While the number of UAE organisations devoted to pure entrepreneurial support is certainly on the rise, it can also be beneficial to capitalize on the strength of existing business-savvy social groups to which most members already belong and based upon which they share an inherent commonality. That's just what the Strathclyde UAE Alumni Association has recently sought to facilitate for their entrepreneurial Abu Dhabi and Dubai based graduates and MBA students via the UAE arrival of  ‘Strathclyde 100′ network events.

The University of Strathclyde – which was recently named the Times Higher Education UK Entrepreneurial University of the Year – originally launched the series of Strathclyde 100 events in Glasgow back in 2003.

At the events, pre-selected students, alumni or faculty pitch their early stage businesses or well-developed business ideas with specific ‘asks' of the entrepreneurial audience of about 100 (hence the name) that gathers to encourage the success of their colleagues' most promising and innovative enterprises or ideas.

Last year, the first Strathclyde 100 event was held in Dubai. After 18 years of the Strathclyde MBA being taught in the UAE, it was no surprise that there were many applicants for the pitch opportunities from among the university's students and graduates in the region.

What was less expected and quite heartening to see, however, was the willingness of the audience to listen carefully to others' business ideas or needs and selflessly offer up their insights, advice or connections.

Of course, a variety of mutually beneficial collaborative arrangements can emerge from such network support events, but the benefit of the core audience sharing something in common - in this case an alma mater - is that most members feel an affinity for the presenting entrepreneurs, automatically root for them, and feel somewhat invested in their success.

This year, Strathclyde Abu Dhabi will be holding its first Strathclyde 100 dinner event at the Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche on 17 January.

Professor Susan Hart, Executive Dean of Strathclyde Business School, will be on hand to deliver opening remarks; MBA alumnus and twofour54 Executive Director of Business Development Nader Atout will provide the keynote speech; and alumni committee member Aamir Khan will chair the event. The evening's pitches will include an established entrepreneur's marketing communications and technology oriented new ventures incubator (alumnus Mohammed Johmani, Johmani Ventures), a virtual presentation by an expanding UK-based company that develops sensing technologies including patented smart pigments with uses such as strategic food packaging (alumnus David Kilshaw OBE, Insignia Technologies), and a mini-pitch by a nonprofit social enterprise operating in the cloud and on the ground (MBA student Manal Hamid, Moms Guide Abu Dhabi).

Can network-centric events like the Strathclyde 100 bolster regional entrepreneurship? What do you think are the keys to start-up success? Let us know in the comments below. You can also get involved in the conversation on Twitter by tweeting @strathclydeuae or using hashtag #S100UAE

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