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Article written by: Farah El Yacoubi

In the lead up to Startup Weekend Dubai, we hosted a panel discussion titled, “Bootcamp: No More Reasons Not to Start”. The aim of the bootcamp was to give viewers a holistic picture of the existing startup environment in Dubai. The panellists, moderator and speaker each have a unique background and role to play in Dubai’s startup world and together, represented all aspects of Dubai’s startup framework.

Firstly, the bootcamp featured personal experiences by entrepreneurs who are operating in the fields of food & beverage, technology, and consumer products. It also included panellists who are working in organisations that provide support to entrepreneurs through mentorship, networking opportunities, financial investment and other forms of guidance. Finally, the panellists shared their insight on the legal considerations and challenges that one will face during their entrepreneurial journey. Most importantly, various stages of setting up and running a startup were discussed: from pre-incorporation and business planning to how to keep up with the growing complexity and scale of your business.

The panel discussion comprised of:

  1. Moderator – Hebah Fisher (Co-founder of Kerning Cultures)
  2. Speaker – Abzal Assembekov (Winner from Startup Weekend Dubai 2014 and Founder of Heptagon Media)
  3. Panellist – Alborz Toofani (Founder & CEO of SnappCard)
  4. Panellist – Chad Fox (Legal advisor for startups)
  5. Panellist – Leen Sadder (Founder & CEO of THIS Toothbrush)
  6. Panellist – Ramzy Ismail (Program Manager at Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi)
  7. Panellist – Sirine Fadoul (Incubation Manager at Silicon Oasis Founders)

The discussion kicked off with the topical question: as an entrepreneur, should you retain your day job and work on your venture on the side or should you fully commit, assume the risk and quit your job? Whilst the panellists each had different opinions and experiences with this question, it was agreed that this completely depended on the particular entrepreneur’s circumstances, risk appetite, and stage of development of the idea.

A key talking point was the type of support that an individual entrepreneur should seek. Should you be guided by an incubator? What type of legal advice do you need and when should you obtain it? Would it be helpful to enter into a startup competition?

In answering these questions, the panellists acknowledged that these forms of support are different. However, each of them provides an entrepreneur with access to specialist information and advice, and networking opportunities. The panellists universally pointed out that there are intrinsic obstacles to overcome when starting a company, especially at the early stages. They shared their practical stories and how having a supporting network would have prevented early mistakes or speeded up the route to profitability. The conclusion amongst the panellists was that the right timing is key and advice should be obtained early on, meeting the right people never hurts, and it is best to have the right foundation for your company from the start.

A large chunk of the discussion was dedicated to an area that is relevant to all but unfamiliar to many: legal matters. It is important to remember that Dubai has a unique legal composition, which entrepreneurs should understand well in order to inform their strategy. Chad Fox gave a crash course about the registration and licensing process, the choice of jurisdiction of incorporation (onshore or free-zone), and overarching restrictions (costs associated with specific structures, employee visas, division of shares and allocation of managerial positions).

Overall, the discussion was designed to familiarise potential and current entrepreneurs with their upcoming challenges. However, it also pointed them to the tools and resources that they should resort to in order to respond to such scenarios.

Aya Sadder