Wamda Launches Fellowship Programme in Dubai for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Fares Ghandour, Partner at Wamda Capital
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Wamda, the leading entrepreneurship empowering organisation in the Middle East launches first-of-its-kind fellowship programme ‘Wamda X’ offering grants and unlocking its network to budding entrepreneurs looking to start their business

Wamda already supports and invests in some of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s most successful and innovative startups – including Mumzworld, BitOasis and Careem.

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To safe-route the often financially grueling and solitary path to entrepreneurship, Wamda X offers each Fellow a grant of $16,000 along with in-kind support including a workspace in Dubai, and other cities in the future, such Amman, Cairo and Riyadh. The programme will be curriculum light, and will instead emphasise relationships with mentors and the wider Wamda network as a key offering. It will run for four months and take place at a Wamda-dedicated new facility at Dubai Design District.

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While the goal of the grant-based mentorship programme is to get entrepreneurs, the Fellows, ready to start initial-testing of their business models and to propel them into the first startup stages, the programme is flexible in its selection criteria and anyone is welcome to apply, regardless of stage.

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As the MENA entrepreneurship ecosystem continues to evolve, Wamda X arrives to plug the gap present in today’s regional startup financing model and the ecosystem’s support networks. Wamda X is looking to capitalise on the network of successful entrepreneurs it has backed, offering them a platform through which they can empower future business leaders. Fares Ghandour who leads the programme and is Partner at Wamda, explains: “Wamda X is a continuation of the work we’ve done at Wamda to support founders and startups in MENA since 2010. What started as a media platform, evolved into a mentorship programme, a research lab, a VC [venture capital] fund, and now we’re looking to continue building on our experience by offering something unique that serves the needs of today’s aspiring founders”.

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The programme aims to ease the barriers to starting a business by reducing dependency on “family and friends”, often the first people founders go to for financing. Wamda X wants to be the initial financiers in founders and offers access to Wamda Capital in later stages of financing.

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Commenting on the introduction of Wamda X and its mission to empower those who want to create solutions and take the leap into entrepreneurship, Fares Ghandour said: “The most critical component to any startup is the founding team. Founder-run businesses outperform other types of businesses, and Wamda X looks to capture and empower entrepreneurs from the moment they start their journey. We invest in people and provide an environment that is designed to help entrepreneurs formulate and solidify their budding ideas into startups. It’s a critical phase of the startup cycle that is currently lacking support.”

In search of fellows eager to disrupt the status quo, but also mature enough to know how to manoeuvre in the real world, applicants will be selected based on their ability to think critically about a problem and solve it, to work under stress and alongside peers and be driven in solving a market failure. The programme aims to capture a broad range of fellows, anyone who has a business idea, at any stage, can apply.

The programme will be primarily based in Dubai but allows Fellows from various parts of the region the ability to work from their home markets during the second half of the programme. The inaugural batch will begin towards the middle of Q1 2019 for which applications will close on January 20th.


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