The 7th annual Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival (SEF 2024) has opened with high-caliber keynotes and insights from extraordinary individuals who are shaping the future of the business and entrepreneurship ecosystem of the UAE and beyond.
SEF 2024 was launched in the presence of Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa), curious changemakers, pioneers, founders, leaders and visionaries from around the world.
Themed ‘Our Shared Canvas’, the two-day event is taking place at the iconic Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP), and hosting expert-led masterclasses, pitch competitions, workshops, talks, and other events designed to foster collaboration and empower entrepreneurs in the region.
The opening ceremony was attended by HRH Prince Faisal bin Bandar Al Saud, Chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation, Dr. Sultan Al Neyadi, UAE minister of youth, Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa, Mohammed Al Abbar, founder of EMAAR Properties, in addition to public and private sector representatives, business leaders, venture capitalists, university students, artists, academia, and members of the community.
The SEF 2024 opening ceremony witnessed an exciting new development, the unveiling of the ‘Innovation Avenue’ street, which has been renamed under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah. Located behind the Sheraa HQ in SRTIP, the Innovation Avenue street runs between the University City of Sharjah and the iconic House of Wisdom. This symbolic renaming showcases Sharjah’s commitment to the future and to creating pathways that will set successive generations on the road to success and creativity.
Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa, delivered an inspirational keynote speech, welcoming the edition’s guests and attendees. Al Midfa message spoke of the empowering vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and the commitment to forging a bridge between the world of theory and the world of practice, as well as the incredible support that the festival has received from Sheraa Chairperson Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi. The CEO’s speech also emphasized the value of asserting one’s self and not delaying in the pursuit of one’s dreams.
Najla remarked that “Today I want to share one of the lessons that I have learned from over 10,000 hours of conversations with entrepreneurs. The most successful entrepreneurs that I have met all have one trait in common. Their ability to start. Not just once, but time and time again, they consistently choose courage over comfort, and they consistently choose action over complacency. So if I could give you only one piece of advice, it would be this: just start.”
Following Najla’s speech, HRH Prince Faisal Bin Bandar Al Saud, Chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation, shared insights in his talk titled ‘The Next Level: Inspiring a New Generation of Entrepreneurs’.
Dr. Sultan Al Neyadi, UAE Minister of Youth, took the stage with his talk titled ‘Stories from Space: Inspiring the Human Spirit’, exploring the intersection of space exploration, innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit.
Dr. Al Neyadi added that, “I thank His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Muhammad Al Qasimi, UAE SUpreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah; his wife Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Sultan Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF); and Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, for creating such incredible opportunities for our youth in entrepreneurship”.
“Supporting young entrepreneurs is not just a moral duty, but an investment in the future of our nation and the world. This is why the UAE’s leadership has designed a national methodology at the federal level that has over 300 initiatives and national youth empowerment programs, which support and guide them to hone their skills in a realistic manner. A festival like SEF further enhances the opportunities for our nation’s youth, and bolsters national efforts to create top opportunities for them to succeed and contribute to a shared future”, Dr. Al Neyadi further added.
Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi and Najla Al Midfa led the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Partners Awarding Ceremony, thanking the invaluable contributions of partners, whose support was instrumental in making SEF 2024 a reality. Notable awards were presented to key entities, including Emaar Properties, Arada Group, Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP), Sharjah Business Women Council (SBWC), Sharjah Media City (Shams), Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), Sharjah Economic Development Department (SEDD) & Ruwad.
Other attendees included Sharjah Roads and Transport Authority, Sharjah Airport Authority, Sharjah City Municipality, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), Beeah Group, Invest In Sharjah, SAEED Center, Sharjah Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI), Tijarah 101, Sharjah Asset Management, du, Alef Group, Al Marwan Group, Invest Bank, Sharjah Islamic Bank, Sharjah Retail, Emirates Development Bank, Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation, Crescent Enterprises, Microsoft UAE, National Paints. These awards served as a testament to the collaborative efforts that were instrumental in making SEF 2024 a reality.
The opening ceremony featured a short film created for the SEF 2024 audience. It chronicled Sharjah’s incredible journey since the early 1900s to becoming a regional and global leader of culture, education, innovation and entrepreneurship. The birth of Sheraa and SEF were highlighted as key milestones in this journey of human-centric progress. The opening ceremony attendees were also treated to a hope-filled chorus titled ‘Bokra’ (meaning tomorrow), led by the singers of the American University of Sharjah’s Performing Arts Club.
Upon the conclusion of the opening ceremony, Sheikha Boudour Al Qasimi, led a tour of the festival, and was briefed on the four dedicated zones and stages SEF 2024 has designed this year to lead a specialized content and training program focused on its key sub-themes of ‘Impact’, ‘Founder’, ‘Creative’, and ‘Community’. With zones and stages dedicated to each theme, SEF 2024 creates a unique opportunity to learn, network, collaborate and connect with peers, pioneers and mentors.