Sheraa’s Access Sharjah Challenge assists creative startup ideas to reality

By Arya M Nair, Intern Reporter
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The Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) and the Ministry of Culture and Youth announced the winners of the Access Sharjah Challenge, an integrated platform that connects digital startups with major public and private entities in Sharjah and UAE.

The challenge was launched in strategic partnership with the Sharjah Museums Authority (SMA), Air Arabia, and Alef Group to empower founders leading the way in building a vibrant creative economy by building sustainable businesses, with the goal of contributing to the development and growth of the nation.

In the presence of Ms. Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Sheraa, and Ms. Noura bint Mohammad Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth, Mr. Sohail Dahdal, professor at American University of Sharjah (AUS) and Emirati founders Ms. Noura Kalban and Ms. Alia Lootah were named winners of the game-changing competition.

Access Sharjah Challenge consisted of two different contests, the Al Makan Challenge, which invited innovative ideas to liberate artifacts and art from display cases and frames of museums, and Al Multaqa Challenge, which called for novel re-imagining of how people can come together under one umbrella to belong at the moment and truly connect with one another.

Najla Al Midfa
Najla Al Midfa
CEO – Sheraa

“The Access Sharjah Challenge addresses one of the most critical as well as perennial challenges that startups all over the world face, gaining access to markets. The program is designed to serve not only as a launchpad for innovative startups into the UAE and regional markets, but also supports their growth in the creative sectors while furthering the emirate’s vision to be a global destination for high-impact businesses. We look forward to helping the winners grow their ideas into full-fledged ventures that contribute actively to Sharjah’s and the UAE’s economy.”

Mr. Dahdal won the Al Makan Challenge, which was supported by SMA and Air Arabia, for his ‘5th Wall,’ a first-of-its-kind immersive experience that pushes the limits of storytelling in substance and form, and engages youth in the story of their past using advanced technology.

Ms. Kalban and Ms. Lootah won in Al Multaqa Challenge, supported by Alef Group, for the creation of the ‘Expression Room’ located at their ‘Medaf Creative Studio + Art Spaces’. At the ‘Expression Room’ where the floors and walls become an open canvas, budding artists can freely express their inner thoughts through art without any restrictions.

Both winners received equity-free prizes of $50,000 each, which included $25,000 to bring their ideas to reality with the help of the supporting entities, $15,000 in cash and $10,000 towards business setup support, in addition to operational business support services such as discounted office space and banking services, mentoring from Sheraa’s in-house team and their community of mentors, as well as access to target markets.

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