Startup Hub Khobar Successfully Launches New Program to Support Local Entrepreneurs Through COVID-19 Challenges and Beyond

By: Leena Mekawi (The GrEEK Campus)

On: 14 Dec 2020 09:12 PM

Startup Hub Khobar, a startup community hub in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, continues to support local entrepreneurs in navigating COVID-19 challenges through its Sharqia Entrepreneurs Program. Launched in mid-2019, Startup Hub Khobar is the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monsha’at)'s first startup hub in the kingdom, and is managed and operated by The GrEEK Campus. The hub provides entrepreneurs with the right space and opportunities to grow their ideas and established businesses. 

“This program shows our approach to managing entrepreneurial spaces; while bringing in our international experiences, we are also able to develop programs that better fit the needs of local ecosystems. We saw a clear need in July for community-centered support for local startups. Work from home had become the norm, relevant content and connectivity were available virtually, yet the one thing missing was a community of support, and that is exactly what we successfully were able to  build, despite health and cultural barriers. In three months, we piloted, closely assessed, and continuously developed the model that now organically supports itself,” said Ahmad Bohliqa, Manager of Startup Hub Khobar, and Eastern Region Manager for The GrEEK Campus in Saudi Arabia. 

The Sharqia Entrepreneurs Program is built around the methods of peer learning and consulting. As local startup founders are dealing with the impact of the curfew and restrictions on their businesses imposed due to health precautions, this program offers them a collaborative community of support. Through various sessions and workshops, member startup founders can share expertise and experience, build on their ideas and connections, and find solutions.

“The approaches of peer consulting and peer learning sound great, but to actually activate them is the challenge. This wouldn’t have worked out if it wasn’t for the engagement and collaboration from program participants, and we thank them for that! We plan to continue developing the program further and increase its impact on the ecosystem,” continued Ahmad Bohliqa. 

Since July, The Sharqia Entrepreneurs Program has hosted 47 startups from a wide range of industries—including design, e-commerce, health, education, fintech, F&B, events and recycling—at Startup Hub Khobar. Member startups in the pilot phase received a one-month free membership, and during this month, they were evaluated by their peers on their level of engagement and collaboration.‚Äč The program awarded members who had proven their active involvement a further three-month contract at a 50% discount. If a sponsorship is secured by the program, the contracts will be awarded for free.

“The program has been very beneficial. Our productivity has increased and I think the main reason for this is the existence of a community motivating you to work. We’ve also been introduced to several people in the ecosystem who have helped us in our business,” said Yousef Alesayi, Cofounder of Dabeeb, a mobile application providing dock free rental of bicycles and electric scooters. 

Hanan Alnashmi, Founder of Avanen Flowers, managed to bring her floral arrangement and delivery service idea to life during the program. “The program will help you develop your idea, become more confident and exchange experiences with other participants of the program,” she said.  

After being in the US for 16 years, Taqi Salil, Cofounder of Last Link, was able to establish local connections through the program: “the hub’s location is very unique...the meet-ups and services provided helped us grow our network and client base. I’ve gained a number of skills that have helped me with... entering the market and funding.” 

Given the restrictions on gatherings, Saudi’s first venue booking marketplace Qosoor has been hit hard by the pandemic. In the Cofounder Abdullah Asiri’s words, “the program came at a perfect time, given the devastating impact of COVID19 on our market. We could have continued our work from home, but working from the hub is different... [the] growing, diverse community of entrepreneurs and startups...allowed us to share our knowledge and challenges, and get the intangible support and motivation needed to keep moving forward in Qosoor. The hub has definitely become the best co-working space in the city!”

The program is now actively seeking sponsors to join in continuing its fruitful efforts to support local entrepreneurs to move their businesses forward.

For sponsorship and partnership inquiries, please contact Ahmad Bohliqa (Manager, Startup Hub Khobar and Eastern Region Manager, The GrEEK Campus - Saudi Arabia) at [email protected]

For general inquiries, please email: [email protected]