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Guiding light for SMEs in Oman

Startup Oman aims to connect Oman’s entire SME ecosystem

Suparna Goswami Bhattacharya

August 24, 2015: Entrepreneurship is a great equaliser. Across the globe, entrepreneurs may come from varied backgrounds, but the language of entrepreneurship unites them. And testimony to this is the story of Startup Oman, a one-stop shop community for SMEs. The founders — Canadian entrepreneur Sherry Colbourne and prominent Omani businessman and entrepreneur Ali Daud — though from dissimilar backgrounds, share the same passion —to be the guidebook for SMEs in Oman. Startup Oman enables Omani SMEs to connect with the stakeholders and resources needed to start, grow and accelerate their businesses. Whether that be training, mentoring or funding, this online platform enables Omani SMEs to connect with each other via their My Mujtama community. The platform will be launched on September 5.

Sherry Colbourne
“Two-and-a-half years ago, I landed in Oman with my husband. As a passionate entrepreneur, I began volunteering with local incubators and met many of Oman’s high growth entrepreneurs. Soon I realised that, in spite of an amazing infrastructure, few entrepreneurs knew about the programmes and facilities that existed for them or, for that matter, how to access them,” says Sherry Colbourne who is also the director, Business Development for Omani market research firm National Poll Center.

Along the way she met Daud, the CEO of Daud Group of Companies and a tireless Omani entrepreneur. Besides being the owner of the McDonald’s franchise in Oman, Ali is also the chairman of the Oman American Business Council and honorary Canadian consul in Oman. Colbourne leveraged her Canadian connection to pitch her idea to Daud on his second day as Canadian consul. “To be honest, it was in a moment of frustration that I pitched my idea of how to solve the problem for SMEs. I was surprised to find that Daud shared the same frustration and had his own ideas on how to solve the problem,” she says.

Together they knew that Oman had all the key ingredients of a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem but what it lacked was a single community to access information about how to start a company or manage finances for SMEs. They decided to join forces to help foster a community of collaboration and bring all the pieces of Oman’s entrepreneurial ecosystem together.

As with most companies who have just started out, Startup Oman faced hurdles but the entrepreneurs decided to look beyond these obstacles to make their vision a reality. When it came to funding, they boot strapped the company with their own capital.

Ali Daud
“We spent a year meeting Oman’s many accomplished stakeholders and educational institutes to ensure the platform highlights all the resources available to Omani SMEs,” says Colbourne. Her connections in the high-tech sector meant she had a strong suite of developers to call upon to build the platform. Daud’s local know-how, his understanding of the business community and his passion for establishing Oman as an economic force within the GCC played an equally significant role in establishing Startup Oman.

“We believe in stimulating economic impact through entrepreneurship. It is the combination of experience, passion and tenacity that will transform Oman’s culture into an entrepreneurial hive,” says Colbourne. It was with this mindset that Daud and Colbourne sought to find a managing director for Startup Oman. “We needed to find someone that personified these traits”, said Daud. “We found such an individual in Mahmood Zeyad.”

Mahmood is a young Gulf national who identifies with Oman’s many SMEs. Before taking on the key role at Startup Oman, he was president of AIESEC Oman, the world’s largest youth-run organisation that develops leadership potential in young people and provides entrepreneurship training.

Colbourne says that entrepreneurs around the world are alike. “I have visited entrepreneurial hubs in places ranging from Silicon Valley to Moscow, and entrepreneurship is truly a global language. It is imperative for entrepreneurs to capitalise on their likeness and allow it to bring the world together.”

You can meet the team of ‘Startup Oman’ at the Oman SME Summit organised by IFM at Al Bustan Palace Hotel, Ritz Carlton in Muscat on September 13-14

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