The Cribb provides fledgling businesses with a tailor-made space from which to operate. Benita Adesuyan speaks to its founder and CEO, Kamal Hassan, to find out how he’s helping to encourage entrepreneurship in the UAE.
‘Let me ask you a question,’ says Kamal Hassan, founder and CEO of The Cribb, an entrepreneurial hub for technology start-ups. ‘Wouldn’t you be interested in finding the next Facebook or WhatsApp before it becomes big, so that you can
You don’t need to be a Harvard Business School graduate to know that technology is providing the world with great entrepreneurial opportunities and creating innovative solutions that we can all make the most of. At The Cribb, Hassan and his team are creating an environment from which aspiring Mark Zuckerbergs can turn their ideas into reality with the help of investors, mentors and fellow entrepreneurs.
Located in Al Quoz, The Cribb is a modern, open-plan space. It opened two and a half years ago and is currently home to 85 start-ups. The facility also hosts events on networking, pitching and how to use social media, many of which are open to the public as well as to members of the facility. It also hosts Turn8 accelerator programmes to foster the growth of entrepreneurship in the UAE.
The Cribb is an incubator for fledgling technology companies. ‘An incubator is a physical place that helps start-ups grow and transform an idea into a real business with no set schedule,’ Hassan explains. ‘An accelerator is a programme that has a limited timeframe in which to get the business off the ground. The Turn8 scheme is a five-month programme that provides funding. In exchange, investors receive an equity stake in the business. But those on the accelerator programme still need a premises from which to conduct their business, and that’s what we provide.’
The Cribb also offers its members access to local and global investors. And one of its popular services is mentoring. It is having to turn away hundreds of companies and individuals who are lining up to mentor new businesses. ‘They’re from all over the world and are passionate about helping start-ups. Some of them are also investors. We receive around 500 applications from those wanting to be mentors, but we can only take about 150 of them. It’s a win-win proposal. They want to come in and support start-ups and at the same time potentially invest in them,’ Hassan says.
Start-ups using The Cribb pay a membership fee and there are three packages based on requirements ranging from Dhs699 per person, per month, which offers desk space, free entry to one event a month and access to The Cribb’s public events. The top tier package is Dhs2,499. It provides members with full mentorship, training and fundraising.
Hassan sees the difference that an incubation period can have on an infant technology business. He recalls the success of Deehubs, a company that developed a way to make advertising billboards socially interactive. ‘The team at Deehubs stayed at The Cribb for about nine months, and now, they’ve taken the business to the US,’ he says. ‘They were able to raise funds from here and then get more funding in the States.
I believe they’re very much going to be a big success story. It came through Dubai to become a global star. Deehubs is the Facebook of billboards.’
Hassan plans to expand The Cribb ‘vertically and horizontally’ as his team and demand grows. ‘People want additional services to help them grow their businesses, so we’re adding a training and development academy, and a media lab to help them. We want to create a place where people can come in and design hardware products, with 3D printing so they can actually create the products.’
Hassan is excited about being at the forefront of a wealth of innovation in the region, but could Dubai become the next Silicon Valley? ‘It’s a natural place for the entrepreneur,’ Hassan says. ‘It’s a thinking, flexible, open staging environment. We’re not Silicon Valley. We’re not even close to it, but Dubai is a place where you can actually test things, meet clients and seek investment. The city doesn’t have enough venture capitalists, but that’s the next stage.’
Membership packages from Dhs699 per person, per month. The Cribb, Football Center, Al Manara Street, Al Quoz 1, www.thecribb.co (04 319 7645).
Other start-up centres in Dubai
Dubai Technology Entrepreneurship Centre (DTEC)
This business centre supports young technology companies and start-ups. It offers flexible office space as well as highly subsidised business licenses.
Dubai Silicon Oasis, www.dtec.ae (04 382 1320).
This hub’s target audience is entrepreneurs and start-ups with innovative ideas in information and communication technologies. It provides a space for work as well as meetings.
In5 Innovation Centre, Boutique Villa 7, Dubai Knowledge Village, www.infive.ae (04 451 1555).