AMEinfo speaks to Zeina Akkawi, Co-Founder of a refreshing kind of startup accelerator that has come to the UAE, where work meets play.
It's for good reason that the old proverb "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" has resonated with generations over the centuries.
While play might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of entrepreneurship, businesswoman Zeina Akkawi sees it differently. In line with this belief, she has co-launched The PlayPreneurs Club (TPPC) in Dubai, a specialist accelerator for entrepreneurs, business owners and executives. She co-founded TPPC with Dr. Sara Al-Madani, a serial entrepreneur and a government board member.
The brand, which is already registered in the GCC, Lebanon, USA and London, will offer entrepreneurs and business professionals a powerful mix of connections, events, workshops, networking platforms and the resources that high achievers need to accelerate career success.
AMEinfo spoke to Akkawi to learn more about her company's approach to supporting startups, and to find out more about the UAE startup landscape.
(Zeina Akkawi, Co-Founder of TPPC)
AMEinfo: Can you share with us what's unique about your approach to accelerating startups? You put a lot of emphasis on the concept of play.
Anyone who wants to have a successful startup should plan and have a smart outlook on how to play within his or her field of business - around the region or the world.
As we all know, there is a big lack of jobs within our region and the entrepreneurship sector is growing massively due to this gap. So, it’s a smart move to assist people to play and meet each other to benefit.
A lot of our business focuses on some main points to help our unique platform to grow. This will also help our entrepreneur members to accelerate throughout. Some of the best strategies that we will follow are to increase capacity, align with existing and upcoming new technologies, get representations all over the world to cross combine entrepreneurs, upsell and cross-sell, add new streams of revenue, test measure and analyze the results after.
AMEinfo: Can you tell us a bit about some of your past/current clients and what you've achieved together?
Every client differs from the other with their outlook, strategy, required KPI’s and ROI’s. Usually for us to achieve some proper results we will need to have a mini brainstorming session to see what the client wants and needs to achieve. We usually work on the cons first and move to the existing pros.
In the past 12 years, we (TPPC and her wide range of companies) have achieved amazing results with our clients, tapping into activations that have positioned the brand to the public with achievable sales beyond offline material only (advertising and PR)
AMEinfo: What do you think can be improved in the UAE startup ecosystem, and how will you help alleviate these difficulties?
I think the UAE should have control over the licensing mechanisms that they are giving out to the public or to anyone. The difficulties arising today are because of extreme competition in a small country that has a lot of supply to offer and with little demand. This is taking place due to unlimited companies opening around the country that are literally doing anything to make money with a lack of professionalism, language that caters to all nationalities, and budget constraints.
To elevate businesses in the country, we need to have some monitoring over who delivers what, maybe via offering exams that would test the entrepreneur’s qualifications in business deliverables before giving out approvals on licenses.
AMEinfo: How, in your opinion, can we encourage more women to enter the entrepreneurial sphere?
Target universities and education platforms for present and future women entrepreneurship, create collaborations with female clubs around the world so we can encourage women to branch out alone and add to the community, and finally work on creating workshops, management training and spaces (incubation programs) to increase this sector.
AMEinfo: What are the greatest lessons you learned from your extensive experience? And, what advice would you have for newer startups?
Think of your startup as if you are perusing education starting from a freshman level, and then to senior, mentor and teacher. When you first enter this world, whether as a founder or an employee, you're a freshman. So work on developing relationships with mentors and seniors who are experienced and find people who are teachers that can assist you with your way forward.
From my end, one of the best lessons I learned in the past years is to always trust my intuition and to take risks even if I will end up losing. This will make me grow to reach my dreams.