Aldar Properties has launched the second round of its Manassah program – a six-month entrepreneurship incubator aimed at nurturing entrepreneurial talent and advancing homegrown retail concepts in the GCC.
Held in partnership with startAD, the global startup accelerator powered by Tamkeen and anchored at NYU Abu Dhabi, Manassah 2.0 will build on the successes seen in the first round of the program. Manassah 1.0 was originally targeted at UAE-based SMEs operating within the retail, café and restaurant space, however the second round will be open to a broader range of retail businesses including technology-enabled startups and projects driving sustainability from across the GCC. Winners of Manassah 2.0 will receive financial contributions worth up to AED 1 Million including a space at an Aldar retail destination. In addition, retail tech startups will benefit from opportunities to pilot their solutions with Aldar Properties.
Manassah 2.0 is welcoming submissions across two main categories – Retail SMEs such as cafes, restaurants, services, and sustainable solutions, and Retail Tech such as e-commerce and sustainability-focused tech applications. Submissions are now open and the deadline is set for May 22. Alongside the Manassah incubator, Aldar is launching an exclusive youth-focused initiative through its Aldar Academies.
Manassah Youth will develop the next generation of regional entrepreneurs through a dedicated training program focused on finding solutions to complex problems and turning concepts into viable commercial strategies. Further, this edition of Manassah also brings together the Ministry of Culture & Youth, Khalifa Fund, the Department of Community Development, and the Brinc accelerator as partners that will empower startups with network access, and business advancement opportunities.
Saoud Khoory, Chief Retail Officer, Aldar Investment, said: “The success of the first cycle of Manassah, which brought three retail concepts to life at Aldar’s Mamsha Al Saadiyat, demonstrates the abundance of talent we have in the UAE and wider region. Innovation is key to driving the future of the retail sector in the UAE, and we at Aldar are committed to playing an active role in accelerating this growth through investing in concepts that reimagine and redefine the customer journey. The combination of the Manassah program and Abu Dhabi’s intrinsic entrepreneurial spirit places the emirate in a great position to capitalise on the opportunities that this growth provides. As Manassah continues to develop and evolve, we are able to build a home-grown innovation ecosystem that supports retail entrepreneurs and SMEs across the UAE.”
startAD and Aldar will support participants in the curated incubation program by providing them with the necessary tools to advance, scale, and launch their ventures. As part of the program, accepted businesses will receive training and mentorship from the best local and global entrepreneurship, retail, and tech experts.
Ramesh Jagannathan, the Managing Director of startAD and also the Vice Provost of Innovation at NYU Abu Dhabi commented, “The past 12 months have been challenging for the retail sector - however, this has opened up many new opportunities. In two short years, by 2023, retail in the GCC is estimated to grow to $308 billion. Manassah is cultivating a community of entrepreneurs that can redefine the global retail landscape to meet evolving customer needs. Today, UAE is the fifth largest retail destination in the world. The resounding success of the first edition of Manassah echoes the drive of our regional entrepreneurs. We are also inspired by the phenomenal gender inclusivity we saw with 83% of the finalist businesses being founded by female entrepreneurs and 67% of the winners having an Emirati woman as the founder. For a retail entrepreneur in the GCC, this is the right place and the right time. Aldar and startAD invite you to take advantage of Manassah - the unique opportunity to get ahead of the market impacted by the pandemic, and overcome scalability challenges through the right support, resources & partners.”
After 150 submissions, Manassah 1.0 saw three concepts, Coffee Architecture, Alkalime and Wake n’ Bake, chosen as the winners of the first cycle of the competition, receiving equity-free incentives worth up to AED 1 million and a turnover rent deal for one year at Aldar’s Mamsha Al Saadiyat. Coffee Architecture is a specialty coffee house built by the first female Emirati certified Q grader and is designed around minimalism, passion, art, and love in Abu Dhabi; Alkalime is a feel-good café concept offering customers healthy, nutritious, and tasty food and drinks in a relaxing and eco-friendly space; and Wake n' Bake is a home-grown bakery by a female Emirati chef that specializes in hand-crafted breads, custard doughnuts, and other baked goods freshly made by hand.
Manassah is an Aldar Youth Council initiative first submitted as part of Aldar’s Ibtikar challenge, an internal innovation program which encourages employees to take an active role in Aldar’s future growth and direction. Aldar Youth Council was set up in 2018, with the aim to actively empower Aldar youth, unlock their full career potential, and engage with other Youth Councils across the country.