EMPWR, the UAE-based organization behind the Middle East’s first mental health magazine, has announced the upcoming launch of a community-oriented digital platform for startup founders and entrepreneurs. The announcement was made by Founder Ally Salama on the side-lines of the STEP Conference, where he moderated a panel on mental health and the role technology can play.
EMPWR’s community will strive towards creating a safe space, promoting best practices, and facilitating access to resources for startup founders and entrepreneurs, who are known to operate in stressful conditions and hence more susceptible to mental health issues. The dedicated community will provide a safe, empathy-centric platform to share stories, bring different perspectives, and engage in entrepreneurial discourse pertaining to shared challenges.
“Following the pandemic, the higher incidence of mental health challenges has led to greater awareness. As an organization that has been at the forefront of mental health advocacy in the Middle East, we have worked towards ensuring that the awareness translates to visible, positive outcomes. After pioneering the region’s first mental health community for Arabic speakers, we are now shifting our focus to delivering specialized support to susceptible sections, starting with startup founders and entrepreneurs,” said Ally Salama.
A “Forbes-30-Under-30” social entrepreneur, keynote speaker and podcaster, Ally Salama's work was recognized in Harvard’s Top 7 Impactful Social Initiatives in 2019, and by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Federation for Mental Health. He has continued his wellness drive through his “Empathy Always Wins” podcast, which is Apple’s #1 in the Youth Leadership category.
Recently, moderating a panel at the STEP Conference on mental wellness of entrepreneurs, Ally Salama shared his insights on the common challenges, lack of specialized support systems, the pandemic impact and, most importantly, the role of technology in optimizing caregiving. The technology conclave also served as a good backdrop for EMPWR’s impending launch of a tech-led community, where digitalization will be the cornerstone of enrolment, communication, collaboration, and life-cycle engagement. Ally’s insight-rich keynote was largely predicated on the joint research by Wamda Research Lab, Microsoft for Startups, and EMPWR, released in August last year.
The findings played a key role in the ideation of the to-be-launched community platform:
- Startup founders in the region were twice as likely to face depression and related issues than other sections
- 35.9% of founders rated their mental health as “bad”
- 44.2% of respondents spent at least two hours a week trying to de-stress
- 55% of startup founders cited funding as the most-stressful aspect
- The pandemic was the second most-cited reason, by 33.7% of respondents
“EMPWR’s hands-on involvement in the research gave a reality check on the mental health state of founders and entrepreneurs. As someone who is no outsider to the startup ecosystem, I wanted to create a digital community with more urgency and intent. Today, I can say that we are closer than ever to launching one. Alongside, we are emphasizing multi-stakeholder participation, especially from/between private and government bodies, for broader impact,” added Ally Salama.
EMPWR’s synergistic approach recently saw it partner with Sharjah Capability Development (Tatweer) for the launch of Wathba, a mental wellbeing and leadership development program focused on youth. This first-of-its-kind wellness program in the region commenced on January 23rd, with the UAE, Qatar, Egypt, and the KSA as the feeder nations for the first edition. With such initiatives, combined with the soon-to-be-launched community, EMPWR is set to mobilize a mental wellness movement in the Middle East and beyond.