Strathclyde Business School UAE's latest Strathclyde Dialogues explored the topic of entrepreneurship as an exit strategy from a corporate career.
Hosted at Dubai incubator The Cribb, the event on June 8 drew a large audience of local entrepreneurs in addition to Strathclyde students and alumni.
Following a networking session and a warm welcome from SBS resident academic and Strathclyde Dialogues host Dr Katerina Nicolopoulou, the first of the invited panel speakers, Professor Jonathan Levie, Director of Knowledge Exchange at the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, kicked off the Dialogue.
Professor Levie drew on global and regional research from Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) to benchmark the UAE and sparked a lively exchange on prevailing attitudes towards entrepreneurial activity in the UAE. Professor Levie then focused on the rise of older entrepreneurs and shared the story of Strathclyde graduate and veteran entrepreneur Ron Hamilton, Chairman of Daysoft, who exited his corporate career when he was 51 and the Vice President of a big multinational.
The next speaker was parallel entrepreneur Wassim Karkabi, Managing Partner of Stanton Chase Middle East and Managing Director of Action Coach. Wassim explored the concept of successful entrepreneurship and shared insights on why 80 per cent of startups fail. He described five development stages and characteristics of SMEs and suggested how best entrepreneurs could anticipate and enable their personal and business growth at each of these stages.
Next up, Sharon Ditchburn, who founded Dubai-based consulting firm Capital Advantage after a ten-year corporate career in finance, talked through her journey into the "entrepreneurial ocean" and reflected on whether there is an optimal entrepreneurial personality type or set of traits. Sharon shared the principles she had lived by to successfully grow her business over the last 12 years but talked also of times when these could paradoxically be the wrong things to do.
Finally, Panayiota Triantafyllou, SBS alumna, naval architect, and COO of Sea Rose Design Services, talked about the market opportunities she identified which catalysed her own corporate career exit and shared valuable experiences of the practicalities of starting a company in Dubai. Describing how she had always known she would start her own business one day, Panayiota reflected on the entrepreneurial characteristics that ran through her own family.
After the presentations, the event moved on to a fruitful question and answer discussion between the panel and the audience, followed by more informal networking.
Shafiq Husseini, MBA alumnus from SBS Abu Dhabi said, "This was a very exciting dialogue. It brought global focus by benchmarking the UAE entrepreneurship landscape against other economies, and it added real value in outlining the main steps to follow when embarking on a startup enterprise. I learnt a lot and I’m proud to see SBS hosting such events in the UAE."
Reflecting after the event, Strathclyde Dialogues host and SBS Senior Lecturer Dr Katerina Nicolopoulou commented, "We were lucky to have such a great panel to share their rich experience and insights with our audience; we came to realise that entrepreneurial success as a pathway out of a corporate career is a combination of charisma, experience, persistence and planning."
The next Strathclyde Dialogues will be held in Abu Dhabi in the autumn. The Strathclyde Dialogues series is now in its fifth year and hosts events in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The Dialogues bring together panels of experts who, by exchanging views and perspectives, promote the sharing of knowledge in various fields of contemporary interest globally, and with particular application to the UAE.