The UAE may lead the region in creating immense job opportunities by promoting entrepreneurship, which will significantly add to the nation’s economy. This issue was at the centre of a recent discussion at the Capital Club Dubai, the region’s premier private business club and a member of the ENSHAA group of companies. Featuring the founders of the online portal Dubizzle.com , the conversation centred around the need for the region to create over 70 million jobs by the year 2020, and how the successful fostering of entrepreneurialism is key.
J.C. Butler and Sim Whatley, two of the most successful entrepreneurs Dubai has produced in recent times, appeared in the “Under the Spotlight” series and shared their experience with an audience of the region’s industry, business leaders and entrepreneurs.
The Dubizzle creators were the latest addition to the series, which in the past has featured entrepreneurs such as Maktoub’s Samih Toukan, the 99’s Dr Naif Al Muttawa, Thomas Lundgren of The One and Aramex Founder Fadi Ghandour.
Highlighting a number of initiatives needed to foster entrepreneurialism, the Dubizzle duo said that providing funds are great. But an entrepreneur should first prove the viability of his idea.
They also advocated that to promote entrepreneurs to move from the idea phase to early stage execution, barriers to entry needed to be removed. They suggested that provisions should be made for entrepreneurs to start something off without having to pay large sums for office space, licensing and visas.
Speaking about other ways to foster entrepreneurialism, they said that the risk of failure should also be reduced and mentorship should be promoted. “In some ways, the laws surrounding bad debt are good as they discourage entrepreneurs from taking unnecessary loans,” added Butler.
However, they also pointed out that the initiatives to foster entrepreneurialism should not be focused only on financial aspects. Rather, the focus should be on the “knowledge.”
“Had Dubizzle swapped money for our mentor we would have failed. A mentor, who has been an entrepreneur and gone through the struggle of building something out of nothing before, is invaluable to an early stage start up. Often times their advice and guidance will be a factor without which the company would have never survived,” he added.
Recalling initial days, Whatley said that Dubizzle was just a platform where buyers and sellers were supposed to meet, but nobody would visit an empty website. “You have to be creative to make it run,” he said.
Sharing the important aspects of their six-year-long journey during the conversation, moderated by former BBC and Al Jazeera Presenter Shahnaz Pakravan, J.C. Butler and Sim Whatley said they initially had couple of key accounts of real estate companies, but they never had any source of funding. It was their passion that drove them to launch Dubizzle.com with pocket change and a team of two in 2005. The same passion kept them continuing despite the global financial meltdown which was followed by real estate market crash in the UAE. Despite those difficulties, today they have a 60-member team and a portal that manages to attract over 2.5 million unique visitors and approximately 100 million page views on a monthly basis.
“It is a massive challenge to maintain this now. But we are focused to make it a regional brand and create opportunity for everyone,” said Whatley.
They expressed hope that with the increasing popularity of Internet in the region, companies may shift a part of their advertising budget from television and print media to the web portals which will re-energise the online activities.