Najla Al-Midfa is Chief Executive Officer of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa), a government-supported entity with a mandate to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Sharjah, and support the next generation of entrepreneurs as they build and grow innovative startups that will contribute
positively to the region’s economy.
Launched in January 2016, under the chairmanship of HE Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Sheraa has become the foundation of Sharjah’s startup ecosystem. Having helped conceive the vision for Sheraa, Najla has been involved from inception: forming a prominent advisory board, building a high-performing team, and structuring partnerships with key corporates and government entities in the ecosystem to support startups.
Today, Sheraa has a loyal community of over four thousand aspiring and existing entrepreneurs and offers a full-stack program ranging from ideation and incubation through to acceleration and growth. To date, 30 startups have graduated from Sheraa’s accelerator program. Having raised over $10m in seed investment, these startups continue to generate over $8 million dollars in recurring sales.
The first Sheraa Hub was inaugurated at the American University of Sharjah (AUS), and the second hub will open at the University of Sharjah (UOS) in September 2018. Plans are also currently underway to inaugurate the Sheraa campus at the Sharjah Research, Technology, and Innovation Park (RTI Park), to serve as Sheraa’s headquarters and to bring the main players in the ecosystem under one roof.
In 2017, Najla spearheaded the creation of the annual Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival (SEF). The event brings together over 2000 entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, and ecosystem supporters to celebrate the power of entrepreneurship and inspire further innovation.
Najla is also founder of Khayarat, a platform that empowers young, high-potential Emiratis to make informed career choices, and enables them to succeed in the private sector. With a community of over one thousand young Emiratis, and over 70 placements in leading international private sector companies, the platform is influencing the next generation of Emiratis to raise their ambitions and fulfill their potential.
In her previous role as Senior Manager at Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, Najla led a team of business counsellors through the due diligence process of selecting ventures for financing. She also set up and operated the Northern Emirate branch of Khalifa Fund, covering Ajman, Dubai, and Sharjah.
Prior to joining Khalifa Fund, Najla was a senior associate at McKinsey and Company’s New York office, primarily serving clients across the financial institutions sector. Her experience also includes roles within PricewaterhouseCoopers and Shell.
Najla is a board member of United Arab Bank, where she also chairs the Board Audit Committee and is a member of the Board Risk Committee. She is Vice-Chairperson of Young Arab Leaders, and a fellow of the Aspen Institute’s Middle East Leadership Initiative. Najla holds an MBA from Stanford University.
If you’re building a startup well, you’ve found a widely-known problem and can deliver a great solution to a willing market profitably. Some startups saturate their initial beach-head market, or have to adjust their product to fit the needs of a market they didn’t fully understand at the outset. Either way, every successful startup needs to fuel its growth by expanding its market....