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Revamped And Ready: SANDBOX, Dubai’s Only Venture-Backed Startup Investment Program, Welcomes Applications For Its Fourth Cohort

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In 2021, underneath the umbrella of Dubai Built-in Financial Zones (DIEZ), the UAE noticed the beginning of SANDBOX, a founder-centric accelerator program for pre-seed to seed stage tech startups. Having accomplished three editions up to now, SANDBOX has attracted effectively over 2,500 purposes, out of which over 30 startups have been enrolled and supported by this system so far. Having thus cemented its spot as probably the most sought-after accelerator applications within the nation, SANDBOX is about to onboard its latest cohort in February 2024 – solely this time, there’s a new entity backing it.

Meet Oraseya Capital- launched in November 2023, it’s the enterprise capital (VC) arm of DIEZ, an authority that consolidates and integrates the services of Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZ), Dubai CommerCity (DCC), in addition to Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO). DIEZ launched an AED500 million VC fund underneath Oraseya Capital for the aim of investing in tech startups -in the pre-seed to Collection B stages- which can be anticipated to profit UAE’s financial system. Commenting on this improvement, Hassan AlFarsi, Vice President Company Finance and Treasury at DIEZ, and Director at Oraseya Capital, says, “The AED500 million fund represents a considerable dedication in direction of the UAE startup ecosystem. What excites us most is the potential to scale our impression and assist create economically impactful ventures. Rapid plans embrace deploying the fund strategically, exploring new funding alternatives, and increasing our community of partnerships to create a sturdy assist system for the startups in our portfolio.”

Alongside the way in which, it was apparent to the groups at each Oraseya and SANDBOX that their visions have been in congruence with one another. And so, now, SANDBOX has been formally deemed a landmark initiative underneath Oraseya Capital. “I see this transfer as a reaffirmation of our dedication to amplifying what we initiated a decade in the past: investing in and supporting the early-stage startup ecosystem to contribute considerably to our financial system’s improvement,” AlFarsi notes. “Over the previous 10 years, our area has demonstrated a sturdy urge for food for innovation, and the pivotal position performed by authorities initiatives in nurturing this ecosystem can’t be overstated. Demonstrating our dedication to our ecosystem is paramount, and our purpose is to assist high-growth potentials scale.”

For many who have been part of the workforce behind SANDBOX from the beginning, one in every of them being Elliott Denham, who’s now the Head of Packages at Oraseya Capital, aligning this system’s itinerary with Oraseya Capital’s targets has been an natural transition. “Being the VC arm of DIEZ, Oraseya Capital goals to spend money on startups spanning pre-seed to Collection-B stage,” explains Denham. “So, on this context, SANDBOX uniquely serves as a proprietary pre-seed and seed stage deal stream for Oraseya Capital. Supporting high-potential entrepreneurs on the early phases of their journey inevitably results in increased high quality deal stream for funding concerns.”

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Julien Plouzeau, Senior Associate, Oraseya Capital. Supply: Oraseya Capital

Because the startup program now opens submissions for its fourth cohort (with the applying deadline being December 31, 2023), it is price noting that SANDBOX is now not a year-long program, however a five-month-long one. That stated, it is going to proceed to enroll corporations which have a selected curiosity within the UAE (i.e. strategically increasing into, buying and selling by way of, or promoting to individuals within the nation), which implies that startups which have headquarters, workplaces, or operations outdoors of the nation are welcome to use.

“With SANDBOX now being part of Oraseya Capital, this system is extra investment-focused,” Denham provides. “And so, for 2024, we have additionally launched a two-phase construction whereby, notably, startups shortlisted into Part Two of this system will obtain a US$150,000 funding ($110,000 money + $40,000 program price) from Oraseya Capital by way of a easy settlement for future fairness (SAFE) settlement [a type of equity financing that is often used as an alternative to convertible notes]. Our dedication to founder-centricity stays steadfast, and we’re backing that up with capital. The range of content material and the invaluable publicity to buyers stay key. This ensures that, whereas this system evolves, it continues to empower and assist entrepreneurs in a very related method.”

Julien Plouzeau, Senior Associate at Oraseya Capital, provides right here that SANDBOX will purpose to seek out improvements which can be centered on -or will have an effect in- the UAE and the broader Center East area. “We actively search excellent founders who’re growing scalable options to deal with important challenges in massive, untapped, or frag- mented markets,” says Plouzeau. “Oraseya Capital’s major focus subsequently is on the UAE, which means we spend money on startups which have a connection to the country- both by way of the founders being based mostly right here, or by commercially serving the UAE’s financial system. Our analysis course of varies based mostly on the stage of the startup; as an illustration, we assess pre-seed startups making use of to SANDBOX extra on the energy, expertise, and data of the founding workforce. In distinction, when in investing at later phases, corporations within the Collection A or above phases are anticipated to reveal a confirmed observe report, and a transparent path towards sustainable profitability and progress.”

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Hassan AlFarsi, Vice President– Company Finance and Treasury, DIEZ, and Director, Oraseya Capital. Supply: Oraseya Capital

Plouzeau’s statements provide a terrific segue to a subject that’s maybe on the thoughts of each startup founder studying this: who makes the ultimate lower? “SANDBOX is designed to speed up pre-seed to seed stage startups, prioritizing resilient, formidable, and coachable entrepreneurs,” Denham shares. “While enterprise mannequin, traction, and defendability are essential, articulation and humility actually stand out. Candidates must be constructing proprietary expertise, and, the place relevant, illustrate proof of traction (revenues or in any other case) that validate their proposition. Since our program is in-person, it will be significant that the startup has a nexus to UAE. Desire is positioned on co-founders, though solo founders, who shall be prepared to deliver on a co-founder, are additionally welcome to use. Nonetheless, candidates should actually spotlight their motivation for becoming a member of SANDBOX, and clearly define plans for using a $150,000 capital injection.”

As has been customary at SANDBOX, this new cohort too will provide a mixture of in-person workshops, neighborhood periods, conferences with VCs, and networking alternatives with trade specialists. And on the core of all these occasions stays a tenet that has been elementary to SANDBOX since day one: founder-centricity. “The founder’s journey is on the core of our ethos, as a result of we acknowledge that behind each profitable startup is a workforce of visionary founders with wonderful execution capabilities,” Plouzeau says. “By understanding and supporting their journey, we not solely foster a tradition of empathy, but in addition be sure that our sources and mentorship are tailor-made to the distinctive challenges they face on the numerous phases of their improvement. It is very important perceive venturing is a non-linear trajectory with many ups and downs, and being an empowering associate means with the ability to roll up our sleeves to assist founders cross a hurdle, or to get to the following step.”

Denham mirrors Plouzeau’s sentiments. “There aren’t any two methods about it– rising a startup is tough,” Denham says. “We acknowledge that being a part of a neighborhood with whom you may lean upon, share classes with, and -from time to time- vent to, is essential. Whether or not contemplating which content material to host, figuring out which company to ask in, or figuring out which sprints to run, all our selections are made with founders on the core. Is SANDBOX intensive? Sure, as a founder, you may completely be challenged. However an unparalleled attraction of SANDBOX is how supportive this system is. A founder as soon as advised me that ‘becoming a member of SANDBOX is like having 20+ area specialists be a part of my workforce full-time,’ all advocating and contributing to at least one’s success.”

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Elliott Denham, Head of Packages at Oraseya Capital. Supply: Oraseya Capital

That stated, entrepreneurs who apply to SANDBOX should not anticipate to be a shoo-in for it either- this system has, up to now, had a sub-2% acceptance fee, which will be seen as a testomony to its high quality as effectively. The main focus is on high quality over amount, Plouzeau says, and that is what has allowed this system to find some very distinctive concepts from inside the UAE. “In our journey, we have witnessed startups bringing forth groundbreaking options in every of those sectors,” Plouzeau continues. “From disruptive fintech platforms reworking monetary companies to logistics options optimizing last-mile supply, and healthtech ventures revolutionizing healthcare supply, the range of progressive options is really inspiring. This breadth of sectors displays our dedication to being on the forefront of the dynamic and evolving panorama of the MENA startup ecosystem.”

Such previous outcomes would undoubtedly have confirmed to be a significant asset to Oraseya Capital itself- an entity that hopes to create a constructive impression inside the nation’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. “Oraseya Capital aspires to be a cornerstone of the UAE’s entrepreneurial success story,” AlFarsi declares. “We purpose to depart an enduring legacy by nurturing a technology of profitable and socially impactful startups. By our investments, mentorship, and accelerator applications, we hope to contribute considerably to job creation, financial diversification, and the institution of the UAE as a world innovation hub.”

In the meantime, as the applying deadline for Sandbox’s fourth cohort attracts nearer, Denham reiterates that this system has, primarily, been curated to construct a good ecosystem for startup founders. “Past monetary metrics, our ambition is for Sandbox to change into probably the most lively and supportive VC-backed startup applications within the area, nurturing a thriving neighborhood of innovators,” Denham says. “Our subsequent cohort is scheduled to start in February 2024, and purposes are actually open till December 31, 2023. Bold and decided candidates who’re critical about taking their ventures to the following stage -whilst receiving $150,000 in investment- can be taught extra and apply at this time at www.sandboxaccelerator.com.

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