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Wed 4 Dec 2013 10:12 AM

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Revealed: Winners of first Arabian Business StartUp Awards

Inaugural ceremony featured speeches by Crescent Enterprises CEO Badr Jafar and du CEO Osman Sultan

Revealed: Winners of first Arabian Business StartUp Awards
The winners of the inaugural Arabian Business StartUp Awards

Stars of the UAE’s start-up, SME and entrepreneur community took centre stage at the inaugural Arabian Business StartUp Awards on Tuesday.

Held in the Godolphin Ballroom at Dubai’s Emirates Towers, some of the country’s biggest achievers and self starters were recognised for their endeavour, innovation, success, and commitment to the UAE’s growing SME sector.

Each of the twelve categories featured five nominees, with the unveiling of the winners preceded by speeches by two of the most familiar faces in entrepreneurial circles.

CEO of Crescent Enterprises, Badr Jafar, and CEO of du, Osman Sultan delivered inspiring addresses on the topic of what it takes to succeed as a start-up, and the importance of entrepreneurship respectively.

The coveted Start-up of the Year award was presented to crowd-investing platform Selected by the judges for their innovative and social-minded approach to helping small businesses receive vital funding, was launched late last year by founders Chris Thomas and Sam Quawasmi. Since then, the company has helped businesses attract investment in exchange for equity, helping many home-grown brands to expand around the region.

The winner of the SME of the Year was property portal, which was praised by the judges for its huge surge in visits to its site in recent years, as well as its rapid expansion across the Middle East. CEO Michael Lahyani received the award on behalf of the company he founded in 2007, which now offers more than 70,000 residential and commercial listings in both English and Arabic.

Following an incredible year of growth, Just Falafel founder and MD Mohamed Bitar picked up the Entrepreneur of the Year award. Bitar and the company’s CEO, Fadi Malas, have overseen the success of one of the region’s most recognisable brands of recent years. Just Falafel has been franchised across the Middle East and beyond, with many more outlets in the pipeline, and the company was recently named the UAE’s top performing SME in the Dubai SME 100 rankings.

Co-founder of Restronaut and, Leith Matthews won the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, while Young Arab Leaders UAE chairwoman Muna Al Gurg was presented the award for Women in Business.

The SME Supporter of the Year award was given to the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, while the hotly contested SME Executive of the Year trophy went to Mona Ataya of Mumzworld.

Mentor of the Year winner was announced as Fadi Ghandour, SME Bank of the Year was named as Emirates NBD, with Innovation of the Year going to start-up scaling business AstroLabs.

MarkaVIP was named as the winner of the Mobile Business of the Year category, with Ronaldo Mouchawar, CEO of, collecting the award on behalf of his company in the Digital Business of the Year category.

Speaking at the event, editor of Arabian Business StartUp magazine, Neil King, said: “To have so many big names here tonight, not only as winners but as nominees too, is testament to the strength of the start-up, SME and entrepreneurial scene in the UAE.

“We could have easily picked several winners for each category, such is the quality of the businesses, ideas and individuals that we are lucky to have in the Emirates, and we hope that these awards have done justice to recognising their importance and innovation.

“These are the people and companies who really drive the economy, create the jobs, and develop the ideas, and we are proud to be able to congratulate every one of them for their incredible contribution.”