By Tamara Pupic
Volunteer entrepreneurs and start-up community enthusiasts are invited to join a regular after-work event for start-up founders - Silicon Drinkabout Dubai
A group of Dubai-based start-up founders have launched the Dubai chapter of Silicon Drinkabout, an informal series of gatherings founded by 3beards, a start-up community events organiser from London.
Initiated by Benjamin de Terssac, founder of Carpool Arabia, and Zdenko Zvada, a tech entrepreneur and currently business development manager at ROI Hunter, over 25 gatherings have been hosted in Dubai since the first event in January 2014.
Describing the event as “a place where you can break away from the loneliness of an entrepreneur’s journey,” Terssac explained that the idea came from Zvada who attended many similar gatherings in London.
Zvada says: “Every Friday around 7pm, young entrepreneurs would meet somewhere around Shoreditch, London’s tech hub, to catch-up.
“Apart from cooling down after a busy week, this was a great opportunity to meet new people and share experience with other founders and start-up folks.
“I guess that is what I found very valuable about these gatherings - new connections and inspiration on how you could do things better at your own company.”
The 3beards’ after-work event for start-ups has spread around the world since Neil Murray, an entrepreneur from Denmark, started Silicon Drinkabout Copenhagen.
The brand’s international expansion has included numerous cities across the world, from New York and Toronto to Sao Paolo Sofia, attracting the movers and shakers of each city’s creative and tech scene.
A week after Terssac and Zvada met in January 2014, Dubai was added to this list and the first gathering, organised at a hotel in Dubai Media City, gathered around 40 people.
Terssac says: “I was already involved in many more formal meet-ups that were targeting entrepreneurs and start-ups of any kind.
“I felt something was missing, something more casual without a specific agenda, a place where you can break away from the loneliness of an entrepreneur’s journey.
“I strongly believe that collaboration is a must to succeed in any start-up as I’m a big fan of the ‘sharing economy’ principle. I will always support an initiative that helps knowledge transfer to new entrepreneurs or even aspiring entrepreneurs.”
Teaming up with Guillaume Arnaud in 2014, Terssac launched a website, Carpool Arabia, to encourage car-pooling among commuters within Dubai as well as to and from other emirates.
Easing the UAE’s busy traffic on a daily basis, Carpool Arabia has grown to offer 450 rides everyday across the UAE which is an equivalent of more than 1,000 seats or 23 buses.
They also partner with licensed companies to offer professional car lift services to Abu Dhabi or Hatta in Oman on a daily basis
Not only does it connect drivers who are planning a journey with passengers who are headed in the same direction, but the website offers a peer-review system to hold users accountable for their conduct and urges them to provide better car-pooling experiences.
Terssac says: “Departures from Jumeirah Lake Towers offer 21 different destinations every day. We see a real interest from a lot of people with a growth of 100 percent of new users quarter-on-quarter.
“More importantly, our inventory of offered seats grows by 48 percent on a monthly basis while transacted seats grow by 35 percent every month.”
The traction has helped them attack investors’ attention for the seed round they are currently closing.
In addition to his venture, Terssac has big plans for Silicon Drinkabout Dubai as well.
Those include finding sponsors for the event, hosting well-known business names as informal guest speakers, and offering a series of other casual activities.
“On average there are 20-ish people attending,” he says.
“There is a wish from the group to find sponsors and attract guest stars such as successful entrepreneurs or key investors.
“The atmosphere is very casual and we would love to attract also people working for bigger start-ups like Souq, Careem, Dubizzle or Propertyfinder so they can share what’s going on for big players.
“We believe there is a lot of synergy possible between start-ups and [more] established start-ups.”