Aldar Properties has launched the third cycle of its Manassah programme, a six-month incubator aimed at cultivating entrepreneurial talent and retail concepts in the UAE – to become part of Aldar’s retail portfolio. The programme is held in partnership with startAD, the global startup accelerator supported by Tamkeen and based at NYU Abu Dhabi. The first edition of Manassah targeted UAE-based SMEs operating within the retail, café, and restaurant space while the second edition targeted a broader range of retail businesses, including technology- enabled startups and sustainability projects from across the GCC. The latest edition is aimed at SMEs in the F&B industry, as well as retail products and services. Open for submissions The incubator programme is welcoming submissions across retail SMEs such as cafes, restaurants, boutiques, wellness spaces, and other store concepts. Applications are open and the deadline for submission is August 28. Winners will receive equity-free financial incentives and a space at an Aldar retail destination. Saoud Khoory, chief retail officer, Aldar Investment, said: “At Aldar, we are committed to facilitating and accelerating the growth of our retail landscape by supporting and investing in innovative concepts. Through the Manassah programme, we have already mentored, advanced, or initiated projects with over 40 startups and retail concepts and we are now looking to expand this further with the third edition of the programme. We fully believe that initiatives like Manassah will help build a strong home-grown retail ecosystem, in which startups can thrive.” What’s on offer startAD and Aldar will support participants by providing them with the necessary tools to launch their ventures. Businesses accepted into the programme will benefit from workshops and resources from the best experts worldwide, enabling entrepreneurs to rapidly refine, improve, and validate their business models, financials, and brand story. Participants will also gain unparalleled networking opportunities and access to the best local and global strategists and retail experts. startAD Managing Director Ramesh Jagannathan commented: “UAE is the most sought-after retail destination for a retail entrepreneur. On average, a household in the UAE spends double the global amount on shopping and e-commerce. SMEs have an important role to play here. “Today, SMEs represent 94 per cent of the companies operating in the country, provide jobs for more than 86 per cent of the private sector’s workforce, and make up over 60 per cent of the national GDP. Food retail is anticipated to dominate the retail market in coming years and programs like Manassah are empowering startups to spur innovation in the sector. I’m looking forward to welcoming creative and ambitious entrepreneurs to Manassah who will redefine the future of retail.” This year, Manassah is bringing on board esteemed partners such as Khalifa Fund and Cloud Spaces. These partnerships will elevate the programme through workshops, mentorship, network access and introductions, as well as financial incentives.