Regional start-ups will soon be able to get the kind of bulk discounts enjoyed by larger companies, through a scheme being launched by a Middle Eastern entrepreneurs' platform.Wamda, which invests in early-stage ventures and supports entrepreneurship in the Arab world, is launching a discount card that can be used for travel, hotel stays, insurance and other services.
Habib Haddad, the chief executive, said the Wamda Card would save local entrepreneurs "thousands of dollars" a year.
"I'm sure Coca-Cola has a huge discount on airlines and on insurance, because they give them volume," he said. "We're trying to represent 10,000 Coca-Colas in terms of start-ups."
Mr Haddad said about 50 partners had signed up to offer goods and services at a discount to holders of the Wamda Card.
"We have hotels like Sheraton Hotels in Dubai; we have Aramex, which gives discounts on shipping rates. We have Google, who gives free advertising money to spend online," he said.
Other partners include Air Arabia, insurance companies and a UAE telecommunications firm that Mr Haddad declined to name. The discounts on offer vary, he said.
"Entrepreneurs, throughout the course of a year, will be able to save thousands of dollars," he said. "Every deal is different. It has to be substantial, and it has to be higher than what people can get outside."
Wamda started testing the discounts scheme last week, and plans a full launch of the card in a couple of months.
The scheme is open to genuine entrepreneurs, and a fee of between US$100 (Dh367) and $200 will be charged to cover costs. Mr Haddad said he expected between 3,000 and 5,000 members to sign up by the end of next year.
Wamda launched in 2010 and is supported by the private-equity firm Abraaj Capital, which was the anchor partner in Wamda's venture-capital fund that targets young businesses in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.
Wamda has an early-stage venture-capital fund, "where we invest in amounts ranging from $50,000 up to $1 million", Mr Haddad said.from national news.