On a stage in front of a few hundred people, nervous entrepreneurs prepare to pitch their business ideas to a panel of five "sharks" — seasoned investors and veterans of Middle East business — in the hope of getting funding.
"I'm looking for something disruptive in the marketplace," Ganesh Iyer, one of the sharks and a longtime investor in the region, tells the contestants. "An idea which is completely different from what the market already has to offer."
The United Arab Emirates' commercial capital of Dubai launched the pilot of "Equity Room" Wednesday, a Middle Eastern version of "Shark Tank," a show produced by MGM Television in association with Sony Pictures Television. "Shark Tank" lets start-up founders bid for funding from high-net worth sharks and angel investors. The contestants either walk away with a deal, or get eliminated — often after being verbally cut down to size by the judges.
Out of 16 "Equity Room" contestants, just a few managed to score funding in exchange for equity in their venture, landing hundreds of thousands of dollars rather than the few million that some were hoping for.
The field of entrepreneurs spanned a number of nationalities and ages, with the youngest just a year out of graduating from college. Business ideas ranged from the areas of e-commerce and data monetization to artificial intelligence (AI) and gaming.