April 29, 2024

Inside Opus: The exclusive founders’ club backed by British royalty launching in Dubai

The “highly vetted network of rising leaders” also counts WeWork’s founder as a backer

Freya Pratty

5 min read

This article is part of a Sifted series exploring European tech’s relationship with the Gulf.

In Dubai’s Al Qouz district a group of tech founders, family office representatives and the general who's who of the Emirati city gather on a Wednesday evening. It’s hot outside but inside the air is cool and perfumed. Attendees mingle and snack on bitesize hamburgers and battered prawns.

The event is a launch party for Opus: an exclusive members’ club for “ambitious business builders and entrepreneurs” founded in London and expanding to the UAE. 

Opus’ claim to fame is that Princess Beatrice, ninth in line to the British throne and the King’s niece, is a board member. She’s at the Dubai event, chatting with guests. 


She’s not the only big name involved: WeWork cofounder Miguel Mckelvey is on the board; Sandeep Mathrathi, the current CEO of WeWork, is a patron and CNBC anchor Tania Bryer also sits on the board. 

The drinks party — with its sprinkling of royal stardust — feels like a sign of things to come, as the elite of Europe’s business community are increasingly drawn to the bright lights, and low taxes, of the Gulf region. 

Guests mingle at the launch. Photo: Opus.

Under the hood of Opus

Not much has been written about Opus — aside from a few articles when Beatrice took up her board seat. 

The club (originally named 20:40) was founded at the end of 2020 by Sam Tidswell-Norrish, managing director of London and New York-based private equity firm Motive Partners. On its website it describes itself as “a highly vetted network of rising leaders from a diverse set of sectors and roles, either managing a budget, a team or both”. 

To get in, applicants must join a waitlist, submit an application, undergo an interview with the Opus team and then pay £99 a month. 

For those that make it — 450 so far — the club offers networking opportunities and places to work in. “I’ve made so many useful connections through the club,” says one attendee who advises family offices in Dubai. 

Opus raised funding in June last year, from “a group of high profile senior business and political leaders from around the world” (though names haven’t been disclosed). A source close to the company said the figure was $500k. 

As it launches in Dubai, the organisation’s mission in the UAE is to “create an international corridor of entrepreneurial talent” between the country and the UK — a goal shared by the British government. 

The country’s trade commissioner for the Middle East and Pakistan, Oliver Christian – admitting to the audience that he was nervous to speak at the Opus launch because he’d “heard so much about the club’s reputation in London” — said the UK embassy will help facilitate businesses moving between the two countries.

The UK's trade commissioner for the Middle East and Pakistan, Oliver Christian. Photo: Opus.


The fact that WeWork execs are throwing their weight behind Opus speaks to a growing trend in tech, as a host of exclusive founders’ clubs are popping up. 


Others include London-based luxury member’s club Home Grown, which launched in 2019, and  Paris HQ'ed Upscalers, which launched in 2022. The latter reportedly counts’s former COO Mike Benchimol, Stride.VC venture partner Cleo Sham and Klarna’s director of business operations Giovanni Lagasio among its members.

Members listed on Opus’s website include the founders of Niya, a jobs platform which has raised $1m in funding according to Dealroom data, and diversity in tech advisory firm Keshty. 

Speaking at the Dubai launch event, Princess Beatrice says she was persuaded to join the organisation after getting “An email from my friend Sam [Tidswell-Norrish].”

It’s not her first foray into the tech world. She’s the vice president of Afiniti, a US data and software company specialising in AI for customer experience. According to her LinkedIn, Beatrice also worked as a private equity analyst and did a stint as an associate at US private equity firm Sandbridge Capital. 

Princess Beatrice at Opus' launch. Photo: Opus.

Now, addressing the room of bright-eyed, Dubai-based business builders she doesn’t hold back with her excitement. “Together we can do something the world has never seen before,” she says, adding that Opus is all about building connections and “uses friendships as a metric”. Although it wasn't immediately clear how that's measured.

Her majesty’s grand ambitions are reflected on the company’s website. 

“We're not here to simply build a community. We're here to build a movement,” it reads.

Helping founders head to the Gulf

Opus has chosen an opportune moment to launch in the UAE. The country’s on a drive to attract international businesses: Dubai has different ‘free zones’ offering incentives for setting up a business there. 

Attendees say that an increasing number of European founders are heading to the country and a growing number of family offices have relocated too, drawn by the business incentives the UAE offers. 

Dubai’s Al Qouz district, where Opus held its launch event, is gaining a reputation as a creative tech hub, attracting an increasing number of startups.

Freya Pratty

Freya Pratty is a senior reporter at Sifted. She covers climate tech, writes our weekly Climate Tech newsletter and works on investigations. Follow her on X and LinkedIn