07 Dec 2021

Here’s why the Middle East region is a lucrative market for startups

Here’s why the Middle East region is a lucrative market for startups
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Over the past years, Hub71 has offered entrepreneurs the access to market, resources and support to enable founders to thrive in a growing market says Jida Itani, COO, Hub71

How does Hub71 see the growth of startups in the Middle East region? Why do you think Middle East is a lucrative market for startups?

The Middle East is emerging rapidly as a leading tech hub for entrepreneurs with a vision to disrupt sectors and make impactful change. There is a growing need to attract global talent due to a shift into the digital transformation era. Not only do startups cultivate new talent, but they also create jobs and contribute to advancing a sustainable knowledge-based economy.

The United Global Emirates campaign was recently initiated to make the UAE a prime destination for highly skilled entrepreneurs by investing $14m in technologies. Within two years, Hub71’s strategy evolved to ensure business sustainability, viability and growth. Hub71 selected startups from 25 countries across 23 sectors, that are building and scaling technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and blockchain that are contributing to the UAE’s long-term economic competitiveness.

Hub71’s strategy was focused on nurturing the local tech ecosystem by enabling upskilling programmes and offering value creation programme to attract global tech companies through business development and market access opportunities. We are proud to be a core part of driving impact for startups and promoting the opportunities that Abu Dhabi offers as a top 10 startup ecosystem in the Middle East, and part of a nation that leads the region in the Global Innovation Index 2021.

What are the biggest challenges facing startups in the region?

Some of the most common challenges faced by startups relate to access to funding and market. To tackle this, Hub71 initiated a partnership strategy with tech companies to leverage its existing ecosystem access. Our partnerships build enduring relations with key enablers to support startup growth through innovation clusters with two main objectives:

• Proving Hub71 is the platform of choice for potential startups from all around the world coming in from various sectors
• Supporting the global growth of Hub71 and its startups through a network of global partners that share a common mission

Through the right partnership models, and as we look to attract more corporates to engage with Hub71 startups, we are looking at ways to further cultivate a sustainable tech ecosystem that is truly global and accepting in nature. From the likes of Microsoft, Mastercard, to UAE-based banks, Hub71 works closely with each corporation to promote innovative solutions and increase the chances of startups commercialising their business ventures, products, and services.

What measures is Hub71 taking to empower entrepreneurs?

Over the past years, Hub71 offered entrepreneurs the access to market, corporates, resources and support to enable founders to thrive in a growing market where innovation is central to its long-term future. More recently, Hub71 was entrusted by Abu Dhabi Residents Office to endorse tech professionals for their Entrepreneur Golden Visa from Abu Dhabi. Valid for five years, the Golden Visa enables foreign national and UAE residents to build and scale technologies and innovative solutions.

Please elaborate on your recent partnerships.

Hub71 recently announced several partnerships to foster the innovation ecosystems across sectors including healthcare and AI. On the sidelines of Gitex Global, Hub71 announced its partnership with the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DOH), to unleash a multitude of opportunities for startups and enhance cooperation between organisations to highlight the most important challenges faced by the healthcare sector and provide technology-driven solutions and initiatives. Through this mutual beneficial partnership, Hub71 startups will gain priority access to the DoH Plug, Play MENA HealthTech accelerator programme and the DoH Health Technology Assessment. DOH will provide Hub71 founders with connections to hospitals, health insurance, life sciences partners, and universities in need of entrepreneurial support to commercialise products and services. The DOH will be invited to join Hub71’s selection committee to select talent tech entrepreneurs and exceptional startups to join our global tech ecosystem.

Hub71 also signed another partnership with Amazon Web Services at Gitex, which will see collaboration with startups to build scalable and secure cloud-based services that accelerate their growth. This partnership will enable startups – through technical support and guidance offered by AWS experts – to experiment and optimise business performance, while reducing technology costs. Hub71 startups will benefit from AWS Activate credits worth up to $100,000 for each, in addition to AWS Support credits.

Can you please tell us about your recent participation at Gitex Global? What technologies did you showcase this year?

At North Star Dubai (previously known as Gitex Future Stars), Hub71 and our partners announced the winning startups of the Outliers Program. This is a platform that gathers brilliant minds with large institutions which seeks to find solutions to challenges faced by key sectors that drive Abu Dhabi’s economy and aim to solve global and real market global. The programme emphasised the impact that technologies can have on advancing industries aimed at supporting the nation’s continuous development and contributing to a better world. The challenges were set by ADCB, Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH), Etihad Airways, Mashreq Bank, Mastercard and Thales.

DoH selected UAE-based, Alliance Care Technologies, which provides analytical and productivity tools to hospitals, physicians, and patients to improve quality, efficiency, and patient outcomes across the spectrum of care. The startup will deploy its S3 ACT solution comprising early warning pathogen detection, encrypted de-identified patient data extraction, pattern recognition and predicative analytics AI.

ADCB set a challenge to harness the power of artificial intelligence and develop a predictive engine that enhances recommendations for customers, based on their individual preferences. In response to the challenge, UAE-based, Genify, an AI-specialist for banks, developed a transformer-based recommendation engine and wrote a detailed roll-out plan, which was selected by ADCB.

Meanwhile, Thales selected AR Engineering, to develop a hands-free voice-activated chatbot and guide experts during radar maintenance procedures. The UAE-based company deploys interactive augmented reality (AR) virtual reality (VR), mixed reality and extended reality (XR).

Mashreq Bank selected two winners of its challenge to become a value-added services partner. The bank selected Zoko from India, which makes it easy for online merchants to conduct sales, marketing and customer support using WhatsApp.

Finally, Mastercard selected SEDRA, which provides payments and software solutions to enterprise businesses that simplify their services using blockchain; machine learning and AI; data analytics and science.

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