Exclusive: Hub71 on Anghami, digital transformation, and establishing a tech ecosystem in Abu Dhabi

Exclusive: Hub71 on Anghami, digital transformation, and establishing a tech ecosystem in Abu Dhabi 

By: Abu Dhabi SME Hub
Interviews

“By attracting global startups from all sectors, Hub71 is harnessing technology and innovation, providing mSMEs and startups with greater access to market opportunities through its collaborations with world-leading corporates and government entities.” 

At the heart of most technological innovations and entrepreneurial efforts in Abu Dhabi is Hub71, a Ghadan 21 initiative and the emirate’s thriving tech ecosystem, enabling founders to build globally enduring homegrown tech companies by providing access to global markets, a capital ecosystem, a global network of partners, and a vibrant community.

Mohamed Al-Binali, Product & Business Development at Hub71, speaks with the Abu Dhabi SME Hub about the tech ecosystem’s ongoing efforts in the emirate.

Technology is at the heart of innovation across all fields of business. How is Hub71 catalyzing Abu Dhabi’s digital transformation efforts?

Ghadan 21 has been the catalyst for accelerating the digital transformation of Abu Dhabi. The government program supports our mission of generating economic impact across our nation, and we are proud to be part of this driving force.

By attracting global startups from all sectors, Hub71 is harnessing technology and innovation, providing mSMEs and startups with greater access to market opportunities through its collaborations with world-leading corporates and government entities.

Our community has grown substantially since we launched in 2019, attracting and selecting 102 high-growth tech startups from around the world in 16 different sectors, each with a mission to shape the future. We believe partnerships have accelerated our reach to our startups; especially given the importance of tech and innovation to any organization. Part of our strategy was to double down our efforts in forming strategic partnerships with local and international corporations and government agencies to facilitate market access to our startups. This is supported by our Annual Partner Challenge Program, The Outliers, that provides startups and mSMEs the opportunity to work closely with renowned organizations, including ADCB, Mastercard, Etihad Airways, Department of Health Abu Dhabi and Thales - to solve their operational challenges.

We will continue to provide startups from around the world with the ideal environment to grow, helping them raise funding and build successful ventures. As Hub71’s community expands into new markets, we will be in a stronger position to attract founders who may be considering the Middle East as their next market of growth. These efforts will further energize Abu Dhabi’s digital transformation and innovation hub, helping to future-proof its economy.

Hub71 has been instrumental in the growth and success of many tech startups in Abu Dhabi. Which niches of the tech sector do you believe still hold untapped potential for innovation and investment?

Technology and innovation will shape a better and more sustainable future for our generations. Particularly the surge of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Blockchain, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Machine Learning that enhance business processes and services, and still hold untapped potential for innovation and investment.

As a technology community focused on creating a prosperous future for society, we select startups from all sectors to join our mission. The diverse mix of startups we support are the government’s national priority sectors such as FinTech, HealthTech, AgTech and EdTech, in addition to advancing more niche and emerging sectors including CleanTech, FoodTech and RegTech.

The rapid digitalization taking place today will effectively shape how our industries operate tomorrow and maybe create new industries altogether. There is great potential for mSMEs and startups to make a real impact and it is Hub71’s commitment to provide hand-in-hand support throughout their journeys of growth.

Anghami, the first Arab technology company to list on Nasdaq, chose Hub71 for its new headquarters. What makes Hub71 such an attractive tech ecosystem?

Anghami’s listing on Nasdaq, was a major milestone for Abu Dhabi’s tech industry and highlights the key role played by Hub71 and our strategic partners Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) in enabling tech companies to thrive.

It puts into perspective what Hub71, with its regional and influential partner ADIO, are doing to attract the highest quality startups. We have already demonstrated an ability to attract venture capital and accelerator funding, building a growing capital community. In under nine months we helped raise AED 185 million for 29 of our startups seeking funding. This demonstrates the startups we select have a higher chance of succeeding and can gain opportunities to raise capital that is fundamentally important to their early phases of growth.

Founders around the world are confident in Hub71 and Abu Dhabi’s attractiveness as an international business center because it offers plenty of opportunities to scale. Not only is Hub71 strategically located in Abu Dhabi’s vibrant financial center, but the Emirate offers founders seamless connectivity to new markets across the Middle East and farther afield. Abu Dhabi’s stable, flexible, and open business environment is driven by innovation, knowledge sharing and technology, underpinned by a supportive government that is actively promoting entrepreneurship.

Additionally, we are backed by some of the world’s most powerful technology investors and companies including Mubadala Investment Company, Microsoft, SoftBank’s Vision Fund and an award winning international financial center - Abu Dhabi Global Market - that amplifies our proposition to startups globally. Through the combined strength and support of our strategic partners of corporates, government agencies, investors, and tech organizations around the world, Hub71 helps promote access to capital, market opportunities and talent, which are elements that founders are looking for.

Most of the funds that operate in the UAE and in the region are focused on early-stage, Pre-Series A, and Series A stage funding rounds. How can funding for later-stage scale up efforts be made more available in Abu Dhabi’s tech sector?

We are focused on facilitating faster access to capital for all our startups through our global network of strategic partners. Driven by the chance to secure capital, founders have access to global and regional investors from Abu Dhabi. One of which is Mubadala Investment Company, our strategic partner and a sovereign fund that is actively focusing on disruptive investments in technology that have launched their USD 250 million MENA Tech fund in late 2019. We are also increasing the number of VC funds with eight currently actively deploying capital within our community, and UK investment firm, Hambro Perks, recently launched a $50 million fund managed by a team based at Hub71.

The opportunities are there, demonstrated by Hub71 startup Securrency, a global financial services technology infrastructure and products company, which raised $30 million through its Series B investment round, which saw participation from WisdomTree Investments, Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners Limited (ADCP), State Street, and U.S. Bank.

Tarabut Gateway, also a Hub71 startup, and the MENA region’s largest open banking platform, raised $13 million in funding, demonstrating that funding is also growing for later-stage startups. We will continue to expand our capital platform that enables more startups of any stage to raise funding. These efforts are important to supporting the growth journeys of startups and generating strong financial returns for investors.

How is Hub71’s tech ecosystem bringing value to Abu Dhabi and helping drive innovation and economic diversification?

As Abu Dhabi’s global tech ecosystem, we are committed in delivering on our mandate to enable and support founders, regardless of their nationality or idea. We are driving the development of an innovation hub, promoting entrepreneurship that contributes to the Emirate’s economic diversification plan.  

We are working to generate real impact for our startup community and Abu Dhabi. Since Hub71 launched in 2019, its community has facilitated the creation of jobs, with startups having onboarded 250 team members with further plans to hire 340 people over the next 12 months.

A knowledge-based economy is at the core of it driven by exceptional tech-savvy talent. And that is why we offer upskilling services for the youth and tech enthusiasts to develop founders’ teams. Over 150 hours of mentorship and 51 internship opportunities were delivered in 2020 at Hub71, and through our academic partnerships, we are fostering knowledge exchange and mentorship opportunities between students and alumni at higher education institutions and our growing tech community.

Ultimately, our aim is to attract the most promising startups from around the world to Abu Dhabi and enable them to build their innovative solutions and capture opportunities that the market presents.

Learn more about the diverse initiatives supporting SMEs in Abu Dhabi by exploring the Hub’s Interactive Ecosystem Map or by downloading the full Ecosystem Map Out Report.

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