Can you tell us about the vision behind Hub71?
Abu Dhabi's government has put in place a range of initiatives designed to accelerate the existing economic agenda and Abu Dhabi's integration into the global economy as a place that is even more dynamic, innovative, and technology-orientated than it is today. To this end, an AED50-billion economic program called Ghadan 21, meaning “tomorrow" in Arabic, is leading the charge; Hub71 is a key initiative of it. Hub71 was created to form the optimal environment for transformative tech companies and to further enhance the economy. As part of Ghadan 21's mandate to make Abu Dhabi one of the best places in the world to live, work, visit, and do business, we are supporting the 'knowledge' pillar. Technology is the cornerstone of Abu Dhabi's strategic growth story, from supporting private start-ups and entrepreneurs to bringing technology to all of society. Our mandate at Hub71 is more than just building up start-ups and helping them succeed. It is about making sure the whole ecosystem is working in their favor and providing favorable conditions for them to thrive in the long term. It is about creating opportunities that nurture the creation of new jobs, sectors, and home-grown technologies.
As a newly established ecosystem that attracts start-ups and investors, what are the next steps to attract firms exhibiting high potential?
When we launched, we researched what affects start-ups and VCs all around the world. We wanted to design a program that was unique and impactful, and make Hub71 stand out. In addition, we came up with the Hub71 Incentive Program, which helps start-ups with their overhead costs by providing 50-100% non-equity incentives consisting of subsidized housing, office space, and health insurance, depending on their size. But the benefits extend beyond this. Our job in building a complete ecosystem includes providing access to funding and market opportunities, and a favorable business environment to thrive in. And part of that means building a thriving VC and investor community. Just recently, we announced several VCs, including San Francisco-based DCVC, MEVP, and Global Ventures, coming to Hub71. The start-up ecosystem is growing quickly in the MENA region, with USD517 million being invested in 354 deals in 2019 thus far, an increase of 30% YoY. The UAE continued to account for the largest share of total funding, measuring 62% in 2019. Given Abu Dhabi's strategic geographic location, it is a great hub to base oneself.
What attractive features does Abu Dhabi offer as an emerging technology destination?
The government is investing in putting the Emirate on the map as a regional technology hub. The signs are positive: Of the 156 institutions that invested in MENA start-ups in 2018, 30% were from outside the region. The UAE is at the center of this investment, where over 30% of all MENA deals are done. The programs we have in place are competitive enough to encourage investment from everywhere. The UAE is one of the first adopters of 5G and the first to appoint an AI minister. We had our first Emirati in space and saw the creation of Hub71; all this is evidence that the government is serious about making Abu Dhabi a regional hub for technology. According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness 2019 Report, the UAE has maintained its top spot for the fourth year as the most competitive economy in MENA on macroeconomic stability, infrastructure, technology, and business dynamism. In fact, more than 20% of our start-ups are UK- or US-based: they include Surkus, the world-leading experiential marketing company, Humanitas, an AI company driving social enterprise and philanthropy, Ammbrtech, a blockchain and telecoms infrastructure company, and Dopay, a UK-based cloud-based payroll service. They tell us that Hub71 has provided them with the impetus to make the move to Abu Dhabi.