- As an ex-UBER and Aramex employee, how have these experiences helped you in your role at Hub71 today?My roles at Aramex and UBER were focused on growth, building a presence in new markets, securing local partnerships and alliances; as such they provided fantastic experience and knowledge that continues to help me in my role at Hub71. For instance, at Aramex, I was looking after M&A and investments, while at UBER I was establishing the company in the Middle East and partnering with government and corporates to unlock opportunities for UBER to build a robust platform. These roles enable me to apply my growth mindset and strategies, bringing my investments and business development experience forward.
Today, I have the pleasure of working with startups whenever I can, sharing my experiences and learnings with potentially what could be the next UBER or Aramex. So I get to pass on useful information, insights and strategies on how to scale companies in the region, and in UBER’s instance particularly, a tech company, showing startups and founders how to establish a solid footing in the market to attract customers, develop important relationships with governments and corporate entities.
The growth mindset is very much rooted in our identity at Hub71. Being able to apply my expertise to accelerate Hub71’s development and establish the right partnerships has oenabled us to build a thriving ecosystem for startups and entrepreneurs in our community.
- Tell us about your proudest moments in the past 12 months?
Among my proudest professional moments was launching our banking solution and new light product in partnership with Mashreq Bank and First Abu Dhabi Bank. We had data showing startups needed 63 days on average to open a bank account if they qualify as bankable. This partnership was a major milestone because we have managed to overcome this hurdle and help startups seamlessly open bank accounts faster and easier than ever. This progress has been a considerable development for startups as they can now quickly and easily set up and launch their businesses, raise funds and begin transacting. For the ecosystem in general, we have been engaging with regulators, banks, startups and investors to rally around this success which has created meaningful change and proved the value of making it a priority.
Another key achievement was launching our corporate and government partnership program. We are excited about this because we can attract large and established entities to be part of Hub71 and provide major corporates with access to high growth startups, transforming their sectors in a range of activities involving the community which can offer mutually beneficial commercial opportunities.
The pandemic has not slowed us down. We have seen amazing interaction between the big players and the startup community, and this is reflected in the increasing number of startups joining our portfolio. We are now close to 60 global startups and being part of the selection committee has been super exciting. I have come across many fascinating startups from different parts of the world, covering various sectors at different stages of their growth. It’s fascinating to meet these startups and review their pitches to understand the challenges they are trying to solve. Selecting startups and onboarding them are always positive milestones for our development. I now look forward to the next two selection panels before the end of the year and welcoming the new cohorts.
Additionally, we have been growing the Hub71 team and expanding our capabilities, both on the government and corporate sides, ensuring that we have the right people building those alliances and partnerships across the ecosystem. The startups are all very passionate about driving positive change and are keen to be part of Abu Dhabi’s ecosystem, with the benefit of using our platform and relationships with leading partners including Mubadala, Soft Bank and Microsoft.
On a personal note, I picked up calisthenics, which has been fascinating. It’s all about mobility, and I enjoy that element of it along with the ability to learn new things.
- What exciting things are in the pipeline for Hub71?
There are many exciting developments on the horizon for Hub71. As a global tech ecosystem, we are continually striving to provide a relevant and dynamic offering that’s helpful for startups. We offer incentives such as subsidized office space, housing and healthcare, which startups can utilize as they need. But we are always thinking about how we can increase the value we provide startups within Hub71, whether it’s through partnerships, access to markets or talent, helping founders upskill their teams and hire talent. But of course, looking at ways to give them access to capital and funding opportunities is a top priority, which startups and VCs can leverage as they grow. There will be more partnerships coming up and more products launched, but ultimately, we will continue listening to our community and ensure we can continue to be of value to them.
- What is something that you have learnt from a startup at Hub71?
The pandemic has put businesses under acute pressure throughout unprecedented circumstances. But being in touch with our startup community has been inspiring, especially as they are continuously innovating to overcome the hardships of the situation and remodel their businesses to remain customer friendly.
Another thing that is admirable about these startups is that they have not given up. They keep active and follow up with their clients, partners and investors, ensuring they get what they need. Everyone is busy and trying to address issues caused by COVID-19. However, our startups are resilient, and the level of resilience demonstrated is something that drives me to ensure we continue matching their determination and ambition going forward.
- To you, what makes Hub71 unique?
Our team spirit is unmatched. Hard work is what unites us, and our people are passionate about making Hub71 a success. We have a sharp focus on developing the community and ecosystem to benefit startups and stakeholders, ensuring they have a dynamic environment to foster innovation.
Hub71 is driven by powerful partners, including global investment company Mubadala, and is a key part of the Ghadan 21 government initiative to accelerate Abu Dhabi’s tech ecosystem. Through proximity to government and influential corporates in Abu Dhabi, we certainly have an attractive proposition for startups seeking unabated growth. The deep relationships we have also made us effective problem-solvers for startups. Whether there are challenges around acquiring visas, setting up a bank account or license visas with Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), these relationships can make setting up your business seamless in Abu Dhabi and the UAE.
But finally, Hub71 is strategically located at the crossroads of East and West, offering seamless access to the lucrative Middle East markets. Abu Dhabi’s stable, flexible and open business environment is guided by innovation, knowledge-sharing and technology. Hub71 is an extension of Abu Dhabi’s digital transformation, and we take great pride in having a backdrop of robust digital infrastructure in this unique and dynamic emirate.
- What makes Abu Dhabi and the MENA region so special?
Abu Dhabi has an inviting and attractive world-class digital infrastructure for startups. It’s the capital city of an ambitious nation that is ranked among the top countries for digital competitiveness, which is reflected at Hub71. If you’re a seed-stage, growth-stage startup, entrepreneur, VC or scaleup seeking access to finance, we’ve fostered robust partnerships with key entities such as Mubadala, Soft Bank and Microsoft to ensure you have access to influential players in the Abu Dhabi and global ecosystem. As such, we have fostered different partnerships to support the growth and rapid expansion of startups in the UAE and globally. This model is exceptionally unique, and we plan to uphold this going forward.
We also cannot underestimate the strong leadership displayed by the government which has invested in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship and building a global technology startup ecosystem. By putting the right infrastructure in place, it ensures Hub71 is sustainable. The government’s vision to become a more innovative, knowledge-driven, and future-proof economy can benefit startups and all types of businesses entering the region.
- What do you love doing in Abu Dhabi during your time off?
Not only is Abu Dhabi a great place to live and work, but it has a rich and diverse culture. The emirate always has lots of things to see and do, which reflects the vast range of backgrounds and cultures from around the world who call Abu Dhabi home.
I love the experience of visiting the Louvre Abu Dhabi and enjoying the vast amount of curated art and culture on display. I think the Louvre Abu Dhabi is a fantastic asset, not just for Abu Dhabi but the region in general. It is representative of Abu Dhabi’s positioning in the region as a cultural hub taking bold steps and anchored on openness and tolerance; a place to learn and thrive. It’s no secret why the city has attracted world-renowned education and healthcare institutions such as New York University AD, Cleveland Clinic AD and more. Abu Dhabi is a magnet for organizations that share its qualities. So, whether you are into sports, fashion or art and culture, this emirate offers a safe environment with prestigious universities and high-quality healthcare. Abu Dhabi truly caters to your every need