Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) Director General Dr. Tariq Bin Hendi and a panel of important players in Abu Dhabi’s tech ecosystem outlined the value of strong global relationships, constant iteration, and forward-looking goals in developing a thriving Abu Dhabi tech ecosystem. These remarks occurred within the context of a Business Council webinar titled Abu Dhabi: Rising Tech Hub on Wednesday, March 17th. Access a video recording of this webinar here.
Dr. Tariq bin Hendi opened the session by expressing the importance of developing and supporting sustainable, long-term partnerships. He explained, “We are building an ecosystem, and the only way to do this is through sustained engagement” with startups, corporations, and other key partners. He expressed that ADIO is distinguishing itself “through consistency,” by addressing the needs and concerns of partners in the region and implementing necessary regulatory reforms. Moreover, he cited the “immense danger to any economy” when a country “becomes complacent” and “revels in the mediocrity of what was already accomplished.” Dr. Bin Hendi described the process of iteration based on conversations with partners as an “incredibly powerful recipe for success.”
Dr. Tariq bin Hendi noted in particular the importance of the U.S.-U.A.E. relationship in developing Abu Dhabi as a tech hub. The U.S., he explained, “is one of the oldest and strongest relationships we have had in the fifty years of the U.A.E. as a country.” It is in light of this enduring partnership that ADIO will open two new locations in U.S. cities in the coming year. Dr. Bin Hendi looks forward to supporting U.S. companies looking to expand and deploy tech in the Middle East, noting that the “constructive disruption” of many U.S. companies has the potential to add great value to the region. Abu Dhabi, in turn, has much to offer these businesses, be it market access, a large population of talented youth, or “serious financial firepower.” While stressing that ADIO is open to support businesses in any sector, he singled out agriculture, healthcare and biotech, IcT, travel and tourism, financial services, and energy as particular areas of focus.
In the panel discussion that followed, Nader Museitif, Head of Partnerships at Abu Dhabi’s leading tech center, Hub71, reiterated the benefits Abu Dhabi and its leading global financial center ADGM provide to startups and corporations looking to expand into the region. He described Abu Dhabi as “a bustling, global marketplace that is also very ambitious.” The U.A.E., he explained, is built on “exchange and trade relationships at a global level,” offering businesses not only an ideal infrastructure, but also a “global launch pad.”
Roberto Croci, Managing Director at Microsoft for Startups Middle East, expanded on Abu Dhabi’s long-term vision. The culture and leadership of Abu Dhabi and the U.A.E. is “open-minded and forward-thinking,” which, he explained, has led to investments and initiatives that will make a difference in the region. Microsoft is the perfect example of a company that has both benefitted from and contributed to the long-term development of the U.A.E. tech ecosystem. In expanding to the U.A.E., Microsoft expects to tap into $27 billion in revenue from its cloud-based services. In doing so, Microsoft will also create 69,000 jobs in the U.A.E., which Mr. Croci explained, will have a “social impact and an impact on the growth of the country,” while also creating “a stable environment for companies to scale.”
Alison Dilworth, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, echoed the significance of Abu Dhabi’s willingness to work with U.S. businesses operating in the region. She explained that Abu Dhabi entities like ADIO take the time to listen to industry challenges and concerns and implement changes to improve the business environment. This level of engagement, Ms. Dilworth explained, will allow Abu Dhabi to succeed in the long-term.
Yahya Aqel, Co-Founder and CEO of Aumet, a U.S.-based B2B marketplace for medical equipment, provided the perspective of an entrepreneur. He explained, “frankly speaking, the system in Abu Dhabi is set up for success.” As a founder and CEO, Mr. Aqel has successfully used Abu Dhabi as a hub for accessing the rest of the country and region beyond. Abu Dhabi’s development as a hub for tech startups has flourished in large part thanks to Hub71, the Emirate’s leading tech global tech ecosystem housed at Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). Mr. Museitif explained that the ecosystem “enables early stage founders to come to Abu Dhabi and grow from there.” It does so through relationships with entities like ADIO, Mubadala, ADQ, and private VCs as well as partnerships with corporations including Microsoft, Mastercard, Etihad, and Aldar. Moreover, Hub71 supports startups by providing market access and connections with the entire Abu Dhabi talent pipeline, including its leading academic institutions.
Driven by ambitious goals to grow as a tech hub, Abu Dhabi-based businesses and government entities are embracing the opportunities afforded by the Abraham Accords. The Accords, signed in September 2021, have already spurred a flurry of exchange between Israel and Abu Dhabi, as evidenced by the recent opening of an ADIO office in Tel Aviv. Dr. Tariq bin Hendi explained that having exposure in Israel has already led to promising partnerships.
The Abraham Accords, he remarked, provide an “opportunity to find common solutions to problems we have all had in the region.” Economic exchange, he explained, will give way to social change, reversing a narrative that hindered mutual understanding. In “creating hope,” Dr. Bin Hendi explained, the Abraham Accords has provided youth with the mentality that anything is possible. This, Dr. Bin Hendi said, “is exactly what startups are doing,” in making anything possible through “disruptive innovation.”
With its global vision, open door approach to partnerships, and forward-looking ambitions, Abu Dhabi is well poised to tap into the best the world has to offer as it grows as a thriving tech ecosystem.
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