Abu Dhabi Investment Office provides $24.5m to boost growth of tech companies

Innovation Programme backing brings the level of support provided to businesses in the sector this year to more than $235m

Hub71 on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi. UK-based Callsign expects to have 100 staff at its regional base within Hub71 by the end of the year. Courtesy Hub71
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Abu Dhabi Investment Office is providing Dh90m ($24.5m) in funding to help three technology companies grow their operations in the emirate.

The organisation is providing financial and non-financial incentives to UAE-based companies Lyve and Rizek, as well as helping UK-based Callsign to build a regional presence through its Dh2 billion Innovation Programme.

"The three of them fit very, very well within our ICT [Information and Communications Technology] cluster approach and [are] part of this wider innovation approach we are keen on expanding," Tariq bin Hendi, Adio's director general, told The National.

"All three businesses approached us and ... it did not take very long for them to see the advantage of being in Abu Dhabi and how we could help them."

Adio is the government entity responsible for attracting and facilitating investment into the emirate. The three new agreements bring the total amount of incentives provided this year to more than Dh865 million, backing seven companies.

The incentives differ depending on individual company needs, Mr bin Hendi said.

For instance, one of its recent agreements is with Amazon Web Services, which is building "quite substantial physical infrastructure", which Adio is supporting.

Other companies will have requirements related to higher operational expenses incurred through employing more highly skilled staff in the emirate.

"But more importantly, aside from those two things, we are providing [companies with] access to the market and to the ecosystem," he said.

Callsign is a London-based company that digitally authenticates users for financial institutions, governments and other companies.

It is building a centre of technical excellence at technology centre Hub71 in the emirate and has already grown its local team to 45 staff over the past six months. It plans to increase this to 100 by the end of this year.

Lyve is a logistics technology company that connects businesses to partners and customers. It is moving its head office to Abu Dhabi and has been provided with support to relocate key management and technology roles.

Rizek, meanwhile, is an online platform linking buyers to a range of different providers offering services from maintenance to beauty. It also recently gained approval to offer home polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests for Covid-19. The company is being provided with backing to fund further growth as it pushes into new markets, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt from its Abu Dhabi base.

"Rizek is a company we have done multiple things with. We originally invested equity in them when the venture fund was with us, before we moved that over to [state holding company] ADQ," said Mr bin Hendi.

The additional backing for the company is a sign that Adio is "there along the journey and not just for a period of time", he said.

"We will continue to support these companies as they demonstrate their growth, their commitment to Abu Dhabi and how they are becoming part of the ecosystem."

Adio has already provided backing this year to Amazon Web Services, video-streaming platform Starzplay, music-streaming service Anghami and cloud management company Bespin Global to allow them to open major operations in the UAE capital.

In terms of identifying other companies to fill potential gaps in the market, Mr bin Hendi said Adio is attempting "to constructively disrupt some of the incumbent business models, not the businesses themselves".

For instance, it will look to bring in companies with new technology that can help to make existing businesses in the emirate more efficient.

"We will continue to support these companies as they demonstrate their growth, their commitment to Abu Dhabi and how they're becoming part of the ecosystem."
Tariq bin Hendi, director general, Abu Dhabi Investment Office

"When I look at some of the companies we have already signed up with, some of them are coming in and introducing technology that does not exist here yet, but that is required. Institutions sometimes do not actually know that they need this type of technology," he said.

Adio's Dh2bn Innovation Programme is part of the Dh50bn Ghadan 21 Initiative first announced in 2018 as a three-year plan to catalyse private sector growth in the emirate.

Foreign direct investment into the UAE increased by 11 per cent to $20bn last year despite the widespread disruption to global trade caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to global FDI flows plunging by 35 per cent, the UN Conference on Trade and Development said last month.

Adio has been stepping up its global push to attract more investment, setting up eight offices in major global cities to promote the emirate as an investment destination. The first of these opened in Tel Aviv in January.

Updated: July 26, 2021, 6:31 AM