Abu Dhabi's Hub71 to have 100 start-up firms by end of 2020, official says

Mubadala Capital's head of ventures says Mena tech fund has now made direct investments in two companies and five venture funds

FILE PHOTO: A guest attends the opening ceremony of WeWork Hong Kong flagship location in Hong Kong, China February 23, 2017.      REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo
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Hub71, Abu Dhabi's new tech hub, is expected to have 100 start up firms by the end of 2020, according to its acting chief executive.

There are currently 39 firms operating out of Hub71, which is backed by Mubadala, SoftBank Vision Fund, Microsoft  and Abu Dhabi Global Market. The tech hub was created last year as part of the Ghadan 21 initiative, a Dh50 billion package of reforms to stimulate the local economy.

"Our goal at the end of 2020 is to have a vibrant community of 100 start ups … it is our goal and mission," said Ibrahim Ajami, head of ventures at Mubadala Capital and acting chief executive of Hub71.

Four new start-ups — including Jordanian company Rizek, New York-based blockchain firm Securrency and UAE-based fintech companies Sarwa and denarii cash — have been admitted into the Hub71, according to a statement from Hub71 on Monday.

Mubadala has now invested into five venture funds and two companies via its $250 million (Dh918m) Mena tech fund launched in October last year.

The fund has made direct investments in Midchains, a digital trading asset platform, and insurance and HR tech start-up Bayzat from its $100m direct fund. The five investments in venture funds have been made through a $150m fund of funds.

Mr Ajami was speaking at the opening of co-working firm WeWork’s first location in the UAE. The US-based company opened its first facility at Abu Dhabi Global Market Square on Monday. It is managing three floors of workspace housing 1,200 desks on behalf of Hub71, with a remit to attract more start-ups to the capital.

Mubadala Ventures is also an active investor in both the US and Europe. In the US, the company is using capital from its three existing funds including a $400m direct fund and a $200m "fund of funds" programme. It also committed $15 billion to SoftBank's first iteration of its Vision Fund.

Mubadala, along with the Public Investment Company of Saudi Arabia, are the two biggest investors in SoftBank’s initial $100 billion Vision Fund.

However, Mr Ajami said that the company currently has no plans to be part of a $108bn second Vision Fund being raised by SoftBank.

“We are not ready to step up the Fund II and we are just focused on the success of Fund I,” he said.

He argued that Mubadala is changing perceptions in terms of sovereign funds' investments in venture capital.

“When we started in Silicon Valley, the feedback we got from the industry was, we’ve seen these large sovereign wealth funds come and invest and not be consistent and I believe we are proving them wrong. We set up offices in San Francisco, in London, and we are setting up offices in Beijing and are operating out of Abu Dhabi.”

Mubadala would continue to invest in tech firms across the globe, Mr Ajami said.

Some of Mubadala-backed WeWork’s initial tenants would include some of Hub71’s global community of start-ups, venture capitalist firms and tech accelerators, an earlier statement said.

Founded in 2010, WeWork offers office space to more than 662,000 members globally.

In November last year, the company said it was laying off about 2,400 employees, almost 20 per cent of its workforce, as it sought to drastically cut costs following a failed IPO process and an emergency fund-raising exercise in September and October last year — a period which also saw the departure of its co-founder Adam Neumann.

The firm is continuing to expand its footprint, though, and last month announced it would open its second UAE site in Dubai at the OneCentral complex, close to Dubai World Trade Centre.