Plug and Play, the Silicon Valley tech accelerator whose past investments include Google, PayPal and Dropbox, will open an Abu Dhabi office as part of a new global partnership with Abu Dhabi Global Market, and plans to bring several of its fintech start-ups to the capital to work with local financial institutions.
The accelerator, which claims to be the world’s largest, signed a partnership yesterday with ADGM to launch a new fintech start-up acceleration programme in Abu Dhabi, which will see start-ups backed by Plug and Play come to the Emirate.
The new acceleration programme will form part of the new ADGM FinTech Innovation Centre, a physical hub for fintech start-ups that was also announced yesterday, which will be home to participants in ADGM’s RegLab fintech sandbox programme. The centre will be launched next year.
“We have already talked to close to 100 portfolio companies that we have investments in, [who] would like to come to the Middle East, implement their technologies with different banks as well as perhaps raise money here and have a technical team here," Saeed Amidi, Plug and Play’s chief executive, told The National on the sidelines of the FinTech Abu Dhabi 2017 summit yesterday.
"We are planning to … bring to this fintech innovation platform 10 to 20 start-ups per year, say 10 in each batch; generally we [would] invest in half of those start-ups,” he said.
Mr Amidi said Plug and Play would look at helping fund around 10 start-ups a year from within the new Innovation Centre with funds ranging from $100,000 to $500,000. Plug and Play would only partially fund these ventures, along with others, he said.
ADGM has focused heavily on the fintech space since opening its doors for business in late 2015, signing multiple collaboration agreements with local and international financial institutions and government entities. The free zone on Sunday signed a cooperative agreement with the UAE’s Securities and Commodities Authority to exchange information and knowledge on fintech related issues.
Banks in the UAE have not been oblivious to the technological developments transforming the financial services industry and over the past couple of years have been investing heavily in digital and artificial intelligence as consumers increasingly favour online banking over going to a physical branch.
Investments in technology and digitisation are also timely for UAE banks as profitability has been on the wane in the wake of the biggest oil price slump since the 2008 financial crash.
Emirates NBD, Dubai’s biggest bank by assets, said in July it plans to spend Dh1 billion on technology over the next three years to help reduce costs.