Hub71, Abu Dhabi's global technology ecosystem, launched its second Outliers programme as the capital continues to support start-up companies broadening their roles in the economy.
The new leg of Outliers — Hub71's annual programme that invites start-ups worldwide to solve actual challenges presented by participating organisations — will focus on Web3 to help companies future-proof their operations and give them an opportunity to gain up to Dh100,000 ($27,229.40) to fund their proofs of concepts.
Web3 is the emerging new concept of the World Wide Web, with blockchain, decentralisation, openness and greater user utility among its core components.
The challenges will be presented by top government and corporate entities, including Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism and Department of Health, real estate developer Aldar Properties, Thales French technology company Thales and Hub71-based used vehicles platform Cars24.
Abu Dhabi's continued recognition and support of start-ups is part of the UAE's goal of transforming the Emirates into an entrepreneurial nation by 2031, said Elodie Robin-Guillerm, head of growth and strategy at Hub71.
"In Abu Dhabi, the government has laid strong foundations to build an extensive technology ecosystem through effective partnerships and advanced infrastructure, supported by an open and flexible regulatory and business environment," she told The National in an interview.
"These elements have been essential to helping founders find a new home to grow and scale their companies globally by attract world-class start-ups to Abu Dhabi, while also helping local founders to scale and raise new funding."
Start-up ecosystems worldwide are consistently growing as they take on the challenges of developing solutions for a world that is becoming increasingly digital in key sectors such as retail, services, e-commerce and governments.
Globally, the value created by start-ups is about $3 trillion, which is almost at par with the gross domestic product of a G7 economy, according to advisory firm Startup Genome. Funding for these companies broke records in 2021 when it hit $621 billion, according to CB Insights.
Across the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan and Turkey, start-ups raised record funding of more than $5bn in the first half of 2022, accounting for 70 per cent of the total investment raised in the full year 2021, data provider Magnitt reported last week.
Other global companies have programmes to support start-ups in region, including GrowthX Accelerator, a collaboration between the Abu Dhabi Investment Office and Microsoft, and a recent partnership between Saudi venture fund STV and Facebook parent Meta Platforms.
Outliers 2022 will feature seven challenges, including, for the first time, a dedicated category for unicorns, or start-ups with a valuation of $1bn. Cars24, which is valued at around $1.84bn, will be participating in this segment.
The rapid shift towards digital transformation and the adoption of emerging technologies leave more potential for start-ups to succeed, and Abu Dhabi is taking notice of this, Ms Robin-Guillerm said.
"There is much more potential to be unleashed," she said, adding that giving start-ups market access to develop their concepts creates "opportunities for [start-up] founders to make an impact in sectors of strategic importance in Abu Dhabi".
Earlier this month, Hub71 announced partnership with Emirates Post Group to provide start-ups with opportunities to collaborate with the latter with the aim of boosting the logistics sector using next-generation technology.
Hub71's cross-border programme is looking at seven countries across the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia and the US, Ms Robin-Guillerm said.
"As a result, we are well positioned to support scale-ups from mature ecosystems such as France, the UK and Israel to choose Abu Dhabi and Hub71 as a launch pad for their international development, while also opening doors for start-ups from emerging ecosystems to set up in Abu Dhabi and grow and scale," she said.
"Longer-term, we aim to build unicorns, nurtured and developed right from the UAE’s capital demonstrating that Abu Dhabi can export commercially viable companies with groundbreaking technologies that can make an impact globally."
Hub71 is a flagship initiative of the $13.6bn Ghadan 21 economic stimulus programme. It was founded by the Abu Dhabi government, Mubadala Investment Company, Abu Dhabi Global Market, Microsoft and Japan's SoftBank Group in 2019.
Since its establishment, Hub71 is home to about 130 start-ups, who have so far raised Dh1.5bn through the tech ecosystem’s corporate partners, and have been responsible for creating about 1,000 new jobs. They operate in 20 sectors, including finance, health care and education.