Abu Dhabi is offering Emirati entrepreneurs a six-month incubator programme to support their tech ventures, as the UAE seeks to diversify its oil-reliant economy by developing the local start-up scene.
Ibtikari, or My Innovation as the programme is called, is a partnership between the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development and the entrepreneurship platform startAD, according to a joint statement issued on Wednesday. The incubator – which launches on September 30 – will be based at the New York University Abu Dhabi and is open to start-ups with at least one local partner.
"The technology sector is one of the most promising investment sectors despite the high competition from global companies," said Abdullah Al Darmaki, chief executive of Khalifa Fund. "The fund will provide all the possible support to ensure the success of all Ibtikari start-ups that meet the financial requirements and conditions of the Khalifa Fund."
The UAE is working on developing start-ups, particularly in the financial technology sector, as part of a long-term vision to develop the skills of Emirati entrepreneurs. A three-year drop in oil prices has pushed the oil-rich Gulf countries into diversifying their economies away from a dependence on hydrocarbons and developing sectors from tourism to manufacturing as a way to employ young nationals.
Ibtikari will select five teams through an evaluation process that begins with an online application and in-person interview. Winners will be selected based on their proposed concept, the project’s potential market reach, as well as its prototype or proof of concept. Applications are now open until the final deadline of August 31.
The programme will include mentorship, network introductions and investment evaluation. Participating teams will initially be required to attend a series of training sessions and one-on-one meetings with Ibtikari's mentors.
Organisers will facilitate introductions to key corporate partners, prospective clients, and experts in the industry locally and in New York City to help startups expand their network and advance their businesses.
Participants will also be considered for potential financial and non-financial support from Khalifa Fund if they meet the criteria.
The third phase will focus on investment evaluation, with startAD’s advisers meeting the teams to provide feedback on their business models and the external investments it might be likely to attract.