UAE and Saudi sign deal to allow easy cross-border trading for start-ups

Officials came to the agreement at an event hosted by the Misk Foundation in Riyadh

Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chief executive of Mubadala, Sheikh Shakhbout bin Nahyan, UAE Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and Bader Al Asker, chairman of the board for Misk Initiatives Centre, witness the signing of the agreement by Mahmoud Adi, chief executive of Hub71 and Shaima Hamidaddin, executive manager of Misk Global Forum. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Government Media Office
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The UAE and Saudi Arabia are to collaborate on a shared start-up system that will allow entrepreneurs access to markets in both countries and help drive economic diversification.

Abu Dhabi’s Hub71, created to enhance the emirate’s global competitiveness, and the Misk Foundation, a youth development fund set up by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, signed an agreement in Riyadh on Tuesday.

Mahmoud Adi, chief executive of Hub71, told The National: "Our design is to focus on the biggest challenges for start-ups. So lowering the cost of doing business, and helping with access to funding, talent and the market."

We want the best and the brightest minds to come and build businesses here

He said it is imperative start-ups think about how to access markets and that the agreement will help build a system where businesses will thrive based on the quality of their products or services.

“We want the best and the brightest minds to come and build businesses here. We are going to support committed entrepreneurs, founders and teams who are building something exciting and cool.”

The plan to build a more favourable business ­environment for fledgling enterprises in the Arabian Gulf will allow them to prosper and take on markets in the wider Mena region and the world.

Under the new partnership, entrepreneurs will be able to tap into larger mentor networks and strategic partnerships. Hub71, the flagship initiative in a the UAE’s Dh50 billion economic accelerator programme Ghadan 21, works with Microsoft, Mubadala and Abu Dhabi Global Market.

“It would take probably 20 per cent of the effort it took to build Careem in our region to build something of a similar size and value in the US,” said Mr Adi, referring to the Dubai ride-hailing app that operates in 14 countries.

“You could argue that it’s not fair that the founders had to put in that effort, but they were the first to do it and it’s always difficult for the first.

“It’s my job to level the playing field so start-ups don’t spend a lot of time on things they shouldn’t, so the focus is on building the product to be what the consumer wants, rather than how to set up an office or who they need to speak to for investment.”

The agreement was signed on the first day of this year’s Misk Global Forum, where speakers include Mubadala chief executive Khaldoon Al Mubarak, Saudi Arabia’s Minister for Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, and the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson.

Saudi Arabia’s 2019 Entrepreneurship World Cup will also take place at the forum where winners will have the chance to be shortlisted for Hub71’s incentive programme, which offers subsidised living, office space and health care for two years to new businesses.

About 100,000 entrants from countries across the world will compete for prizes that include training, resources and investment worth $5 million (Dh18.36m). Hub71 is the sole national partner for the 2020 Entrepreneurship World Cup.