Hub71 seeks more cross-border partnerships to help start-ups expand globally

Chief executive says the tech hub proves Abu Dhabi's ability to scale

Chief executive Ahmad Ali Alwan says Hub71 is 'building a community of entrepreneurs around technology'. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Hub71, Abu Dhabi’s technology ecosystem, aims to increase its cross-border partnerships to help its start-ups and entrepreneurs to expand internationally, its chief executive has said.

“We want to give entrepreneurs the ability to scale out of Abu Dhabi. The UAE is a great market but through our relationships with great partners, we’re supporting these companies’ access to the world,” Ahmad Ali Alwan told The National.

Cross-border partnerships are set to grow with countries such as South Korea, Pakistan and Singapore.

Hub71, which was set up five years ago, has so far attracted more than 260 start-ups that have raised Dh5.4 billion ($1.5 billion) in venture capital and created more than 1,100 jobs in the emirate.

“We’re humbled to be part of the Abu Dhabi mission to contribute to the diversification of the non-oil GDP [gross domestic product]. That’s the essence and ethos of why Hub71 started back in 2019,” Mr Alwan said from Hub71's Impact Summit, a two-day event for start-ups and investors in Abu Dhabi.

Actor Idris Elba, footballer Paul Pogba and professional boxer Tommy Fury are among speakers at the event.

“It's a celebration for our team, for our partners and for our start-ups,” Mr Alwan said.

Start-ups in Hub71 have generated Dh3.5 billion in revenue since 2019, while signing 118 corporate deals in the past two years valued at Dh658 million, according to data from Hub71.

Mr Alwan pointed to Archireef, a nature technology company that uses 3D printing tiles to help bolster coral reefs around the world, and AirCarbon Exchange, a global carbon exchange that uses blockchain architecture, as examples of companies that have benefitted by collaborating within Abu Dhabi.

“They've had good momentum … these stories showcase how the whole ecosystem comes together,” he said.

“We’re working hand in hand to see more and more of these success stories coming out of our initiatives.”

While 2023 proved to be a challenging year globally for start-ups amid the economic slowdown due to high interest rates, Hub71 received 2,781 applications from start-ups during the year.

It has managed to add 38 start-ups to the Hub71 ecosystem.

The value of funds raised by start-ups in Hub71 also increased by Dh900 million last year.

“There were a few market dynamics that caused some challenges for the start-up community. That’s why it’s essential for Hub71 to continue its mission to support entrepreneurs,” Mr Alwan said.

“It’s a journey of resilience. Challenges will come in different ways, shapes, and sizes, and our mission is to support those across the board where we can.”

Looking ahead, Hub71 will continue to focus on supporting the growth of the technology industry and help start-ups to scale up quickly, Mr Alwan said.

“Our journey ahead is to focus on the technology journey, to see more technology and innovative solutions come out of the system that we have enabled here,” he said.

“We want to cut the time to market for these companies and we’ve been able to achieve that, but we’re also excited to keep multiplying and amplifying that.”

With a global technology talent shortage emerging in 2024 amid a rising demand for workers with specialised skills, Hub71 plans to put in place a strategy to maximise its skills network by boosting collaboration with top universities and other organisations.

“One key theme we keep focusing on is community building,” he said.

“We're building a community of entrepreneurs around technology, and it has created an element of resilience, an element of bonding and an element of building together … it's something that I believe sets us apart.”

Updated: March 05, 2024, 11:07 AM