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May 31, 2023

Behind Abu Dhabi’s efforts to establish a world-leading technology ecosystem

Hub71, which is based at ADGM, the UAE capital's international financial centre, is recognised as Abu Dhabi's global tech ecosystem. It offers founders a valuable network to scale tech start-ups at every stage across more than 20 business sectors.

Abu Dhabi tech
Hub71 offers founders a vibrant community to scale their start-ups at every stage of development. (Photo courtesy of Hub71)

Founded in 2019 and based at Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), the international financial centre (IFC) of the UAE capital, Hub71 is recognised as Abu Dhabi’s global technology ecosystem. Backed by the government of Abu Dhabi and Mubadala Investment Company, a sovereign investor with $284bn assets under management as of the end of 2021, Hub71 offers founders a vibrant community to scale tech start-ups at every stage operating in more than 20 business sectors. These include fintech, health tech, ed-tech, climate tech and AI.

In 2022, Hub71 became home to more than 200 start-ups, onboarding an additional 51 new members during that year. They received a wide range of support, including housing and office space, as well as mentorship, access to markets and funding through Hub71’s various programmes and partnerships. Its start-ups have raised almost AED4.5bn ($1.2bn) in venture capital, created more than 900 jobs and generated AED3bn ($816m) in revenue.

Hub71 helps start-ups at the ideation phase, using its venture-building programme to move them through to series A funding and offering tailored support to later-stage start-ups seeking to scale up. Hub71’s capital network includes more than 30 venture capital funds, as well as 27 family offices, enabling start-ups to access a diverse capital pool. Hub71 has also partnered with more than 40 corporate and government entities and has established advisory support from 125 mentors. Start-ups operating from Hub71 have signed more than 40 proof-of-concept agreements with corporate partners. Corporate deals were valued at AED160m ($43.5m) in 2022 alone.

Attracting potential globally

The tech hub aspires to attract start-ups with the greatest potential from around the world, offering founders a range of channels to support them in raising funds from venture capital firms, angel investors and family offices. Global start-ups can gain access to capital market opportunities, longer-term visas and a highly skilled talent pool. In October 2022, Hub71 launched Tech Barza, an exclusive capital club for family offices, and expanded Ventures Lab, the venture-building programme. In 2022, nine start-ups raised more than AED36.7m ($10m) in funding each, for a total of AED575m ($156.7m)

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The technology ecosystem in Abu Dhabi encourages diversity, with 52 female founders and around 48 nationalities of founding members including 18 from the UAE. Hub71 received 1,408 applications from prospective start-ups in 2022 alone. These rose steadily throughout the year: 265 applications between January and April; 423 between May and August; and 700 in the last four months of 2022.

Hub71 is a valuable network

Khawla Hammad, a founder and chief executive officer at Takalam, an online counselling platform based at Hub71, specialising in mental health care affordability and accessibility, speaks on the range of platforms and the opportunities the programme is affording.

“Our goal was primarily to make mental health care affordable and accessible through our online platform,” Khawla says. “With the privacy of virtual sessions, matchmaking between counsellors and users, assessment, diagnosis and tracking of progress are optimised by the platform.”

In March 2021, her company secured its first round of funding valued at AED2.9m ($800,000) from the Emirates Angel Investors Association and some institutional investors. It also secured a grant of AED918,000 ($250,000) from the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, the emirate’s investment promotion agency.

“If there is an opportunity to go through an ecosystem like Hub71 and its incentive programme, I would definitely take it,” says Hammad. “Trying to do it on your own takes a lot of time, a lot of money and a lot of effort. Hub71 is a kind of shortcut that gets you in touch with everyone, introduces you to the market opportunity and helps you to start in the right place.

“The UAE has a very vibrant community – it’s a very mixed, diverse culture and the standard of living here is one of the best in the world. It’s welcoming to all nationalities and backgrounds. There are several initiatives that are tailored towards women and to empowering women. Female entrepreneurs have access to financing and mentorship. In the UAE, there is no glass ceiling that women have to break, as long as we work hard, stay committed and do what we believe in.”

Establishing Abu Dhabi’s technology ecosystem

Hub71 is helping Abu Dhabi to diversify economically and is supporting the UAE’s effort to become an “Entrepreneurial Nation” by 2031. The UAE has targeted being home to ten unicorn start-up companies and establishing itself as one of the top three countries in the Global Entrepreneurship Index by that year.

“Like in the years past, our focus remains on generating impact,” Ahmad Ali Alwan, deputy chief executive officer at Hub71, told Investment Monitor’s Jon Whiteaker during a visit to ADGM late last year. “Our impact report presents the growth and strategic development of Abu Dhabi as a global technology ecosystem that enables start-ups to grow and scale.”

“As we continue our pursuit of building homegrown unicorns, our 2022 impact results reinforce that Hub71 is a platform that champions innovation among start-ups and technology companies while supporting the nation’s knowledge-based economy and its transformation.”

In 2023, Hub71 is broadening its reach into specific technology sub-sectors by launching Hub71+ specialist ecosystems to unlock the potential of specific technologies, including digital assets, climate tech and health tech.

Such ongoing efforts point to why it is fast becoming one of the most exciting tech ecosystems in the world, attracting global talent and offering founders a diverse cultural experience, myriad funding opportunities and market access.

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