In early 2019, a few months after the launch of Hub71, the ecosystem partnered with the MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab (MITEF) team from Beirut. Both MITEF Pan Arab and Hub71 shared a common mission to support their respective tech ecosystems. They collectively nurtured some of the best startups in the MENA region, so jointly launched the Hub71 MENA Growth Competition 1.0 and 2.0.

In its first edition, the Hub71 MENA Growth Competition received 54 applications in 2019, increasing 10% to 60 applications in 2020, from over 15 different Arab countries. From the start, startups had their eyes set on moving to the UAE’s newest tech hub to secure a spot on the Hub71 Incentive Program.

Fast-forward to today where Hub71 has over 50 global tech startups of which nine are MITEF alumni – it is safe to say that MITEF Pan Arab made a meaningful impact on the makeup of the ecosystem’s global and vibrant startup community.

As the applications rolled in, Hub71 witnessed a more diverse cohort of startups apply to the competition from different sectors and countries of HQ, and a particular uptake in applications from female founders, indicating that established scale-ups were looking to Abu Dhabi as a real contender in the global landscape of tech hubs.

‘Entrepreneurship is key in boosting this region’s continuously growing economy, MITEF Pan Arab and Hub71 have created a synergetic program that rapidly became attractive in the region,’ quotes the two-year MENA Growth Competition Impact Report, which looks at the influence of the competition on Abu Dhabi’s appeal as the perfect launchpad for growth and the strength and drive of startups in the MENA region.

‘The true value of the competition comes not only through the networking and market access opportunities that it offers, but also through the reward that the winners get (entry into the Hub71 Incentive Program).’

In fact, the report states that over 63% of the applicants in the 2nd edition cited Hub71’s incentive program value proposition as the ‘main reason’ to why they applied, in addition to access to funding and access to a global market. The incentive program gives startups 50 or 100 per cent free housing, office space and health insurance for up to 25 employees.

With all nine winning startups based at the tech hub today spanning from vastly different sectors and countries, perhaps the real impact that the partnership has made is that it has helped us to solidify a like-minded community that gets you through tough times. Because of COVID-19 – and the subsequent economic shock of the pandemic – Hub71’s value proposition and commitment to its founders and partners has become more apparent than ever.

As Walid Daniel Dib, cofounder of Addenda, a blockchain InsurTech from Jordan and winner of the 2019 MENA Growth Competition, put it: “It’s the unexpected benefits such as introductions to other like-minded startup founders with whom you share the same ambitions, worries, and lifestyle; that has meant I’ve made new friends for life.”

To read Walid’s story and others, download the two-year MENA Growth Competition Impact Report here.