The Hub71 effect: Delivering continued success for innovators and investors

03 Mar, 2022

While the world grapples with the effects of the Covid pandemic, Hub71 has continued its work to make Abu Dhabi a global hub for innovative start-ups. Now, as industries move from survival to development and turn towards the future, Hub71 has a host of exciting initiatives designed to maximise growth for the most advanced technological businesses.

“Entrepreneurship will be a core driver in solidifying a sustainable economy, and Hub71 will be central to this goal,” says Jida Itani, Hub71 COO. “Hub71 has designed new programs to service and attract larger scale tech companies and support their growth out of Abu Dhabi.

“Founded on the basis of partnerships, the ecosystem ensures the availability of investments, commercial activities and incentives from the private and public sector.”

Hub71 is part of Abu Dhabi’s wider push to help companies flourish in a global tech ecosystem where the government has consistently introduced frameworks that create attractive incentives and an innovative share structure. This is reflected in the government’s latest move to introduce a SPAC regulatory framework, developed by ADX and Abu Dhabi’s Department of Economic Development (ADDED). The framework provides sponsors with a seamless and efficient process to take companies public, and in turn will lengthen the capital runway for Hub71 startups to pursue an initial public offering (IPO) and exit over the longer term.

Pandemic response

During the pandemic, Hub71 remained a hub of opportunity. In the past 18 months, Hub71 has more than doubled its number of startups, and those startups have reported a doubling in venture capital investment and 35% increase in annual revenue since joining. The number of venture capital (VC) partners has more than doubled since the start of the pandemic: there are now 19 investors, from early-stage investors to larger ticket opportunities, investing a total of USD 2bn.

“This past year, Hub71 has seen significant progress with an intensified focus on strategic projects that promote partnerships between the public and private sectors,” Itani explains.

“We have ramped up approximately AED 1.4 bn investment into startups. Our startups also generated revenue of approximately AED 368 m in 2021, and our community is home to global tech startups and funds with assets under management exceeding USD 2 bn. Over the past year, we have continued to attract more startups at different stages of growth, including a USD 1 bn valued India-based startup to Hub71.

“In doing so, the exceptional and visionary talent that is choosing Abu Dhabi as its home is accelerating the emirate as a business hub that inspires future generations.”

To date, Hub71 has now accepted 129 startups onto its incentive programme, and its ability to thrive – even in the most challenging market conditions – has demonstrated its powerful spirit of learning, adapting and innovating.

New opportunities

“As the UAE enters its next 50 years, we have moved quickly to build a strong pipeline of startups in sectors of strategic importance, like FinTech, AI, software development and HealthTech,” says Itani. “We always look for partnerships and programs that remove burdens on startups. Our partnerships have allowed us to position Abu Dhabi as an appealing market for outlier startups worldwide, allowing them to scale their business and access the market.”

Hub71’s Community Centre of Excellence is a recent new initiative. Launched in September 2021, the centre represents the first time Hub71 has opened its doors for non-incentivised startups and partners. It will deliver annual events and touchpoints with the aim to accelerate market access, talent hire and fundraising.

Events will include Women of Hub71, which promotes female entrepreneurship and women in tech. The centre aims to source high-quality global tech startups to drive further collaboration and establish Abu Dhabi as a leading global tech hub.

Other outstanding opportunities for startups include the Ventures Lab.

“Ventures Lab is the venture-building program by Hub71 and Modus Capital, designed to co-create startups,” Itani explains. “Founders can gain funding from Modus’ USD 80m venture capital fund and increase market access to Abu Dhabi.

“The program is already demonstrating its impact, accepting at least 16 founders per year, and having invested USD 225,000 in seven companies.”

The Outliers, Hub71’s flagship incentive programme, has recently launched another cohort of innovative startups, Itani explains: “The Outliers in an annual initiative led by Hub71 in partnership with leading multinational corporate partners and government agencies. It is designed to solve real industry challenges and enable startups and tech companies to access the market.”

Announced in October, 2021’s winners received up to AED 100,000 in cash grants to develop their POCs. The program seeks global technologies to solve pressing corporate and government challenges, posed by partners including Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), Department of Health Abu Dhabi (DoH) and Etihad Airways.

ADCB selected UAE-based Genify, an AI specialist for banks, to provide a state-of-the-art transformer-based recommendation engine. Alliance Car Technologies has been selected by the DoH to deploy its S3 ACT solution which includes AI applications for early warning pathogen detection, data extraction, pattern recognition and predictive analytics.

Onward development

Hub71 continues to expand its influence. In a recent MoU, signed in November 2021, Hub71 and the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) committed to amplify culture and tourism through technological development. This is part of the DCT’s existing vision to use digital transformation to enhance customer experiences.

The DCT will set up a presence in Hub71, and Hub71 will help identify and collaborate with startups to advance tourism. “This partnership with Hub71 will enable us to widen the net of potential startups we could collaborate with, maximising our capacity to find the right solution that will work for our emirate as we promote the destination both locally and internationally,” said Saeed Al Fazari, executive director for the support services sector of the DCT.

The DCT will also take part in The Outliers programme. This partnership will give the DCT access to a broad pipeline for startups, both regionally and globally – and it is just part of Hub71’s continued drive for innovation.

“To continue attracting the world’s leading tech ventures, we are transitioning from an incentives-based approach to a value creation focused strategy,” says Itani. “We are also going to double down our efforts in attracting more investors to our capital community and collaborating with them. This will further enhance our VC pool of partners and continue to create the ideal environment for startups to grow and raise capital.

“Our sights are set on attracting the highest quality startups in leading tech markets around the globe by establishing communities of founders who are engaged with Abu Dhabi’s burgeoning innovation ecosystem, no matter where they are based.”

Discover the wide range of Hub71 programmes and incentives on offer to help innovative global startups shape the future. Click here.