The next three to five years will be “transformative” for the region’s startups and Dubai will be the centre of entrepreneurship, innovation and investment, industry leaders at STEP Conference said. Speakers also confirmed that Dubai will be among the best destinations in the world for innovation, investment and growth within the next five years as startups fuel growth.
Homegrown UAE success stories such as Souq and Careem, the first unicorn company in the Middle East, have created the belief that the region offers some of the best opportunities for startups and entrepreneurs to thrive.
Thousands of technology enthusiasts, investors, venture capitalists, startups and entrepreneurs visited Dubai Internet City for STEP Conference, running from 11 to 12 February. The region’s biggest tech festival attracted key figures including His Excellency Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation, Hany Aly, Executive Vice President Enterprise Business of du and Tim Chen, Vice President at MSA Capital.
His Royal Highness Mohammed K. A. Al‐Faisal, President & CEO of Al Faisaliah Group Holding, who was speaking in Dubai Internet City at the region’s largest tech festival, STEP Conference, was among the prominent figures who praised the region’s startup ecosystem during a panel announcing the launch of Nuwa Capital’s fund which Al Faisaliah group is investing in. The Fund is headed by Khaled Talhouni and is targeting up to USD$ 100 million in commitments.
Ammar Al Malik, Managing Director of Dubai Internet City, said: “With more than 1,600 companies employing over 25,000 people, Dubai Internet City is the largest technology ecosystem in the Middle East – and we are only getting bigger. The convergence of startups and venture capitalists at STEP Conference is set to create new growth opportunities within our ecosystem, stimulating the UAE’s knowledge-based economy and cementing our position as the region’s leading hub for tech and talent.”
Ray Dargham, Co-Founder & CEO at STEP, added: “STEP Conference is now in its ninth year and has grown to become the largest tech festival in Dubai for emerging markets with four conferences, 300 global startups, hundreds of investors and thousands of attendees. STEP has become an icon of Dubai as a startup hub with the support of our community and partners – especially Dubai Internet City. Our success reflects the remarkable growth of the region’s startups, entrepreneurs and innovators, and as the home of the first unicorn in the Middle East.”
Floating Pitch by Dubai Internet City and In5
Hundreds of homegrown and international startups had an opportunity to present their ideas, attract investment and gain exposure to consumers and potential business partners in Dubai during the two-day event.
Close to 150 entries were received for Dubai Internet City’s inaugural startup competition Floating Pitch. Close to 100 entrepreneurs were shortlisted to pitch their business idea to leading international companies and institutions including Qualcomm, Roland Berger, Sky News Arabia, Eureeca and New York University Abu Dhabi onboard the Floating Pitch boat. Three winners will be announced on 13 February and the trio of victors will walk away with cash and in5 membership or business setup support.
Dubai Internet City’s status as the Middle East’s leading hub for talent and technology was further reinforced by startup incubator In5, which showcased 10 homegrown startups that work across e-commerce, healthcare, logistics and retail during the tech festival.
Carriyo, an automated shipping platform to make the last mile customer journey simpler for online retailers that works with Aramex, DHL and UPS was part of the line-up. Witsense, which produces sensory objects for people with or without disabilities, and won the Tech for Good challenge at GITEX Future Stars 2019, was also on the list.
They were joined by Qafila, a cargo shipments traceability tracker working with Emirates SkyCargo, Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines and Maersk, ScootQ, an app-based self-checkout solution that personalises shopping to revitalise retail, and SmartMentor, a peer-to-peer learning and mentorship platform for individuals and organisations to get personal or professional guidance, advice and support.
Rounding up the list was Hey Doc!, a healthcare communications and technology platform dedicated to connecting patients with the right medical consultants, Azaad Health, an online HIPAA-compliant medical analytics platform that allows healthcare providers and patients to share medical information, Nejma, a digital content platform, and Events Hub Middle East, a platform to select event venues, catering menus, compare prices, and complete payments.
All 10 are part of TECOM Group’s startup incubator in5. The incubator boasts more than 200 active startups under its umbrella across technology, media and design, and has helped members raise more than AED 400 million since its launch in 2013.
Global venture capitalists represented by the Kauffman Fellows are due to visit Dubai Internet City and STEP Conference on 12 February. The investors control assets worth more than US$38 billion and selected Dubai as the first city in the Middle East and North Africa to host its four-day summit, which TECOM Group sponsored, to explore investment opportunities.
The Middle East has a thriving startup economy with Dubai and the wider UAE setting the pace for digital transformation across artificial intelligence, fintech, digital health and other disruptive sectors. Dubai Internet City is the region’s specialised technology hub, with more than 1,600 tech companies and 25,000 professionals who work side by side in a collaborative ecosystem that features multiple retail outlets, restaurants, and hotels.