Gothams helps accelerate the future of space engineering

11th December 2020 (Last Updated December 11th, 2020 13:59)

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Gothams helps accelerate the future of space engineering

There aren’t many companies with a description as intergalactically intriguing as “we are a force accelerator”, but if anyone can claim it without being accused of exaggeration, it is indeed aerospace and defence force accelerator, startup enabler and consultancy firm Gothams.

Founded in Austin, Texas in 2018, Gothams’ purpose is to help the aerospace and defence sectors to progress, particularly when it comes to digital transformation, emerging technologies and hiring and training the best people – including the industry’s best and brightest women.

The future of space travel in the UAE

While the UAE and its capital Abu Dhabi may not spring immediately to mind for aerospace engineering, the ambitious Gulf nation is giving Cape Canaveral a run for its money – literally. The UAE has one of the largest markets in the world when it comes to aerospace investment, with the government recently declaring the industry one of its strategic focus sectors. Putting that in figures, the UAE has invested 13.3 per cent of its GDP ($47.4 billion) in the aviation sector, with $5.4 billion of that going toward aerospace technologies.

Elodie Robin-Guillerm, Gothams’ project director, spoke with Verdict about the future of aerospace and how her company is helping take the industry into infinity and beyond.

“We have experts and advisors across government, military, business, and technology,” she explains via Zoom, “and we use them to provide consultation to established businesses. But we also assist in scaling early-stage tech startups and help them engage within the global aerospace, aviation, and defence industry through a 12-week work program in our Abu Dhabi facilities.”

Gothams is part of Abu Dhabi’s rapid-growth tech ecosystem, Hub71, which works with tech business owners to help accelerate development via its incentive programme, as well as facilitating partnerships and mentorships with heavy hitters such as Mastercard, Mubadala Investment Company, Microsoft and Techstars.

Accelerating startups

As part of its work as a startup accelerator, Gothams hosts demo days, connects startup owners with Silicon Valley and Abu Dhabi investors and offers $120,000 in investment for startups taking part in its 12-week programme. In 2019, the programme had 99 applicants and chose four, providing them with not only investment, but also 150 hours of direct mentoring from world-renowned leaders in aerospace and defence. All four startups (US-based Natilus, Palestine-founded Red Crow Intelligence, US-based Precious Payload and UK-based EarthX) made the move to Abu Dhabi early this year.

The 2020 cohort saw a welcome change in constituents: a large number of female tech startup owners in defence, aerospace and aviation. Lest some think this egalitarian progress is the result of affirmative action, Robin-Guillerm says it happened simply and without intervention.

The French native, who began her career more than 15 years ago with Airbus, makes no secret of the fact that her industry is a male-dominated one. But why did the shift happen?

“I think for two reasons: one, because we want to make sure that the startups we choose [for the accelerator programme] are forward-thinking, that they’re bringing new ideas and breakthrough technologies into the industry. And this year, those really innovative companies just happen to be owned by women.

“The second thing is the open-mindedness of the Gothams team and of the UAE generally and the fact that we are one of the only programmes in the world that offers what we do. And women in the industry are a little bit unique, just like us.”

The 2020 cohort comprises eight startups: one from the UAE, six from Europe and one from Canada. And, says Robin-Guillerm, due to the UAE’s excellent response to the pandemic and falling infection rates, all of the business owners are keen to move themselves and their families to the UAE to begin bringing their breakthrough technologies into the next stage.

“In addition to this year’s cohort being 70% female, we also have really interesting solutions and businesses coming from Eastern European countries, which is wonderful. So really, Gothams, the UAE, Hub71 – we are all breaking these stereotypes, pushing the boundaries and saying, ‘What is it you want to do? Ok, let’s do it.’”

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How Abu Dhabi is attracting top tech startups from across the world

Named after the UAE’s formation in 1971, Hub71 is a tech ecosystem located in Abu Dhabi that brings together several key elements for startup success: access to capital, access to market opportunities, access to talent and a favourable business environment.

Hub71 has unique selling points that have made investors and entrepreneurs worldwide take note. Its rapid growth is one proof of its success and within 12 months of launch, it has had 348 applications from startup founders in 47 different countries, showing how much demand there is for holistic tech ecosystems that support startups in their early stages.

With 75 startups in its vibrant ecosystem today, Hub71 has introduced new programs for startups, corporations and investors. Being sector-agnostic has meant that healthtech startups rub shoulders with big data companies, with cross-sector innovation and transferrable skills shared ad hoc or more formally, via webinars and meetings.

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