In a series of webinars aimed at helping tech founders make the most out of setting up or expanding a business in Abu Dhabi, Hub71 (the UAE capital’s tech ecosystem) completed the latest webinar earlier this month. The topic? Abu Dhabi Decoded: Your Community Awaits.
Held in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED), the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO), and Ghadan 21, the most recent webinar brought together top thought leaders in education, entrepreneurship and business.
Moderated by Dan Murphy, Middle East correspondent at CNBC International, the speakers’ panel included Professor Eric Xing, president of Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence; Ruba Yousef Al Hassan, Executive Director of Ghadan 21 at Abu Dhabi Executive Office, and Hanan Harhara Al Yafei, CEO of Hub71.
While many startup founders will already have staff in mind when they come to Abu Dhabi, an important factor that many mention in conversations with Hub71 is access to talent and how important it is to be the kind of place that the best talent flocks to – but also, how to develop that talent from within.
“In order to attract the brightest and boldest thinkers and to sustain Abu Dhabi’s position as a centre of tech innovation, there is an emphasis on world-class education and research and development – the kind that promotes science, technology, and engineering – so that we’re creating the next generation of innovators and deepening the pool of talent,” comments Al Yafei.
Murphy kicked the conversation up a notch by asking about Abu Dhabi and more precisely, Hub71’s key differentiators, by asking the panel: “The UAE has worked hard to be an economy that derives its wealth from knowledge rather than fossil fuels – and in that arena, it’s still the only country in the world that has an AI Minister so this is clearly still a major national focus. However, the competition is increasing in the region; what can Hub71 offer, that other regional tech ecosystems can’t?”
Ruba Yousef Al Hassan of Ghandan 21, Abu Dhabi’s economic accelerator program, replied, “At the end of the day, organisations, tech startups, companies, are made of people. People come to live in certain cities because of a lifestyle. People come to Abu Dhabi because it’s one of the safest city to live in, it’s a great place for families, a great place to raise your kids. Also, the Hub71 ecosystem was crafted with the help of the best in the world, whether that’s Silicon Valley or MIT – and we didn’t just emulate it, we really enhanced it for our context.
“So what you really get out of coming to Abu Dhabi is the lifestyle, because yes, you can work from anywhere. But Abu Dhabi offers instant [business] licenses and remote business licenses. So if you can work from anywhere, the question becomes about where you want to raise your kids, where you want to build your business, and retire. This is what Abu Dhabi can offer you. A safe environment where the lifestyle is beautiful, easy, and conducive to building inclusive communities. And I think that’s going to be what cities are going to have to compete on in the post-Covid world.”
What about the education system and whether it’s offering tech entrepreneurs the best talent?
Professor Xing had this to say: “Innovation and technological advancement competition is unlike a sports competition where we have only one winner and everybody else loses. In a sense, all the participants are winners because the goal is not to win a gold medal, the goal is to achieve advancements and developments. The spirit of competition is healthy for fast-tracking and facilitating new ideas and developments.
“I think [with Abu Dhabi] coming in as a new player can give a huge advantage in the sense that we can really best position the resources with priority. With the support and wise guidance from the national strategies and priorities, we can achieve more of our goals in a much more economical and effective fashion. So we have the opportunity to build a new program that is made of difficult design which is the most important area in the vastness of AI. We are focusing on key strategic areas which are machine learning, computer vision, and natural language processing, which are fundamental to all implications and other capabilities,” he concludes.