SMEs: Abu Dhabi supports entrepreneurs on every part of their SME journey
From germinating ideas to funding and market access, Abu Dhabi supports entrepreneurs on every part of their SME journey.
Agrowing global hub for entrepreneurship, Abu Dhabi is constantly strengthening and expanding its support network for SMES, assisting fledgling companies every step of the way along the road to success. Among the latest developments in the SME sector, early-stage founders can now benefit from a new partnership between Abu Dhabi’s global tech ecosystem Hub71 and New York firm Modus Capital. They’ve joined forces to launch Ventures Lab – the first venture builder programme in the UAE.
Ventures Lab will support early-stage founders from around the world to develop successful and scalable start-ups from Abu Dhabi.
Offering assistance at a grassroots level, Ventures Lab will help founders test and validate ideas and concepts, build Minimum Viable Products (MVPS) and take products to market.
“Through Ventures Lab, we will enable more founders to lead viable tech companies, attract new companies and investment to Abu Dhabi while supporting the nation’s future generation of entrepreneurs to shape the nation’s future digital-based economy,” said Nader Museitif, Head of Products and Business Development at Hub71.
Each year, a minimum of 16 founders will be selected to join the nine-month Ventures Lab
“WE’RE EXCITED TO BE SUPPORTING AND FOSTERING ENTREPRENEURSHIP THROUGH OUR PARTNERSHIP WITH HUB71, WITH NOT JUST CAPITAL BUT ALSO THE EXPERTISE AND HANDS-ON OPERATIONAL AND TAILORED GUIDANCE THAT START-UPS ARE IN NEED OF IN THE EARLY STAGES”
KAREEM ELSIRAFY, MANAGING PARTNER, MODUS CAPITAL
programme following a joint selection process carried out by Hub71, Modus and other industry experts. The selection panel will be looking for founders who stand out as much as their business plans.
Founders who make the cut will receive expert guidance from Modus’ experienced team across a wide range of business issues – from tailored hand-in-hand venture building support to business strategy, fundraising preparedness and product growth management. Furthermore, each venture will benefit from up to $450,000 worth of funding and in-kind resources from the Modus Venture Builder.
While founders at the early stages of developing a concept or prototype in any sector are invited to apply for the Ventures Lab programme, preference will be given to fintech, healthtech, edtech and direct-to-consumer start-ups. Female entrepreneurs and UAE nationals are encouraged to apply.
Completing the Ventures Lab programme will open doors to Hub71’s Incentive Programme, where fledgling firms will continue to have access to operational support and incentives. Graduating founders will also gain access to Hub71’s 17-strong pool of venture capital funds and an $80 million Modus MENA Venture Fund.
“From ideation to exit, our partnership with Modus will deliver more than access to Hub71,” said Mr. Museitif, outlining that strategic planners, coders, marketing experts and tech developers would all be on hand to help the selected start-ups commercialise their products and secure capital.
“We look forward to working closely with Modus and delivering an enabling programme that creates impactful homegrown tech startups in the heart of Abu Dhabi,” he added.
Kareem Elsirafy, Managing Partner at Modus Capital, commented: “We’re excited to be supporting and fostering entrepreneurship through our partnership with Hub71, with not just capital but also the expertise and hands-on operational and tailored guidance that start-ups are in need of in the early stages.”
Within the vibrant tech ecosystem, 10 existing Hub71 start-ups recently won cash grants – totalling over AED10 million – from Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) after impressing an ADIO panel during a Demo Day. The cash injections, which will allow the start-ups to accelerate growth, form part of ADIO’S Innovation Programme with Hub71.
“We are committed to supporting tech startups by leveraging the network of partners that back our mission and strive to provide opportunities to access funding or grants,” said Ibrahim Ajami, Interim Chief Executive Officer at Hub71 and Head of Ventures and Growth, Mubadala Investment Company. “Capital is an instrumental enabler that unlocks our startups’ growth.”
The winning companies on Demo Day included fintech company Denarii Cash, a remittance app allowing seamless foreign exchange transfers focused on the remittance market for migrants and SMES, healthtech platform Doctorsae, which provides care solutions through technology, and Sensgreen, an Internet of Things platform converting existing buildings into healthier and more efficient environments.
“Partnering with ADIO on their Innovation Programme reinforces the shared efforts that Abu Dhabi is delivering to double down on start-up success,” said Mr. Ajami. “We are proud of our close collaboration with ADIO and look forward to seeing more success stories from the start-up community we are helping grow.”
Start-ups from around the world also had until 1st July to apply for Hub71’s Outliers Programme – an annual initiative calling for start-ups to develop the boldest ideas to solve real life operational challenges for some of Abu Dhabi’s leading corporations and government entities.
“This year, Mastercard, Etihad Airways, Thales, ADCB, Mashreq Bank and the Department of Health Abu Dhabi have each set problem statements and will engage directly with entrepreneurs to develop proof of concepts that have strong potential to commercialise and go-tomarket,” according to state news agency WAM.
Successful start-ups under the Outliers Programme will gain access to funding worth up to AED100,000 for proof of concepts, plus potential partnership contracts and the chance to join Hub71.
“It is initiatives like these that clearly showcase the benefits of public-private partnerships that is
a staple within the unique environment of Abu Dhabi,” added Mr. Ajami.
Elsewhere, Emirates Development Bank (EDB) recently allocated AED30 million to finance SMES through Beehive – the UAE’S first peer-to-peer platform offering funding options for SMES. Under the move, Beehive will facilitate business loans to creditworthy SMES looking to expand operations or improve working capital. Beehive uses crowdfunding technology to connect SMES looking for finance with a crowd of investors who can support their finance request.
“The collaboration with Beehive is part of our mission to bridge the funding gap by offering SMES greater and easier access to financial sources,” said Ahmed Mohamed Al Naqbi, CEO of EDB. “Through our combined efforts, we look forward to strengthening the SME ecosystem and supporting the UAE’S goals to build a robust knowledge-based economy.”
Craig Moore, Beehive Founder and CEO, said: “The addition of institutional investors to Beehive will give SMES more secure financing and better liquidity on the platform, which means that funding can be received faster too.”
The announcement follows EDB’S strategic pledge to support SMES, start-ups and large corporates across five priority sectors including manufacturing, healthcare, infrastructure, food security and technology over the next five years.
EDB also plans to launch a AED1 billion investment fund for start-ups and SMES in 2022, as the UAE looks to boost the sector’s contribution to the country’s non-oil GDP to over 70%.