Funding for start-ups at Abu Dhabi's Hub71 hit $1.22bn at the end of 2022

The tech ecosystem has helped companies generate Dh3bn in revenue and create 900 jobs

Ahmad Alwan, deputy chief executive of Hub71, at the technology centre's Impact event for start-ups in Abu Dhabi on Monday. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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Start-ups at Hub71, Abu Dhabi's global technology system, have raised nearly Dh4.5 billion ($1.22 billion) in funding globally until the end of 2022, as its company and investor bases continued to grow, its deputy chief executive has said.

The figure, which is up more than 40 per cent from the Dh3.2 billion that was raised until the third quarter of 2022, also helped start-ups generate Dh3 billion in revenue at the end of last year, up 20 per cent from the end of the third quarter, Ahmad Alwan told The National in an interview.

Hub71 more than doubled its start-up numbers to over 200 last year, securing 41 deals with corporate partners worth Dh160 million, Mr Alwan said.

More than 900 jobs have been created since Hub71's inception, he added.

“We believe that we are on the map when it comes to the technology landscape. There are a lot of initiatives that exist within Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE that we can further build on to continue positioning and amplifying Abu Dhabi as a global technology hub and ecosystem," Mr Alwan said ahead of Hub71's Impact event, which was held in Abu Dhabi earlier this week.

“The ultimate objective is to build and develop tech companies out of Abu Dhabi. Our target is to continue to grow our funding figures and to see start-ups that are able to raise a significant amount of funding,” he said.

“The way we do that is we continue to liaise with our investor partners that are seriously and actively exploring the opportunity within the Hub71 and Abu Dhabi start-up ecosystem and channelling that.”

Hub71's role is part of a broader strategy by the UAE government to promote entrepreneurship across all sectors. The Emirates aims to become “the entrepreneurial nation by 2031", according to the Ministry of Economy.

The country also aims to be home to 20 unicorns — or start-ups with a valuation of $1 billion and above — by then, Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq said during the launch of the Entrepreneurial Nation 2.0 programme last October.

Worldwide start-ups are booming as they take on the challenges of developing solutions for a world that is becoming increasingly digital in key sectors such as retail, services and commerce.

The value created by start-ups globally is about $3 trillion, which is almost on par with the gross domestic product of a G7 economy, according to advisory company Startup Genome.

Funding for these companies set a record in 2021 when it hit $621 billion, according to CB Insights.

In December, Hub71 announced that its start-ups had collectively raised $1 billion.

“We brought in investor, corporate, talent, government and regulatory partners, all to contribute to building an ecosystem that helps start-ups grow,” Mr Alwan said.

Hub71's start-ups currently cater to more than 20 industries, according to its website.

Among the sectors it plans to focus on further are financial technology and its digital asset subsets, health, education, transport, logistics, travel climate and food, he said.

There are a lot of initiatives that exist within Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE that we can further build on to continue positioning and amplifying Abu Dhabi as a global technology hub and ecosystem
Ahmad Alwan, deputy chief executive of Hub71

The development of the digital asset space is to be reinforced with emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and blockchain, Mr Alwan said.

“We have planned to create specialised ecosystems. We started off with digital assets, but on our trajectory is to build specialised ecosystems around each of these subsectors,” he added.

“We have identified this in line with the government's objectives … we continue to see the importance of these to help accelerate the adoption of technology and support the growth of this space.”

Abu Dhabi is the “driving force” behind the growth of several start-ups that are “pushing the boundaries”, said Badr Al Olama, acting chief executive of Hub71.

“Abu Dhabi has arrived at the intersection of transformation and innovation … we are now solidifying the impact we generate on a global scale by doubling down on breakthrough technologies that are poised to make game-changing impact,” he said.

Updated: March 23, 2023, 6:53 AM