In Abu Dhabi, it’s Plug and Play for investing

Abu Dhabi is supporting the establishment, growth and attraction of tech startups to the UAE and region. — File photo
Abu Dhabi is supporting the establishment, growth and attraction of tech startups to the UAE and region. — File photo
Babak Ahmadzadeh, managing director of Plug and Play Abu Dhabi.
Babak Ahmadzadeh, managing director of Plug and Play Abu Dhabi.

Dubai - Plug and Play is one of the world’s most active venture capital investors with over 200 investments every year into innovative early-stage companies.



by

Sandhya D'Mello

Published: Sat 7 Aug 2021, 12:55 AM

Last updated: Fri 20 Aug 2021, 1:43 PM

Abu Dhabi is emerging as the regional powerhouse and vibrant hub for tech entrepreneurs and venture capital, said Babak Ahmadzadeh, managing director of Plug and Play Abu Dhabi.

Plug and Play, a global innovation platform headquartered in Silicon Valley with its GCC headquarters based in the UAE Capital, is bolstering regional growth by nurturing a closely-knit ecosystem laying a strong foundation for an ambitious startup looking for the quickest, most cost-effective, and seamless journey to scale.

Ahmadzadeh said: “Abu Dhabi is doing so many things right to positively support the establishment, growth and attraction of tech startups to the UAE and region. Above all, especially over the last two years, there is a great deal of more alignment and coordination of different initiatives and policies across the private and public sector here in Abu Dhabi to enable business, investment, and talent development for tech startups and scaleups.”

Abu Dhabi is more connected within and far beyond the emirate. This is the longer-term critical component to enable those valuable collisions of bright minds, ideas and access to wider business and investment opportunities across industries, borders and stages of a startup’s growth journey. Since its inception in 2006, startups from Plug and Play’s independent venture capital arm have raised over $9 billion in funding, with over a dozen successful unicorn portfolio exits.

The Abu Dhabi office was launched early 2018 to support the Capital in innovating the fintech sector and is currently still expanding the healthcare sector.

Plug and Play is currently running its second HealthTech programme with corporate partners such as the Department of Health, Daman, United Eastern Medical Services, the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO), Etisalat Digital and Philips.

Ahmadzadeh said: “For example, let’s say you are a fintech startup founder, headquartered in the UK and you are seeking regional growth opportunities. You have incredible local and regional B2B and B2C business channels to explore in Abu Dhabi and far beyond these borders. Things like the ADGM Digital Lab make it much easier to have your solution accessible and supported through potential regulatory barriers. Establishment fees are super competitive with many freezone, on-shore, and dual-licensing options. Hub71, a beautiful co-working space and tech ecosystem enabler on Al Maryah Island Abu Dhabi, offers an incredible incentive package to offset commercial, residential, and health insurance costs. Entities like ADIO can also help your in-country expenditures and investments go further through their rebates to further catalyse your innovative efforts.”

In February 2021, the Hub71 startups community passed the 100 mark providing an estimate of 200 Million AED in incentives and 15 million in closed deals. Abu Dhabi Holding’s DisruptAD launch in March 2021 is a new and bold initiative targeting to support more than 1,000 startups over the next five years through investment, incubators, accelerators and more. Last year saw Abu Dhabi Global Market increase its number of registered licenses to 3,211, with assets under management totalling $85 billion, a 193 per cent year-on-year increase.

The HCT Startup Development Programme established 108 startups and engaged 2,316 students since launching in 2019. Just last month, ADIO and the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority announced a partnership that will provide support for startups developing technology to address challenges facing the next generation. The Abu Dhabi Investment Office is providing Dh15 million over three years to fund ECA’s Anjal Z programme that seeks to embed innovation in Abu Dhabi’s education sector.

“The UAE just announced the Golden Visa programme for 100,000 global coders inviting tech talent to live, prosper and create value in the country. Along with Expo 2020, Dubai is inviting the world to experience life in the UAE with the objective of bringing in additional talent from around the world to live in the UAE. These new initiatives will reel in foreign investors and talent, and is expected to generate additional value for existing businesses in the UAE. In turn, this will generate new opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs to launch innovative businesses across several key sectors such as healthcare, supply chain, finance, real estate and others,” added Ahmadzadeh.

“In the short-term, we expect to see an increase in the total funds raised for startups across all stages and a meaningful increase in late-stage/growth-stage funding for existing startups across the MENA region. We just saw Softbank leading its first investment in the UAE as part of a $415 million round and increasing interest from global Tier 1 Venture Capital firms to invest in the region.”

Plug and Play is one of the world’s most active venture capital investors with over 200 investments every year into innovative early-stage companies.

“We are always seeking new opportunities to invest in early-stage companies across the region. We often look for ambitious founders targeting global problems. We are founder-first and look extensively at founders prior experience and their ability to communicate their strategies clearly and effectively. A key indicator is our founders understand their early customer acquisition strategy and are able to execute on their vision,” said Ahmadzadeh.

“We invest in product-ready companies up to the Series A stage and prefer to see some form of early traction but have also invested in pre-revenue companies across the region. We are sector agnostic and aim to support our portfolio companies with international expansion once they begin seeking opportunities outside of their HQ market.” — sandhya@khaleejtimes.com


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