Exclusive: UAE-Israeli tech innovation is set to take off


Dr Erel Margalit during his meetings with UAE companies in Dubai.-Supplied photo
Dr Erel Margalit during his meetings with UAE companies in Dubai.-Supplied photo

Dubai - The connections that have been fostered are seen to be a springboard that will make business relations leap further.

By Alvin Cabral

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Published: Tue 27 Oct 2020, 8:26 PM

Last updated: Wed 28 Oct 2020, 9:54 AM

A high-level delegation of Israeli technology leaders is in the UAE for the first time as they aim to foster business relations, and the person spearheading them is keen to ensure that the partnerships that would result from this endeavour will be for the greater good.

“Entrepreneurs will be creating the bridges, with the large things that Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the UAE in general want to achieve,” Dr Erel Margalit said.

“And we would like to help with… what is pretty much in line with what we do best.”

Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri and Dr Erel Margalit during their meeting in Dubai on Tuesday.-Supplied photo
Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri and Dr Erel Margalit during their meeting in Dubai on Tuesday.-Supplied photo

Dr Margalit — the founder of the Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) Fund and chairman of Margalit Startup City, was speaking to Khaleej Times during his visit to the UAE this week in which he spearheaded a delegation of several CEOs keen to lay the foundations for business between the two nations.

Their first stop was Dubai, where they had meetings with several businesses and entrepreneurs on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Dr Margalit met Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, UAE Minister of State for Food and Water Security.

Although admitting they “don’t know enough” of the UAE business scene — largely being on the outside looking in before the UAE and Israel normalised relations on September 15— their packed schedule saw Dr Margalit and Co get their first up-close-and-personal glimpse of it, coming away impressed and calling it “successful”.

“Interesting, understands technology,” he said of the companies they’d met. “We’re interested in investing and meeting entrepreneurs not only for receiving investments and selling; we want to meet interesting people, interesting entrepreneurs.”

Some of the early deals tackled involved cybersecurity for banks, financial institutions and other companies that need protection; artificial intelligence for a variety of industries, smart agriculture and food security, among several others.

Israel had also recently normalised ties with Bahrain; Dr Margalit says the delegation would be flying there “soon” as there has also been “big interest to build an innovation hub” in the kingdom.

Significant impact

Dr Margalit says a number of the UAE investors they met joined them for some investments in startups.

Asked on which sectors would benefit in the short term, Dr Margalit rattled off financial tech, insurance tech, smart agriculture and healthcare IT, among others, as those that they would be very much interested in, all of which have far-reaching benefits and blends well with their philosophy.

“What I like about some of the leading businesses [in the UAE] is that they’re not only interested in doing business, but they’re also doing something that is significant that has an impact, which is what we like; this is how we work,” he stressed.

Dr Margalit cited the JVP International Cyber Center in New York City as a prime example of their intentions: It benefits both sides of the fence as it is a big social entrepreneurial project as well as a business entrepreneurial project.

Another Margalit-backed innovation centre is in Jerusalem, which is the largest project of its kind in Israel, which caters to critical sectors such as cybersecurity and food technology.

“The reason why we have such a large delegation here is that many people are very interested and very much looking forward both on a personal level and a business level and excited to build relationships and to turn it into something that’s real. This is really the content of peace after the politicians are signing the agreement.”

So, now that they have begun creating ties in the UAE, the next step is determining what is it the UAE is interested in doing and how Israel can tap into it and create a centre of excellence for it, he said.

He added that the UAE, having that advantage thanks to its reputation as a gateway for trade and business, has what can be called convincing power: Any decision by any entity to offer a service in the country would be relied upon and seen as a reference for the region.

Leadership amid Covid

Dr Margalit also gave his thoughts on the current Covid-19 pandemic, which mainly involves a fusion of already-large undertakings into something bigger and more effective.

“Countries need to reevaluate their medical strategies — from large hospitals and medical centres to a combination of centralised medical care and distributed medical care at the home and from afar,” he explained.

That will require healthcare IT — “IT needs to marry healthcare, he says — which would give the ability the ability to monitor patients at their home and to do testing and evaluation from afar. As a result, there’s going to be new investments for telemedicine, remote medicine, home care and diagnostics.

He also touched on the new normal when it comes to working, and what companies must keep in mind to cope up with changing, if not unpredictable times.

“Covid requires a new paradigm between what’s an office and what’s a home. You need the connectivity and performance of the networks, as well as the security and integrity, as well as the ability to share information, is requiring a new technology paradigm shift where home and office need to blend virtually if they cannot blend physically,” he says.

The pandemic has also tested leaderships around the globe. Recovery would be painful and slow, but he challenged all to be more proactive despite the crisis.

“Every city in the world needs a restart because of Covid. How much international business you do with a certain city depends on the energy that city generates after the crisis,” Dr Margalit said.

“Leaders are not created when there’s a high tide; they’re created when there’s a crisis. Those who are moving forward, doing things despite Covid, who are connecting and embarking on initiatives, will be the ones that will be standing there and doing interesting things.”

— alvin@khaleejtimes.com

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