Global VCs bullish on Expo2020 Dubai


Global VCs bullish on Expo2020 Dubai
The UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020.

Published: Mon 16 Sep 2019, 6:01 PM

Last updated: Tue 17 Sep 2019, 12:30 AM

The UAE will accelerate its efforts more aggressively in the coming months to welcome talents from across the globe as it intends to offer its innovative entrepreneurial test-bed for its startup ecosystem, and for global startups to expand in the region.
The Expo2020 Dubai will be a great platform for exchanging and sharing knowledge, which will pave the way for various avenues to innovation in the tech world.
Global accelerators, venture capitalists, and mentors are already in the region scouting for the best deals and enthusiastic to be part of the UAE's historic growth. US-based 500 Startups - a venture capital firm with presence in 74 countries - is very optimistic that the Expo 2020 Dubai mega event will bring leaders and innovators from around the world to the heart of the emirate, creating an immense opportunity for cross-pollination and serendipity in the region.
Courtney Powell, chief operating officer, 500Startups, said: "The UAE startup ecosystem is rapidly accelerating. I've met fantastic founders building exciting businesses whose impact will be felt even beyond the UAE. I've also had the privilege of meeting leaders in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and it's clear that there's support for making the UAE a world leader in tech and innovation are at the highest levels."
500 Startups has invested in over 2,300 companies worldwide, approximately 150 of which are from the Mena region, and 30 plus investments in Dubai alone. As the most active early stage venture capital firm in the world, as reported by Pitchbook.
"We know the market well and are excited about investing further in the region and collaborating with premier partners in the UAE to see even greater success," said Powell. "500 Startups does not look at the UAE as simply a place to invest in from afar. We have deep partnerships here. Abu Dhabi Financial Group is an anchor investor in our flagship global fund which invests in the top companies from our 14 regional funds around the world. Over the next few months, we're scouting for the best locations and partnerships in the region to further increase our on-the-ground presence and get even more involved with the ecosystem."
Another global accelerator Techstars with a network of 1,600 companies with a market cap of $17 billion under Techstars accelerator portfolio has already consolidated its operations in Dubai.
Vijay Tirathrai, managing director, Techstars, said: "The Expo will be a stimulus for innovation, and opportunity for start-ups looking for inspiration and potential for collaboration with nations around the world. It also will help start-ups forming smart partnerships with larger corporations and governmental agencies to showcase their technologies for to demonstrate proof of concept."
The UAE is now a vibrant start-up ecosystem with an increased number of accelerators and corporate innovation programmes being launched. For instance Techstars, has just launched its second accelerator at Hub71 in Abu Dhabi.
"In the UAE we have seen an all time number of deals and funding valuations raised by start-ups thus far in 2019. The crowning moment in UAE has also seen a historic liquidation event with the $3 billion Careem deal. This augurs well for budding entrepreneurs who have become more confident of both local investor community and increasingly foreign interests in UAE start-ups," said Tirathrai.
Techstars is launching their second accelerator programme in UAE which will commence in January 2020 at the Hub71 in Abu Dhabi. Backed by Mubadala Investment company, the programme will have a broad sector interest, such as ICT, energy, healthcare, petrochemicals, cyber security for example. Start-ups which uses AI, Machine Learning, Blockchain, IOT, Robotics, and AR/VR technological use cases will be of interest. Techstars aims to make 10 new investments by January 2020.
In terms of funding, Magnitt reported that 2018 saw a record number of 366 startup deals across the Mena region with the UAE accounting for the biggest share of funding (70 per cent of the total funding). The UAE remained the largest recipient of startup funding in the first half of 2019 with 26 per cent of the total number of deals and 66 per cent of the total investment amount in Mena. Around 130 institutions invested in Mena-based startups in H1 2019, up 30 per cent from H1 2018. In addition, 30 per cent of them came from outside the Mena region.
Walid Hanna, founder and CEO, Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP), said: "With its supportive environment and world-class infrastructure, the UAE has developed the most advanced tech ecosystem in the Mena region and attracted a favorable concentration of entrepreneurs, angel investors, incubators, accelerators and VC funds.With the large investments taking place recently, the pace and size of exits has also accelerated compared to previous periods with Souq, Careem, Namshi and others."
The Expo 2020 will inevitably draw attention to the startup ecosystem in Dubai and the UAE as a whole. The event is expected to bring in 25 million visitors and startups will therefore get access to a large number of organisations which will be attending Expo2020 - this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for sourcing global clients and business partners. In addition, there will be initiatives that incentivize innovation under the umbrella of the global summit such as Expo Live, a $100 million initiative that will deploy a combination of grants, challenge prizes and knowledge-sharing events focused on the universal drivers of progress.


Sandhya D'Mello

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Courtney Powell, chief operating officer, 500Startups.
Courtney Powell, chief operating officer, 500Startups.
Vijay Tirathrai, managing director, Techstars.
Vijay Tirathrai, managing director, Techstars.

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