The UAE and Israel accelerated their cooperation in the startup space by hosting a virtual event that sought to further leverage the capabilities of not only each other, but also from entrepreneurs around the world.
Over 100 participants from the UAE, Israel, Pakistan, India, the United States and other countries joined a first-of-its-kind joint event hosted by the Dubai and Israel chapters of Startup Grind, a community made up of over 3.5 million members worldwide that opens opportunities through business connections.
Dr Saeed Al Dhaheri, chairman of the board of Dubai’s Smartworld, and Dr Erel Margalit, one of Israel’s most high-profile startup entrepreneurs, were among the speakers at the event.
Dr Margalit recently led a high-level delegation of Israeli tech CEOs to Dubai in which they met with ministers, investors, customers and local entrepreneurs. The virtual gathering was a natural continuation of the conversations, having met the entrepreneurs from Startup Grind Dubai.
“Through the Startup Grind ecosystem, we are excited to foster the building of relationships between those on different coasts,” Dubai Chapter leader Damu Winston said.
“This connection builds bridges between our chapters and opens opportunities for our community members,” Israel chapter Shahar Matorin added.
Dr Margalit — the founder of the Jerusalem Venture Partners Fund and chairman of Margalit Startup City — said hopes to work together and facilitate regional opportunities.
“Entrepreneurs will be creating the bridges, with the large things that Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the UAE in general want to achieve,” he said in a statement to Khaleej Times. The startup ecosystem can play a huge part in building the bridge between these two countries, and “this is not just about business; it is about building something together”.
The two shared their visions of new hubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, creating centres of excellence in line with the Margalit StartupCity model of creating theme-based ecosystems worldwide and the UAE strategy to lead the next industrial revolution. An AI-themed innovation hub as well as a centre focused on foodtech were also tackled.
Dr Al Dhaheri is confident that the UAE can work closely with Israel, with the commonalities between the two economies. “Israel is one of the top 10 startup ecosystems in the world; this normalisation [of bilateral ties] will bring opportunities for us both.”
Dr Al Dhaheri, a leading member of UAE academia, also stressed the importance of strengthening research and development.
“We need to strengthen our relationship in the R&D space; we need to capitalise on it and link it to the industry,” he added.
Covid-19 has also emphasised the importance of localisation for the UAE, “Food security has been identified as a priority for the UAE, which is looking at local startups as well as from Israel for solutions in this field,” Dr Al Dhaheri pointed out.
With the Margalit Startup City Centers of Excellence already successful across Israel and New York City, Dr Margalit shared his vision of a UAE hub as “a concertation of a variety of Israeli and international companies building bridges of innovation in the region”.
Meanwhile, Dr Sara Al Madani, co-founder and CEO of the fashion industry’s HalaHi, advised young entrepreneurs trying to take advantage of so many new and exciting opportunities, to be cautious.
“Taking calculated risks, staying focused and making the best use of their time is key. Innovation is an ecosystem; you take something that exists and create a better version,” she added.
Events to be staged at the DWTC, comprising diverse sectors including construction, energy, technology, beauty, food, healthcare, environment and automotive, will mark the emirate’s post-pandemic economic recovery