Tech investments to spike as UAE-Israel cooperation steps up
Covid has been the fastest accelerator for innovation in recent years
Investors have a lot of spare capacity available and are expected to invest even more this year given stronger aspects in a number of areas, particularly in the technology space.
And the adapdability of innovation in any situation will become a major reason investors and entrepreneurs will be collaborating for more business prospects, a top official at a major Israeli startup enabler believes.
“Covid has been the fastest accelerator for innovation in recent years, [with] a large proportion of innovation is about going digital,” Meir Valman, director of research at Start-Up Nation Central (SNC), told Khaleej Times in an interview.
“While the pandemic restricted movement to a very small area, it led to the realisation that today customers can be reached just as easily in distant locations as close ones and by utilising the latest technology, this represents the chance to reach a wider market and not a reduced one.”
SNC is a non-profit group that helps tackle global challenges by connecting Israeli tech with multinationals, governments, investors and non-governmental organisations. In January, Israel’s ecosystem set records as its tech companies raised the highest-ever amount in a month, including the most mega-rounds for the same time frame with over $100 million.
Fintech paying off
The subsector within fintech that has benefited the most from the pandemic is payments. Valman says small and medium businesses need to make more electronic payments available to clients, and is a big opportunity for those in the UAE.
“This is very relevant for all the companies operating from the UAE. Anti-fraud solutions have also become more critical as more people migrate to using apps or banking online. Enterprise solutions have become very important as companies do more and more work online both internally and externally including financial aspects,” he added.
Israeli startups, Valman says, consistently look for partnerships with corporates. The connection between entities from the UAE and Israel helps entrepreneurs from the latter deepen their understanding of the former’s business and innovation culture.
Furthermore, a number of the UAE’s strategic challenges, Valman added, resonates well with Israeli capabilities, including in the sectors of agri-food, water and digital healthcare, among many others, in addition with horizontal tech such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
“In that sense,” he points out, “the two countries can learn a lot from each other and gain great value.”
Like the rest of the world, Israeli tech had to get used to working under new conditions of remote work and remote selling. What they did particularly well, Valman points out, was to adapt quickly to this new reality in terms of implementing new work practices, interacting with clients and hiring more people when necessary.
“We can help existing corporates create or improve their digital offerings in order to be able to compete with other corporates who are currently more advanced in this area or with startups who are by nature more focused on digital solutions because they are new,” he said.
The UAE — a central player within the region and a distribution centre for the Middle East and North Africa — can boost visibility and accessibility of Israeli tech, he stressed.
This is also a reason why there has been constant communication between UAE and Israel business leaders across a variety of industries.
In fact, SNC, he says, has “great partners” in the UAE and is constantly looking to expand its network to drive and promote the UAE-Israel relations through innovation.
In December, SNC, along with startup accelerators Nobex Technologies, Hybrid and Fusion LA, announced the launch of the UAE-IL Tech Zone, a first-of-its-kind community aimed at connecting the innovation-technology-business ecosystem in Israel and its UAE counterparts.
It was founded by Hybrid managing director Noa Gastfreund, Fusion LA co-founder Guy Katsovich and Nobex CEO Basil Farraj. It already has over 1,000 people in the business, innovation and technology sectors, plus investors, developers and government entities from both countries.
“We’re certain that this unique and exciting agreement will, and already does, result in business alliances and cooperations,” Valman added.
“The outlook is very strong. Demand in many sectors has picked up... and we are ready to fulfill this demand.”
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