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November was a busy month for Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Centre (Dtec), a tech startup hub developed by Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA), the regulatory body for Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO).
Following its four-year-long tradition, Dtec again hosted its annual Entrepreneur Day event, bringing together over 400 attendees and 80 exhibiting startups. The two-day event featured a packed agenda of thought sessions and panel discussions that covered a range of topics, including investment in MENA startups, growing e-commerce trends, design thinking, among other relevant subjects. The prominent stakeholders of the country’s ecosystem also didn’t hesitate to show their support- the event’s headline speakers included Walid Mansour, Partner and Chief Investment Officer at MEVP, Sirish Kumar, co-founder and CEO of Telr, Promoth Manghat, CEO of UAE Exchange, Haytham El Maayergi, Global Head of Transaction Banking at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Wissam Younane, CEO of BNC Publishing, and others.
Hans Henrik Christensen, Director of Dtec, welcoming guests at Dtec's Entrepreneur Day. Dtec
To Hans Henrik Christensen, Director of Dtec, however, the success of the fourth edition of Dtec’s Entrepreneur Day came as no surprise. “Our Entrepreneur Day has emerged as the leading regional entrepreneurial event for technology startups,” he says. “The technology ecosystem [here] is growing, and Entrepreneur Day is growing along with it by supporting and nurturing it. It is an event that packs optimism and encouragement, and works to position Dubai among the top 20 cities in the world that support startups and innovation.” As grandiose as this vision may seem, it surely looks to be achievable given how the Dtec team has put in place a strategic plan of action, and is making sure to implement it every single day. Christensen joined DSOA more than five years ago, bringing to Dtec his vast entrepreneurial experience- he founded and ran two technology companies in South America for five years, before serving as the Director of the Siemens Information Communications Networks’ incubator in Munich, Germany, and then joining the team of Shahla Abdul Razak Bastaki, Deputy CEO at DSOA, to structure and establish this DSOA initiative as a leading regional incubator in the technology space. This familiarity with the needs of startup founders has enabled him to understand that creating valuable connections is crucial for young businesses. “We want to offer entrepreneurs and investors a sandbox where they can interact and drive innovation forward, and Entrepreneur Day is the fertile ground where businesses and individuals can exchange views and best practices, acquire new knowledge, and keep themselves updated with the changes sweeping the dynamic tech landscape,” Christensen explains. “In addition, we also hope, through hosting this annual event, to allow promising tech startups to find inves- tors ready to fund their ventures. It is about connecting, mentally and literally, in the broadest sense. Given its great potential to make a difference, we see endless possibilities to expand this event. And, I believe I speak for all our members at Dtec, when I say that the community atmosphere that per- vaded at this year’s recently-concluded Entrepreneur Day was a key highlight. We witnessed a significant number of first-time interactions and the participation of several newcomers at the event, although several attendees and participants knew one another and did business together already. I think it is safe to say that Entrepreneur Day is now among the leading regional events for startup technology companies with ambitions to soar.”
Shahla Abdul Razak Bastaki, Deputy CEO at DSOA, guests at Dtec's Entrepreneur Day. Dtec
Dtec itself, Christensen adds, has become more than just a co-working space. “It has emerged as an entrepreneurial ecosystem in its own right, a fertile ground for technology and digital Islamic Economy entrepreneurs from around the world to establish their businesses and take them to the next level of growth,” he says. “Dtec was conceptualized as part of DSOA’s mandate to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. The center’s rapid and sustainable growth testifies to its solid business model and enabling strategy of providing much-needed support for technology startups and entrepreneurs.” Under Abdul Bastaki’s and Christensen’s watchful eyes, Dtec has Hans Henrik Christensen, Director of Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Centre (Dtec) grown to host over 800 startups from 70 countries around the world today, maintaining a consistent upward growth trajectory. For example, this year, it recorded a significant 13% increase of startups finding their home at the center, when compared to 2016 when it housed 650 startups. Yet, Christensen is not keen on resting on these laurels. He explains that, as demands and requirements alter in the ever-changing tech landscape, the Dtec team looks at adopting a strategy of sustained innovation and disruption to stay relevant. “In the early days of Dtec, as is often the case with new entities, the focus was on our competition and how to be a unique value proposition,” Christensen explains. “Dtec has evolved into an organic hub where companies engage and work in synergy to achieve mutual goals. Due to these successful business collaborations, Dtec has developed an ecosystem which is differentiated for its special support to technopreneurs through launching special accelerators, such as Dubai Smart City Accelerator and Intelak Accelerator that specializes in aviation and travel tech.”
He adds that the team is committed to consistently enhancing the services offered to entrepreneurs registered at Dtec. Towards this priority, DSOA has dedicated a total area of 5,000 square meters for entrepreneurs. In addition, they have also set internal goals to incorporate additional accelerators and labs that focus on different corporate innovations. “Dtec is effortlessly playing a key role in positioning Dubai among the top 20 global cities that foster entrepreneurship,” Christensen says. “Hosting startups focused on artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain and digital transformation, Dtec is instrumental in leading the digitalization of Dubai’s corporate and government entities. The World Competitiveness Center report 2017, compiled by Professor Arturo Bris of IMD in Lausanne, notched up Dubai five places this year, partially due to the hundreds of technology companies driving the digital transformation of Dubai out of Dtec. However, we can perfect what Dtec does today, through boosting the scope and scale of its offering. Realistically, there are promising investment opportunities for venture capital funding. Our work is cut out for us quite clearly, but we will take it step by step. First, through focusing on the entrepreneurs and meeting their needs. We are optimistic that our efforts will lead to several of these startup companies progressing, and entering the next growth stage, as well as expanding internationally.”
For the record, the realization of Dtec’s vision for the future is something we at Entrepreneur Middle East are eagerly looking forward to- and yes, it cannot come fast enough. Carpe diem, entrepreneurs!
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