Smart Dubai's Dubai Pulse Platform Lets Startups Take The Lead With Data

For any entrepreneur wanting to change the game, data is the topmost indicator of potential startup success.

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“I’m an idiot,” Dharmesh Shah wrote on his blog in 2012.


His confession came two years before his startup, cloud-based, inbound marketing software company HubSpot, raised US$125 million through its listing at a valuation of $759 million in 2014.

“I’m an idiot,” the MIT graduate, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of HubSpot admitted. “Not all of the time, mind you, not even most of the time, but every now and then, I’m an idiot. Like the time my friend and co-founder Brian Halligan asked me to read the book Moneyball. This was back when we had first launched our startup, HubSpot. ‘But, I’m not a baseball guy,’ I said. ‘It’s not about baseball. It’s about data.’ And, I put it on my reading list, and then still failed to read it. I even bought the book, but still failed to read it That was a mistake.”

The best-selling 2003 book by Michael Lewis –and later a film starting Brad Pitt– recounts how Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, changed the sport with data analytics by using computer analysis to identify undervalued players. The lesson from Shah here is, for any entrepreneur wanting to change the game, data is the topmost indicator of potential startup success.

And no one recognizes this better than Dubai.

In 2017, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, announced the Dubai Pulse platform, calling it the “backbone of Dubai’s transformation and shift towards smart technologies,” ordering all government departments to begin populating the platform with their data.

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Launched by Smart Dubai in partnership with du, today, Dubai Pulse is a one-stop open data shop with more than 420 open and shared data sets from 35 different government entities, that can help companies build business cases, validate new ideas, and make city-level data-driven decisions that give organizations a better chance of success.

Smart Dubai’s Dubai Pulse data platform publishes data sets about the city’s traffic, transport, the economy, social welfare, healthcare, and education, among others.

“Data is at the core of any smart city transformation,” said H.E. Younus Al Nasser, Assistant Director General, Smart Dubai and CEO, Smart Dubai Data.

“We recognize and acknowledge that data is not only important for the government, but equally important for both existing businesses and startups considering setting up operations in Dubai, which is why in 2017 we launched Dubai Pulse.

“Entrepreneurs could potentially use data from Dubai Pulse to help with their market research, business plans and pitches, as well as to identify new business opportunities and predict market trends. Whether it blockchain, artificial intelligence or IoT (internet of things), to ensure they are fed with the right processing rules, we need data first.”

Government entities that have already provided data to the Dubai Pulse platform include Dubai Municipality, Dubai Customs, Dubai Health Authority, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dubai Land Department and the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.

Featuring more than 2,000 datasets, Dubai Pulse’s platform provides different ways of visualizing and exploring the Emirate’s data from various sources across the city, with insights generated through interactive displays.

For example, data views from utilities and bills can help find which areas of Dubai are more likely to see people moving out early, showing high activity, rather than more likely to stay and settle for longer periods, showing high stability.

Meanwhile, public transport ridership data from the Roads and Transport Authority can help identify which areas of Dubai host the most ridership traffic for different types of public transport, and how these patterns vary over time.

Users can create their own dynamic and personalised dashboards through the Dubai Pulse portal.

“Individuals and businesses, not just locally but around the world, can access various economic, environmental and transactional data through Dubai Pulse to help them make more informed decisions,” Al Nasser adds.

In addition, Smart Dubai has also launched the Data First challenge to increase the city’s data availability, support and improve compliance, to support Smart Dubai in improving the ecosystem.

“With recently launching the Data First challenge, we are now trying to accelerate Dubai government and semi-government entities’ compliance to the Dubai Data Law by 50%, which means the number and types of data sets available on Dubai Pulse will continue increasing making this a valuable go-to resource for any individual or business looking at this market,” Al Nasser says.

Ultimately, he adds, data-driven decisions can help both the public and private sector become more customer-focused and more competitive.

As HH Sheikh Hamdan said back in 2017: “Throughout history, information has been key to our lives as human beings, allowing us to communicate with others -be they individuals or communities. Today, in the era of Big Data, it is essential to have a central platform to house all of the government’s data- a platform that taps into the potential of artificial intelligence to spread happiness among people. This is the only option for countries that want to remain relevant and build infrastructure that meets the needs of the future.”

And if you ever need a reminder about having faith in the power of data, HubSpot’s Shah insists, watch Moneyball.

This article was originally published on Dubai Startup Hub and has been reposted on Entrepreneur Middle East based on a mutual agreement between the websites.

Related: Dubai Startup Hub's Startup Panorama Edition 5.0: Shaping Entrepreneurs Of The Future

Megha Merani

Written By

Megha Merani is an independent journalist with more than 10 years of newspaper, magazine and web reporting experience in the United Arab Emirates, writing hard news, investigative reports, features and opinion pieces. Her passion for storytelling coupled with a proven instinct for identifying talkgenerating issues has resulted in breaking stories and insightful features that have made local, regional and international headlines. Her work has been published across Thomson Reuters, Zawya, Bloomberg Middle East, Gulf News, former local daily 7DAYS, and government publications.