Does the UAE stack up as a tech start-up hub?

With a growing talent network, more VC interest, a higher global profile and bankruptcy legislation, author of 'Start-up Rising' and GITEX Future Starts moderator, Chris Schroeder says that the UAE has all the key ingredients in place.
Chris Schroeder will be moderating several panels at GITEX Future Stars between 8-12th October 2017 at Dubai World Trade Centre
By Kay Marham
Wed 04 Oct 2017 04:26 PM

You’re down to moderate a panel about artificial intelligence at GITEX Future Stars. Do you think that the UAE can emerge as a hotbed for AI innovation?

Three things are in favour for Dubai and the UAE as a hub for any innovation in the Middle East and other growth markets. The country continues to show signs of audacious shifts in the rule of law to make innovation and investment in AI ever easier and more reliable.

There is a real network effect of talent in both the UAE and Dubai - the best from the region come here, which attracts more of the best.

Dubai in particular is a hub of start-ups that are creating unique data sets solving unique and large problems that are ripe for machine learning.

A lack of AI skills, both in the region and globally is a massive hurdle to creating artificial intelligence-based start-ups. How can local entrepreneurs surmount such issues?

Some will partner with existing AI enterprises, as they do with Amazon or Google or Microsoft for cloud capabilities. Others may build companies globally, leveraging the best talent they can find. But I hope that young people are focusing a great deal on the basic skills for this inevitable future. MENA is no farther behind than most emerging growth markets, but it will take commitment.

Do you think smaller e-commerce start-ups have a chance of success after the arrival of the e-commerce global heavyweight?

I think in really tight niches of passion and expertise for sure, though the strong ones will be good acquisition targets to the large players.

Access to capital remains a major challenge for local start-ups. How has the local VC market in the region grown since your last appearance at GITEX?

I think $500 million to $1 billion in new capital may have be raised focused on MENA alone, with latitude to invest in other growth markets. Remember one third of the world’s population - and the rising one third - is a six-hour plane ride from Dubai. More money will come and success will breed success.

Chris Schroeder will be moderating several panels at GITEX Future Stars between 8-12th October 2017 at Dubai World Trade Centre

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