Noor Sweid, general partner at Global Ventures, says that Dubai has a number of advantages over other global and regional innovation hubs
The UAE’s – particularly Dubai’s – access and understanding of nearby emerging markets makes it a “natural hub” for technology and innovation with a number of potential advantages over more established hubs in the west, according to Noor Sweid, general partner at Dubai-based Global Ventures.
Speaking to ITP Chairman Andrew Neil at the Arabian Business Forum in Dubai on Monday, Sweid – who was formerly chief investment officer at the Dubai Future Foundation and was founder of Leap Ventures, a Dubai-based growth-stage VC firm – said that she believes the same traits that made Dubai competitive on a global level in the real estate and tourism sectors make it an attractive hub for innovation.
“[That is] its geolocation and its ability to attract talent. Within a six hour flight you have about three billion people, and that talent comes here to create things,” she said. “Right now what they are creating is technology.”
Although in some ways, Dubai may still lag behind markets such as Silicon Valley or Singapore, Sweid said that the emirate is unique in that “we have access and understanding of emerging markets.”
“I don’t think anyone in Silicon Valley is scratching their heads thinking about how to solve emerging market problems,” she said. “We’re seeing an increasing amount of emerging market solutions to emerging market problems. We all know that the next wave of growth, the next billion, is coming from emerging markets.”
Sweid noted, however, that Dubai’s status as an innovation hub faces stiff competition from other locations including Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The most successful hub, she added, will likely be the one that is able to attract the necessary talent.
“In some areas there is a skills shortage. Some of our entrepreneurs have said it’s hard to fight the right people at the right price,” she said. “I also think there is more of a training shortage than a skills shortage. I think a lot of people have high skills and high potential and it’s about getting them into a place where they can actually grow that. There’s a lack of job mentorship.”
At the moment though, Sweid said that the UAE remains ahead of its regional peers in terms of being a potential relocation destination for talented employees.
“If you ask anyone if they’d rather live in Dubai or most places in the region, the consensus comes to Dubai,” she added. “The one who will win is the one that can attract talent. It’s a people game. It’s a talent game.”