UAE, Israel join forces to boost startup opportunities

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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The UAE and Israel expedited their partnership in the startup sector by hosting a virtual event that explored the ways to utilize the abilities of not only each other but also of entrepreneurs around the world.

The first of its kind joint event was hosted by the Dubai and Israel chapters of Startup Grind and over 100 participants from around the world including UAE, Israel, Pakistan, India the United States participated in the program.

Startup Grind is a global startup community with more than 3.5 million members worldwide which helps in creating opportunities through business connections.

The speakers at the event were Dr. Saeed Al Dhaheri, Chairman of the Board of Dubai’s Smartworld, and Dr. Erel Margalit, the founder of the Jerusalem Venture Partners Fund and president of Margalit Startup City.

Recently, Dr. Margalit led a high-level committee of Israeli technology CEOs to Dubai to meet with ministers, investors, clients and local entrepreneurs. The virtual meeting was a natural continuation of the talks after having met with the Startup Grind Dubai entrepreneurs.

Damu Winston, Dubai Chapter leader said, “Through the Startup Grind ecosystem, we are excited to foster the building of relationships between those on different coasts.”

Shahar Matorin of Israel chapter stated, “This connection builds bridges between our chapters and opens opportunities for our community members.”

Dr. Erel Margalit
Dr. Erel Margalit
Margalit Startup City

“We hope to work unitedly and aid regional opportunities. Entrepreneurs will be creating the bridges, with the large things that Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the UAE, in general, want to achieve. The startup ecosystem can play a huge part in building the bridge between these two countries, and this is not just about business; it is about building something together.”

The two shared their ideas for new centers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, creating cores of excellence following the Margalit StartupCity model of building theme-based ecosystems worldwide and the UAE tactics to drive the next industrial revolution.

Dr. Al Dhaheri said he is confident “that the UAE can work closely with Israel, with the commonalities between the two economies. Israel is one of the top 10 startup ecosystems in the world; this normalization [of bilateral ties] will bring opportunities for us both.”

The importance of improving research and development was also emphasized by Dr. Al Dhaheri, who is a leading member of UAE academia. “We need to strengthen our relationship in the R&D space; we need to capitalize on it and link it to the industry,” he added.

Dr. Al Dhaheri pointed out that COVID-19 also highlighted the importance of localization in the UAE, “Food security has been identified as a priority for the UAE, which is looking at local startups as well as those from Israel for solutions in this field.”

With the already successful Margalit Startup City Centers of Excellence across Israel and New York City, Dr. Margalit expressed his idea of a UAE hub as “a concertation of a variety of Israeli and international companies building bridges of innovation in the region.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Sara Al Madani, co-founder and CEO of HalaHi, the entertainment agency in Dubai, urged young entrepreneurs to be cautious but take advantage of so many latest and interesting opportunities nevertheless.

“Taking calculated risks, staying focused and making the best use of their time is key. Innovation is an ecosystem, you take something that exists and create a better version,” she concluded.