Global incubator 1776 announces Dubai location

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The number of startups coming out of the UAE is on the rise closely followed by coworking spaces, incubators and accelerators. The latest addition of which is Washington DC-based incubator 1776.

While 1776 is the first ever US-based incubator to physically set up up in the UAE, the Dubai campus will be their first outside of the US.

Three months into conducting the 1776 regional Challenge Cup in the Emirate, they've announced they will launch a Dubai campus at Jumeirah Emirates Tower later this year. The campus will eventually move into the ambitiously named Museum of the Future once it opens.

1776 in Washington DC
1776 in Washington DC - a model for Dubai?(Images via 1776)

So why come to Dubai? According to 1776 they want to build a global coalition of highly scalable startups solving the world’s most critical problems in education, energy, health and cities.

For the Foundation’s CEO Saif Al Aleeli, 1776’s goals are in alignment with theirs, adding that "the track record, history, and network 1776 has will help us attract those companies, which are outside the UAE and focusing on the strategic sectors of our interest to base themselves here.

But why Dubai? The idea is to build a 'global coalition' of highly scalable startups solving the world’s most critical problems in education, energy, health and cities.

For the Foundation’s CEO Saif Al Aleeli, 1776’s goals are in alignment with theirs, adding that "the track record, history, and network 1776 has will help us attract those companies, which are outside the UAE and focusing on the strategic sectors of our interest to base themselves here.

Evan Burfield and His Excellency Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi,
Minister of Cabinet Affairs and future and vice chairman
and managing director of Dubai Future Foundation.

Since its founding in 2013, 1776 CEO and cofounder Evan Burfield said his team’s focus had been about connecting all the startups in the world that were tackling “these essential human needs”.

"We look at [the partnership] in two directions,”  Burfield told Wamda. “How does building a strong business in Dubai allow the startups in the Middle East and North Africa region to get access to mentorship, expertise, markets and capital all around the world?” Equally, how could 1776 bring startups from outside the region to join in?

A diplomatic beginning

Dubai’s relationship with 1776 began in 2014 when the UAE’s embassy in the US reached out to the incubator.

“A US-based global incubator being set up in my country is just one of many mutually beneficial partnerships between the US and UAE,” said Ruba Al Hassan, senior advisor to the UAE Ambassador to the US. "The more bridges we build, the easier and more advantageous it is for entrepreneurs and startups in our region to collaborate with other like-minded innovators from around the world." 

Ned Jaroudi, now senior advisor to 1776, was part of a UAE delegation that visited 1776's main Washington, DC campus in 2015. As the plans for the Dubai campus solidified, Jaroudi said partnering with other accelerators and incubators in the region would be an essential part of the campus’s programming

“The incubators and accelerators across the UAE and the region have helped institutionalize the startup scene [here],” he said. "The idea of setting up a presence is to firmly put Dubai and the UAE on the map of entrepreneurship worldwide."

To make those partnerships happen, 1776 has built a global platform where a startup from anywhere in the region can become a member and gain access to educational resources and a network of mentors, experts, and investors.

President Obama sharing wisdom, no doubt, at 1776 in Washington - can we expect such figureheads in Dubai?

In March, 1776 received a $7.2 million investment from a group of global investors to expand operations.

“There’s a special moment in time happening now,” Burfield said. According to the cofounder the big investments coming up are going to be in “complex nasty regulated sectors” such as water and transportation infrastructure among others and 1776 has “a unique playbook around that”.

He added this trend would be a global one and the nature of the platforms which support this kind of innovation was also changing.

Beyond cool

For Al Hassan housing 1776 in the Dubai Museum of the Future was “beyond [just] cool”. It could also be argued as further proof of a commitment between the UAE government and the incubator.

“In a region that has seen so much conflict, this is a bright spark of hope and optimism. This is the future for the youth in our region, where they get to create their own jobs and be part of an amazing technology-advanced future we are creating in the UAE,” she said.

Ruba Al Hassan at the UAE Embassy in the US
Ruba Al Hassan, senior advisor to the UAE Ambassador to the US.

1776 will also take on an advisory role alongside the government as it builds a regulatory framework that enables entrepreneurship.

“Everyone in the entrepreneurship and incubator scene in Dubai and the UAE knows that there are some areas that need to be further developed when it comes to the rules and regulations,” said Al Aleeli. For the CEO, the ideal outcome of such a partnership would be a “cohesive alignment” between startups, entrepreneurs and the private sector, noting that the Foundation would also need the same group to "to be more active in executing the government’s vision [of the future]".

“We’re coming because we think there are entrepreneurs in the MENA region that are coming to Dubai that have the potential to build global champion startups,” Burfield said. “We want people to think boldly like that…so people can say there are startups that came to Dubai, scaled up in Dubai, and have not just changed the MENA region, but have changed the world.”

 

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