Will a new startup accelerator focused on supply chain and logistics take off in Dubai?

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These days, it seems incubators and accelerators are popping up everywhere in the Arab world, especially in the UAE.

One of the latest to launch has an unusual approach. Turn8, a 12 month-long acceleration program, is supported by DP World, one of the largest marine terminal operators in the world, which is headquartered in Dubai, owned by the government of Dubai, and operates more than 60 terminals across six continents. i360accelerator, a Dubai-based innovation management consultancy, joins as a partner.

At first glance, the relevant connection between a port operator and entrepreneurship acceleration might not be obvious, but Yousif Al Mutawa, DP World’s Chief Information Officer, thinks otherwise. “At DP, innovation has always been one of our core values. We realized that change is happening so quickly around us that we’ve got to be part of it.”

Over 12 months, Turn8 will enter three stages: sourcing ideas, incubating startups, and then bringing those startups on a roadshow. “To get to the brightest ideas, you need to tap to as many brains as possible,” says Al Mutawa. “Working in a closed community does not really work.” Candidates can apply online from anywhere, but must relocate to Dubai for acceleration.

In each wave of acceleration, Turn8 will select 10 ideas and invest $US 24,000 USD to help founding teams design, build, and launch a prototype during a “Rapid Fire” Business Modeling phase, as I360 provides coaching and mentorship.

After startups graduate from the 4 month acceleration, Turn8 takes them on a roadshow to expose them to partners and investors.

To source applicants, the accelerator has launched a series of “Innov-a-thon” pitch events around the globe. After events in Dubai and Cairo last year, the accelerator will continue to Singapore, Kuala Lampur, Kiev, Minsk, San Francisco, Ankara, Warsaw and Bucharest this year, holding the next Innov-a-thon in Dubai on July 25th.

Turn8’s first round of startups will, naturally, focus on ideas in sectors that support marine port operation, including transportation, logistics, environment, health and safety, travel, and supply chain-related ideas, although the accelerator will expand its scope in upcoming rounds, says Al Mutawa.

Again, one may wonder: why is a port interested in launching a startup accelerator? Yet in many ways, it makes sense if the accelerator model is going to have broader impact; not all entrepreneurship is web or hi-tech based, and innovation in transportation, logistics and supply-chain is also essential for supporting regional economies.

Government has also played a large role in inspiring DP World to launch Turn8, says Al Mutawa. “There’s a big drive from the leadership to foster the [entrepreneurship] ecosystem in UAE.”

He also hopes the accelerator can foster broader knowledge about how to secure IP. “There’s a lot of focus here [in UAE] on infrastructure, facilities and offices, but there is a lack of content and right use of knowledge to introduce intellectual property.”

For more on Turn8, see the videos below:

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