From L to R: Flat6Labs CEO Ramez Mohamed, Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi Managing Director Nina Curley, and twofour54's Issa Aghabi.
Hoping to continue its run launching promising startups throughout the region, today Flat6Labs is launching a digital-focused accelerator in Abu Dhabi, with a particular emphasis on media startups. This emphasis aligns with the emirate’s increasing recent attempts to lure media companies and startups to set up shop on Abu Dhabi soil.
Beyond the digital aspect, the new Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi will differ from its counterparts in Cairo and Jeddah in at least one important way, said Managing Director (and Wamda alumna) Nina Curley on a Monday call. “We're building it as a global hub,” Curley said, “supporting entrepreneurs from both the UAE and abroad to launch in Abu Dhabi, and then scale back out to the global market,” as opposed to entrepreneurs from just one national sphere.
Of special interest to the Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi team are entrepreneurs from emerging markets, including India, Pakistan, East Africa, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia, in addition to those from the UAE and surrounding GCC countries.
Selected companies – of which there will be 10 per cycle, at the rate of two cycles per year – will receive $30,000 - $50,000 in seed funding. The money comes on top of connections to mentors, office space and other perks, as well as trainings and workshops “designed to get entrepreneurs into the right mindset to understand the science of creating a business,” explained Curley. In exchange, Flat6Labs will take a 10-15% equity stake in each company.
twofour54's Abu Dhabi block.
But investment is just one way in which Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi seeks to support the burgeoning Emirati startup ecosystem, Curley stressed. “We’re also developing auxiliary programs to support the development of local talent alongside the existing accelerator program; these will involve training for students, offer support for employees to explore their business ideas, support for existing local companies.” This seems to be not only an attempt to create more fertile ground for Flat6 Abu Dhabi companies once they graduate, but to build up the ecosystem for the sake of general enrichment and diversification as well.
Abu Dhabi might have a (partially justified) reputation of being Dubai’s slightly less glamorous little sister, but the emirate is working to attract business to help build its industry. “The support of an organization like twofour54” – with all its attendant services and clients, including Ubisoft and Creative Lab – “makes Abu Dhabi a unique ecosystem for setting up a businesses,” Curley said. Twofour54, an investment vehicle and media and entertainment hub, is backed financially and materially by the Abu Dhabi government.
The government has also recently debuted a special entrepreneur visa, whereby people looking to set up a business can do so without having physical office space, which can be hard to come by in the expensive emirate.
Since its inception in 2011, Flat6Labs has accelerated more than 57 companies in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with more than 160 entrepreneurs attending its program. These companies have created more than 400 jobs in both countries, and more than half have secured follow-on funding from over 40 investors across the globe.
Successful companies that have been accelerated in Cairo include Integreight, a hardware company specializing in Arduino shields, which raised over $85,000 on Kickstarter, Nafham, a free educational video platform linked to Egypt's public curriculum with 2 million page views per month, and InstaBug, an app that allows users to shake their device to report bugs with any other app.
Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi began accepting applications this week for its first cycle, set to begin in February. Click here for more information or to submit your company.