Plug and Play (PNP), one of the world’s largest global innovation platforms, and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), the International Financial Centre in Abu Dhabi, announced that May 3, will be the go-live date for its fintech innovation program for Abu Dhabi and the wider Middle East and North Africa region. The partners also announced the launch of the ‘Plug and Play ADGM’ office on Al Maryah Island.
The Plug and Play ADGM program will be available in Q3 2018 and will focus on accelerating fintech innovators and startups that have solutions that address the needs of the capital markets in this region.
Said Omeed Mehrinfar, managing partner at Plug and Play EMEA told Wamda that PNP is the largest innovation platform and the most active VC in the world, with accelerators supporting over 260 Fortune 500 sized corporate partners across 28 locations globally. “On their Ventures Arm, Plug and Play invested in 262 startups globally in 2017 alone. Some partners of Plug and Play include: BNP Paribas, AIG, Deutsche Bank, Mercedes Benz, Porsche, Bosche, MUFG, Panasonic to name a few.”
This initiative with ADGM, which consists of one acceleration class per year, will serve as a strategic platform that connects the Plug and Play ADGM corporate partners to fintech startups under its program. The platform will enjoy the advantages of ADGM’s internationally-aligned fintech infrastructure and initiatives, such as the ADGM Fintech Innovation Centre, the ADGM Regulatory Laboratory, and ADGM’s network of local and global institutions, Fintech bridges, and industry partners.
The Plug and Play ADGM team will focus on developing and enabling fintech startups to be market-ready and able to efficiently operate within a regulatory framework in Abu Dhabi and in the region.
Asking him about specializing in fintech, Mehrinfar explained that financial services in the MENA region is ripe for transformation. “The MENA region has begun to deploy incredible resources from the public and private sectors into empowering fintechs and digital transformation with banks and other financial institutions. When it comes to the local fintech players, there are some fantastic solutions such as Bridg payments and BitOasis,” he said. But according to him, the general local startup market is still in its early stages from reaching its full potential. “We feel that by enabling local fintech entrepreneurs to gain access to our international programs and resources, and providing them exposure to international financial talent, will bring a pool of knowledge and know-how that local entrepreneurs and corporates can leverage to further enhance the regional scene.”
PNP has been meeting with all the innovation leaders to understand their current innovation strategies in further detail and how far along in achieving their long-term KPIs they've come. “Based on the feedback we've been getting, we will be tailoring the accelerator program for different corporates based on whether their immediate focus is: a) Education/cultural transformation oriented b) Pilot/Proof of concept oriented c) Investment oriented,” he added.
The platform has also intentions to expand its fields of interest. Mehrinfar revealed that part of their longer term strategy is to evaluate expanding into other accelerator verticals, such as healthcare, transportation, and smart city, as well as additional professional practices and services.
As for investment opportunities, “PNP will evaluate and look to invest into startups from the region that are accepted into the fintech accelerator program, or will look to invest and empower regional entrepreneurs across other industries to continue expanding on their current portfolio of startups, while applying their winning strategic practices in Abu Dhabi and the region,” Mehrinfar added.
Speaking about the challenges that may be faced, PNP is expecting issues when it comes to adapting foreign startups to the local regulatory environment in addition to the language barriers that may arise, as well as encountering foreign work-cultures and attitudes.
However, Mehrinfar revealed that unlike in “Europe and the US, where regulators tend to lag behind the innovators, in the MENA region, especially the GCC, the regulators are one of the main driving forces behind allocating the appropriate resources targeted towards innovation. The top-down approval has given a sense of empowerment for local and international startups to take advantage of the resources at hand to scale their businesses further.”