MEED Archives — Carrington Malin

January 16, 2023

In early January 2023, Dubai Economic Agenda ‘D33’ was approved by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. Among the economic goals, Dubai aims to create 30 unicorns (normally a startup valued at $1 billion or more) by 2033.

I was asked by MEED, a leading Middle East business intelligence service, to comment on whether it is possible for Dubai to create a unicorn almost every year and how this might be achieved..

Dubai has never been afraid of setting bold goals and has gained a reputation for meeting them, more often than not. However, creating 30 companies valued at $1 billion in just 10 years? Is that possible?

Globally, unicorn startups tend to be early movers in the biggest new tech sectors. To become a unicorn startups must find a way of tapping into or creating a new fast growing market that will make an impact on a global scale. Such startups are formed by risk-takers that are able to scale their companies very quickly, and that can attract enough venture capital funding to make that possible.

A big plus in Dubai’s favour is that it has been actively seeking out and targeting the most promising future economy sectors and building programmes into its economic plans. Recent initiatives aim to encourage new, fast growing companies in artificial intelligence, robotics cryptocurrency, blockchain and metaverse technologies. It is early days, but sectors such as these are among the world’s fastest growing.

The city also provides an evironment where international businesses thrive, located at the crossroads of Africa. Asia and Europe, with world class business facilities. Dubai was recently ranked first regionally and fifth worldwide in the World’s Best Cities report 2023, which ranked the best global cities to live, work, invest and visit.

“Venture capital in the region has always concentrated on the near term, forcing deep technology (deep tech) startups to leave the Middle East in order to get funding. Dubai will need to attract investors that have both the vision and the expertise to invest in deep tech.”

So, Dubai is ideally located to target some of the fastest growing regions of the world. has a reputation for entrepreneurship and is a great place to live, work and invest. So, what’s missing?

In my mind, the missing piece of the puzzle could be the venture capital to fund the type of cutting-edge startups that will become unicorns. The Middle East region has always been a little conservative when it comes to investing in tech ventures. Although things are changing fast, it is often the most forward-thinking startups that are passed over by VCs in the region. To support a volume of startups in the world’s fastest growing new tech sectors, Dubai will need to encourage the investors that are focusing on those new sectors too.

If you are a MEED subscriber, you can read Jennifer Aguinaldo’s full article here.

November 14, 2021

Technology firms have a lot to gain from the net-zero commitments made by Saudi Arabia and the UAE last month. In fact, AI technologies, IoT and Big Data may have the biggest roles to play.

I was asked by MEED, a leading Middle East business intelligence service, whether this presents a real opportunity for local startups and tech firms, or whether opportunities will simply be gobbled up by global players.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE committed to net-zero carbon emissions in advance of Cop26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

  • The UAE committed to becoming carbon neutral by the year 2050 and to invest AED 600 billion ($163 billion) in clean energy.
  • Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia pledged to reach net-zero by 2060, investing SAR 700 billion ($187 billion) in climate action by 2030.

Big renewable energy projects and national legislation are obviously important for countries wanting to make fast progress, but there is also a huge opportunity to empower government entities, the private sector and consumers to better manage energy consumption and carbon footprints.

Experts agree that top-down strategies must be combined with bottom-up initiatives that allow businesses and consumers to participate in the drive to net-zero. This is why I say that the Saudi and Emirati net-zero pledges will create opportunity for local firms. Consumers and organisations are subject to local laws, avail of local services on the ground and are subject to other factors particular to their location, citizenship and juristictions.

An organisation’s ability to manage its energy consumption, energy efficiency and waste is often dependent on the applicable regulations and services available in their country, at their locations”

Both organisations and consumers will need better tools and digital services to manage their own net-zero efforts effectively. This provides an enormous opportunity for tech firms across a wide variety of technologies. I believe that AI and data analytics have a crucial role to play here in helping all stakeholders understand how their own efforts contribute to carbon neutral goals.

It also makes perfect sense that apps and digital services that support carbon neutral goals are developed in the region, for the region, taking into account language requirements, government regulations, energy suppliers and available local services.

If you are a MEED subscriber, you can read Jennifer Aguinaldo’s full article here.

March 31, 2021

The impact of AI in the Middle East special report is out from Middle East Economic Digest (MEED), which includes features covering innovation, digital transformation in the construction industry, and update on Qatar’s national artificial intelligence strategy and MEED’s own Digital Transformation Index.

I was name-checked in the ‘Creating an artificial intelligence ecosystem‘ feature by Jennifer Aguinaldo, which explores the region’s quest to drive home-grown innovation and create an AI ecosystem that does more than simply buy technology from overseas. All the national AI strategies developed by countries around the region include plans to encourage innovation, incentivise startups and nurture local research and development. However, it is Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that have fast-tracked more initiatives, policy and supporting government programmes over the past few years.

As is normally the case with Middle East Economic Digest, the impact of AI in the Middle East report is behind the paywall. If you are a MEED subscriber, you can read Jennifer’s full article here.