startups Archives — Carrington Malin

January 24, 2022
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GCC tech in 2022: another big year for innovation? Last year saw a long list of government initiatives in the GCC to accelerate digital transformation, encourage innovation in government and create policies to encourage Fourth Industrial Revolution industries. Recently, I was interviewed by ZDNet’s Damian Radcliffe for his article on ‘the biggest trends shaping the digital future of the Middle East‘.

I have no doubt that 2022 will prove to be an exciting year for artificial intelligence and emerging technologies in the Middle East. There have been so many government initiatives, policy moves, proof of concepts and trials across public and private sectors, not to mention investments in new ventures and R&D over the past year, it’s difficult to simply keep track of the developments already in motion! However, I believe we’ll have plenty of new ventures, projects and initiatives to look forward to in 2022 too.

However, beyond the addition of more impressive sounding new government initiatives, I believe that we’re going to see more real evidence of initiatives and programmes set in process during the past 2-3 years bearing fruit. For example, the UAE published its first AI strategy in 2017. Now, nearly five years on, the strategy (which has been updated a number of times) has informed the launch of new initiatives across UAE education, skills development in government, investment, new projects and new organisations, public services and regulation. In Saudi Arabia, the progress made on data and AI at a government level, has paved the way for a new wave of government and private sector initiatives, companies, partnerships and investments.

As Damian’s article helps to illuminate, there are rapid changes taking place across the Middle East’s tech and telecom ecosystems, making the region an exciting place to be at the moment.

You can read Damian’s full article on Tech in 2022 in the Middle East region here.


April 11, 2021
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UAE innovation plans stand to gain from Israel significantly via collaborations following the historic Abraham Accords signed last year. I volunteered a few of my views on the matter to ZDNet’s Damian Radcliffe for his article on ‘how diplomacy is ushering in a new era for Middle East tech‘, which gathers opinion on the Accords impact on the technology sector from Bahrain, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the US.

I believe that the UAE’s new relationship with Israel, offers technology sectors in both countries enormous opportunities. As the UAE continues to put in policies and incentives to encourage home-grown innovation and attract global tech talent, it can now draw on some of the resources and expertise that have helped Israel to scale its startup ecosystem. Likewise, the growing number of UAE investors interested in early-stage venture capital deals, can learn a lot from their Israeli counterparts.

From the outset, the engagement of Israeli tech firms with the UAE has been enthusiastic, to say the least. Many in the UAE’s technology industry were contacted by dozens of Israeli technology companies in the weeks following the signing of the Abraham Accords. I was personally contacted by more than a hundred members of the Israeli technology sector in the 3-4 weeks following the Accords and conducted dozens of market briefings for startups, investors and technology exporters. We’ve since seen thousands of Israelis fly to the UAE, many of them also from its tech sector and startup ecosystem, not to mention a few high profile deals.

Beyond the initial ‘gold rush’, it remains to be seen how Israeli and UAE technology sectors will invest in each other, compete against one another and collaborate together. However, overall, it seems likely that UAE innovation plans will benefit from the additional technology focus, knowledge and investment inspired by the country’s new relations with Israel.

You can read Damian’s full article on the Abraham Accords impact on the Middle East tech sector here.


January 25, 2021
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Despite the economic pressures of the past few years and the disruption of the pandemic, there is so much going on in tech in the Middle East at the moment. So, there was no shortage of material for Damian Radcliffe’s annual Middle East technology predictions story in ZDnet, which quoted me and others from the region’s tech ecosystem on a wide variety of trends including 5G, emerging technologies, government investment, startups, smart cities, open data and cybersecurity.

Prior to the pandemic IDC forecast that investments in digital transformation and innovation will account for 30 percent of all IT spending in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) by 2024, up from 18 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, it has predicted that government enterprise IT spending in META will top $8 billion in 2021.

During the past 12-18 months we have seen significant activity in several key areas of government spending, including digital transformation, creating Government Clouds, introducing open data policies and platforms, digital services and robotics. Then there was the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) announcement of the Kingdom’s National Strategy for Data & AI (NSDAI) in October, revealing plans to raise $20 billion in investment for data and AI initiatives.

My expectation is that some of the government digital platforms and initiatives that have been created over the past 18 months will support the launch of a variety of new initiatives, local and foreign investment, public-private sector partnerships and opportunities for startups during 2021.

You can read Damian’s full article on what 2021 means for tech in the Middle East here.


January 14, 2021
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It’s been a bumpy ride for GCC technology ecosystems, with plenty of budget cuts, job losses and, due to the onset of Covid-19, slowing venture capital activity. However, some of the region’s most ambitious government initiatives to-date have been put in place to accelerate innovation, talent and growth in the tech sector. Uptake of some technologies also seems to have spiked since the pandemic.

So, is the region’s tech sector growing or cooling off? It’s an interesting question and, as with many questions like this about industries, there’s no simple answer. WIRED Middle East asked me whether I was optimistic about the future of tech in the region. The short answer is that I am very optimistic, although the tech sector is not without its challenges.

It is true that much of the technology sector has been hit hard by the knock-on effect of lower oil prices on GCC IT spending, increase price competition and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on decision making, new projects and project spending. Multinationals and regional technology firms have cut budgets, including staffing and other expenses as a result. However, one really has to drill down to specific technologies, solutions and the current technology needs of customers in the region to fully understand what’s going on. All types of technology business are not contracting. In fact, far from it, some tech firms are growing fast and many of those are working with new emerging technologies for automation, data analytics, AI-powered digital services and other disruptive services and solutions.

There are also contradictory trends when looking at the impact of 2020’s turmoil on jobs and the region’s need to compete for the right tech talent. There are three key driving forces here shaping the region’s tech talent pool: 1) global trends creating new tech jobs and decreasing demand for tech jobs that are being obsoleted and/or impacted by automation, 2) the GCC’s belt-tightening of the past few years due to lower oil prices, forcing public and private sectors to be more cost-effective and 3) the unexpected consequences of Covid-19, which include the accelerated demand for some emerging technologies.

Along side the economic ups and downs, and the surprises brought about by the pandemic, there are the heavily funded innovation and technology initiatives that have been put in place by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. For example, the massive open data projects in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the recently announced $20 billion Saudi National Strategy for Data & AI (NSDAI), Abu Dhabi’s increasing investment in R&D, and numerous smart city and smart city services projects. We’ve also seen an upswing in the numbers of tech startups outside of the popular ecommerce, delivery, travel and transport segments.

However, the one change that I’ve noticed over the past few years, may be the crucial one for the GCC technology ecosystems. I believe that there has been a clear attitudinal change among GCC citizens themselves, that has helped to make technology a more attractive sector for jobs, entrepreneurship and investment. In years past, a traditional career in technology has been a safe government IT job, whereas today locals are joining the tech sector in larger numbers, there is a new generation of tech startups founded by GCC citizens and we’re starting to see more interest in startup venture capital investments from Gulf investors.

Huge, well thought through government tech initiatives, the recent acceleration of demand for emerging technologies and the increasing engagement of GCC nationals in the tech sector are the three top reasons why I believe there has never been a more exciting time for the region’s tech industry.

Read Ashleigh Stewart’s full article on WIRED Middle East.


November 5, 2020
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Legendary marketing pioneer and author Philip Kotler defines brand positioning as ‘the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market’. Positioning is a critical component in the promotion of any venture, from advertising and public relations, to sales and customer relationship management (CRM), even having an impact on the structure and policies of growing companies. Founders tend to work hard on positioning their ventures, but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

In these days of Internet learning, it’s easy to read about the role of positioning, see examples of what it looks like and find out how to go about developing your own positioning statement. It’s something that’s top of mind for all founders, whether they realise that it’s positioning or not. Finding a process that works for you can help you crystalise your value proposition and create a clear positioning statement.

Nevertheless, developing strong positioning that differentiates your brand from competitors and aligns exactly with your business strategy, is easier said than done. Our end result in developing brand positioning is defining how we could like our customers to think and feel about our brand, but for this actually to be the case, positioning must work well across every aspect of our brand, marketing and communications.

If your business proposition is not receiving the recognition that it deserves, internally or externally, this could be due to a weak point in your positioning strategy. Here are five reasons why your brand positioning may not be working for you.

Continue reading this story on SME10x.com.


July 14, 2020
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As policymakers across the globe struggle with how to define and implement regulations for future commercial drone services, the new Dubai drone law could help turn the emirate into an R&D hotspot.

Policymakers have long been struggling with how to introduce laws to govern future commercial drone services. Whilst high profile drone delivery trials and flying taxi test flights take place around the world with increasing frequency, all such activities are authorised via exemptions to prevailing aviation and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) laws. Manufacturers and drone services startups have been able to test their concepts, but not finish their business plans. Even where laws have been drafted, like the EU, implementation has dragged.

Therefore, the announcement that Dubai has issued a comprehensive new law to govern the development of the drone industry and commercial drone services is welcome news for drone firms. As the CEO of one international drone delivery services company commented last week, ‘the devil is in the detail’, but the passing of the new law has been bolstered by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) announcement that much of the expertise, process and systems required to implement regulations have already been developed.

DCAA has already invested in technology to underpin a Dubai Sky Dome initiative, which will create a virtual airspace infrastructure and ecosystem for commercial drone use. Meanwhile, Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects (DAEP) will set specifications, standards and conditions for new drone infrastructure, in order that private operators can take the initiative and build their own drone airports.

Dubai’s drone law makes it clear that the all parts of the ecosystem are to be supported and regulated, to include manufacturing, imports, distribution, drone services and skills. With safety concerns at the fore, the UAE has already regulated the import, sale and manufacture of drones and so provides a safe market for manufacturers, largely free from fakes and grey market imports. The combination of these factors means that we can expect high standards to be set for the future development of the sector and skills to be at a premium.

Now Dubai has the law to govern the development of a drone services sector and a strategy to develop and manage the drone ecosystem, the emirate is better positioned to attract investment and drive innovation. So, where are the opportunities?

Rapid development in drone technology over the past few years has already given rise to a number of Dubai-based startups providing devices, specialised services and software systems. A limiting factor has been that regulation has not allowed drones to fly in public city spaces or ‘beyond line of sight’. When these factors change, this will pave the way for a wide variety of drone services.

Obvious opportunities for a new drone delivery services market include the manufacture of drones and drone parts, development of drone control and operation systems, security of drone aircraft and systems, training and certification, construction of drone airports, repair and maintenance, plus the operation of the delivery services themselves.

There are also a variety of industry sectors that could provide opportunities for drone delivery services. It is well known that Dubai has a highly advanced logistics industry, including a number of global logistics firms that are already testing drone delivery in Europe and the U.S. Dubai’s thriving ecommerce and home delivery market is another obvious candidate for drone delivery, given Amazon’s investment in developing delivery drones and services.

However, just as some of Dubai’s existing specialised drone services have built businesses on serving the needs of verticals such as oil and gas, construction and surveying, new drone delivery services could serve different niche markets too. Medical deliveries have been in the spotlight during the past few months, as drones have been used in some part of the work to make contactless deliveries of urgent medical items. In addition to the healthcare sector, there are potential requirements for drone delivery across range of industries such as automotive, construction, engineering, government, real estate and Dubai’s diverse services sector.

Besides the drone delivery market, the RTA’s plans to introduce flying taxis may clear the way for more investment in passenger drones. The RTA has already been in talks with a number of different potential partners and conducted a high profile flight test with German aircraft manufacturer Volocopter in 2017.

Some of the most exciting opportunities may well have yet to be identified. Without regulation and air space control, there can be no development of a strong, fully functioning drone services sector and, without that, both R&D and market development cannot really move forwards. If Dubai can move quickly to kick-start this sector, then real world trials, service launches and new customer requirements will, no doubt, help fuel innovation.

This story first appeared on SME10x.com.


January 22, 2020
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I was delighted to be able to contribute to Damian Radcliffe‘s Middle East technology predictions feature for ZDNet, rounding up expert predictions for 2020 on 5G and 4G adoption, venture funding, retail tech and artificial intelligence.

I was asked: as the Middle East and North Africa’s spending on AI continues to grow, will the region ever become more than simply a consumer of artificial intelligence?

Read the full article here.