Businesswoman, entrepreneur, and “youth enabler” Hanan Harara Al Yafei is CEO of one of the world’s most vibrant tech ecosystems, Hub71, located in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The relatively young Emirati has achieved the kind of career most people dream of, yet it’s enabling startups and encouraging others that keeps her motivated.

Why do tech startups matter so much to the wider Abu Dhabi economy?

Abu Dhabi is going through a rapid digital transformation that has been accelerated further by the implications of COVID-19 on businesses. The global pandemic underscored the importance of embedding technology and innovation to redefine industries for the greater good of our society. With this in mind, it has created opportunities for startups to develop disruptive technologies to address issues posed by our new way of life.

We’re fortunate to have the full support of the Abu Dhabi government, which itself has an underlying commitment to fostering a culture of innovation, through R&D, technology and modern infrastructure as it prioritizes efforts to shift to a knowledge-based economy. Ghadan 21 is a key example of Abu Dhabi’s unrelenting focus on making the UAE capital city a global beacon for technology and innovation. As a flagship initiative of Ghadan 21, Hub71 has a huge responsibility to support Abu Dhabi’s economy and we do this by providing a dynamic community full of business enablers that can provide opportunities for startups to help contribute to building an advanced  knowledge economy through their incredible talent, business ventures and technological solutions being nurtured from within our community.

What does Hub71 do to train, attract and retain the best tech talent in Abu Dhabi?

Being among the most attractive places to live and work globally, Abu Dhabi and the UAE have attracted top talent from around the world. We pride ourselves on being an open community that welcomes all. With more than 200 nationalities in the UAE, and 32 nationalities represented at Hub71, entrepreneurs can feel right at home and connect with likeminded people to help develop their networks and grow their businesses.

Robust partnerships are at the core of our growth. We collaborate with leading academic institutions that are upskilling talent and attracting new engineering capabilities to our community. With R&D, talent and valuable knowledge being key elements for driving innovation, partnerships like the one we have with INSEAD, reflects our emphasis on developing talent and engaging students at the grassroot level on our exciting journey to foster transformative technologies. Additionally, through our accelerator programs and Corporate Engagement Program, there are further ways to tap into existing talent pools whether its through working with multinational corporations or fledging tech companies.

Ultimately, Abu Dhabi’s digital transformation reflects the abundance of talent based here who are capable of driving tech-led businesses. It has forced companies to rethink processes and improve efficiencies, and as such, Hub71 is placing time and resources into deepening the tech talent pool in the UAE’s capital for the benefit of the future economy.

Hub71 has a very active partnership program. What do you look for in a Hub71 partner and why does this type of arrangement matter?

We are built on the foundation of partnership and collaboration. These are core values that are embedded in our culture and our way of doing business. Through partnerships, we create opportunities for our community of startups, investors, and corporates, and beyond Abu Dhabi we can extend these opportunities to global markets by partnering with renowned organizations that share our mission to support the success of entrepreneurs.

Take France for example, we recently partnered with Thales, a French multinational company, to host its first hackathon in the UAE aimed at students to address Maintenance 4.0 as the 4th industrial revolution plays an increasingly integral role in our economy. We not only create opportunities for startups but also play our part in solving real-world challenges and shaping the future of technology while improving the talent pool of our ecosystem. Partnerships are a fundamental way of achieving this and it’s through our willingness to collaborate how mutually beneficial opportunities can arise.

What, in your opinion, is the most important positive impact to come out of Hub71?

It’s the real-life changes we’re creating through technology and innovation that can counteract the impact caused by the pandemic.

We’re providing entrepreneurs in our growing community with the utmost support to scale their businesses and we’re enabling startups, which in turn drives real value for Abu Dhabi and its economy. Startups are the livelihoods of so many of our founders and they have put trust in us to make their journey as easy as possible. By giving them a support system, generous subsidized housing, health insurance and office space along with plenty of opportunities to thrive, we are essentially providing them with a springboard to growth.

Additionally, through our efforts to grow the number of startups at Hub71, we have placed great emphasis on ensuring our community is as diverse as possible, reflecting our society. As such, I take great pride in relishing the increasing number of female founders joining our community who are leading some incredible business ventures that are meeting the demands of impacted sectors and people.

Ultimately, at Hub71 we’re doing the right thing at the right time. With 95% of our WeWork x Hub71 office space at capacity and Abu Dhabi continuing to boost its attractiveness among global tech companies and startups, there’s a greater sense of optimism within our community, knowing that we’re making a valuable contribution to supporting an important transformation that will dictate our future economy.

How will Hub71 continue to enable startups?

There is a real appetite for startups in Abu Dhabi, and this is set to continue next year and beyond. We are always thinking about how we can continue adding value to our community of startups, investors, and business enablers. But what remains at the core is the support for our founders to develop sustainable businesses that will overcome today’s challenging operating environment, delivering real value for the people who depend on their technologies.

An immense part of our focus will be on creating ways for Hub71 to expand by increasing its appeal in new markets around the world and building a high-quality pipeline of startups looking to relocate their operations to Abu Dhabi. We are looking beyond the horizon to truly be global as we seek to provide startups with the perfect platform to grow and contribute to Abu Dhabi’s economic transformation, picking up the pieces in a post-pandemic world. As such, we are excited to continue our tremendous journey of growth in 2021 and further build on Abu Dhabi’s innovation mandate, enabling entrepreneurs, corporates, and investors to tap into new and exciting growth opportunities globally.