Complex Made Simple

A Dubai mentorship program with stellar global backing

Below is a Q&A with Ramzy Ismail, Director of the Techstars Dubai Accelerator in Partnership with GINCO 

Techstars has  proven to be much more than a three-month mentorship program as it considers itself to lend a global network to the entrepreneurs who come through the program.

This year was the first time Techstars Dubai attended GITEX meeting old and new faces and making sure Techstars put its stamp on Dubai’s startup programs.

AMEinfo. Please explain how Techstars helps to accompany businesses throughout their journey?

Ismail. Techstars is essentially the supportive cofounder/partner all companies would like to have. Ranging from idea creation and community support (think of events such as Startup Weekend, Startup Digest, etc.) to Series A/B investments ($300M VC fund) and everything in between; we support global entrepreneurs throughout their business lifecycle and connect them to a truly global network.

Read: Startup fever: MENA exits reach $3 billion over five years

AMEinfo. How many different type of programs do you currently have around the world?

Ismail. We have over 32 programs across the globe from our Techstars Music program with corporate partners like Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and Harmonix Music Systems or our machine learning and artificial intelligence focused accelerator with startup fund.

One of the many successful programs we run is the Techstars Mobility program in partnership with Bosch, AAA, Next47 (Siemens’ independent investment arm), and InMotion Ventures (Jaguar Land Rover), Ford, Verizon, Dana, Honda, Munich Re, and Michelin.

Techstars has played a role in not only growing the mobility early stage investment landscape (Over the last 18 months, Techstars has invested in 22 companies from around the world, which have raised $20 million and are valued at $100m) but also the community they work in, the greater Detroit area and it’s current revitalization and growth.

Barclays Bank has established itself as a key stakeholder in the early stage Fintech ecosystem globally through their partnerships with Techstars across the US, Europe and MEA.

AMEinfo. How does the Dubai mentorship program work? What sectors will be covered throughout this program? 

Ismail. Techstars Dubai’s program will be identical at it’s core to our programs across NY, London, and Los Angeles but the mentor pool will be a mix of local mentors new to the Techstars community and global mentors from our networks. To be a mentor is easy; we look for intrinsically motivated and passionate entrepreneurial, community and corporate leaders. They align with the Techstars #GiveFirst #FounderFirst  values and are a value-add to the founders and greater community – easy!

Read: 5 ME startups acquire more than $25m in funding

AMEinfo. How are your corporate partners supporting your Dubai program and what is Techstars role in the corporate world?

Ismail. The local family office, GINCO Group are supporting us by providing a nurturing infrastructure (literally and figuratively) to bring in global companies to the UAE. They will be providing mentors, access to local knowledge and know-how, the willingness and ability to run pilot programs and proof of concepts with our founders.

To quote our cofounder David Cohen, “At Techstars, we’re building the best global ecosystem for founders to bring new technologies to market. One of the impacts that I think we’ll have for a long time is to change the way that corporations engage with startups. We want to help make those engagements effective and efficient for both parties.”

We do this through our deep corporate relationships that span business development to corporate development/M&A and our ability to work with the top corporates and executives to invest in and around their core businesses through our accelerators.

AMEinfo. Please describe the state of the Tech startup/incubation industry in Dubai and the wider GCC.

Ismail. That’s a question for someone who’s been around longer than I have but I think that Dubai and the UAE are doing everything right to move the needle forward in the global ecosystem. Examples include:

-Governmental programs like Dubai Future Foundation, 10x, Area 2071, Abu Dhabi Global Markets, DIFC Hive.

-Private family offices and funds putting venture dollars to attract top founders and fund managers, as well as continued support from larger funds interested in deploying capital locally.

-Grassroots programs and communities deepening and broadening around technology and startups.

-Universities like American University of Sharjah’s Sheraa program to New York University Abu Dhabi’s StartAD program are putting talent and dollars to work on the university ecosystem.

Read: Meet 10 of the region’s successful self-made entrepreneurs

 AMEinfo. Tell us a bit about your current leadership team and how you plan to help guide the mentors through the Dubai program?

Ismail. The team currently consists of our new Managing Director, Vijay Tirathrai, who was previously the CEO and Chairman of the Entrepreneurs Organization, where he lead a global network of 12,000 members whose combined revenues exceed $500billion represented in 165 cites worldwide.

Myself as Program Director; as a former founder/CEO, I have gone through a top 25 accelerator in the US, I’ve marketed and sold SaaS technology products and most recently began investing and supporting global founders through my time as the MD at Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi and as a Program Manager in Techstars New York and now as the Program Director in Dubai.

Two Entrepreneurs-in-Residence: Carlos Domingo – Crypto capitalist and co-founder at SPiCE VC and before that he was Chief Digital Transformation and Innovation Officer at du and Nancy Wolff – Former Vice President of Technology at the Jumeirah Group

 AMEinfo. Can you outline the partnership with local family office GINCO Group? How does the group plan to benefit from this collaboration?

Ismail. As mentioned, we are super excited to have GINCO Group as mentors and as sherpas to provide local knowledge and know-how, and their willingness and ability to run pilot programs is going to be great for the right companies.

They benefit from working with a world-class program that has been proven globally and get to invest and support in the future startups impacting Smart Cities and industrial technology and the greater UAE community

The official deadline to apply for the Techstars Dubai Accelerator program has closed, however we will still accept any late applicants, as we are eager to hear your ideas. Please apply directly to me at [email protected]