Could we see a Silicon Valley-like culture emerge in the Middle East enabled by technology? Luc Serviant, of Orange, a partner in the Dubai Smart City Accelerator programme, certainly thinks so. He argues that Dubai stands to become a model of how businesses (large and small) will thrive in the 21st century.
The UAE is rapidly becoming recognised as one of the world’s most innovative countries. Continuing to climb the 2017 Global Innovation Index, the UAE is now ranked 35 out of 127 countries and is the top-ranking Arab country in the index. Most impressive is the rate at which the UAE is gaining in the ranking: it’s one of the fastest rates recorded among the top-tier countries.
What makes the UAE so innovative? One of the most vital components of its success is the platform it creates for collaboration; because today we recognise that no single government, company, industry, team, or individual has the monopoly on great ideas and creativity.
So how do you create successful collaborations, and where do you find the best co-creators and collaborators? Start-ups and SMEs may naturally seek to share resources with each other, through necessity, but what about global enterprises? Can a mix of big and small work together in successful collaboration?
Here, we see a unique opportunity to create collaborations between global enterprise (as Dubai is a regional and global hub for multinational organisations serving the region) and start-ups and SMEs (again, Dubai is a magnet for entrepreneurs and actively supports start-ups and SMEs). This really is a unique environment.
The big enterprises are looking at technology and its ability to disrupt their own operations and business models – whether through devices and apps or external collaboration tools to help teams work together more effectively, or improve or transform the customer experience. In effect, they are creating their own start-ups internally through ‘Intrapreneurs’.
Big business is learning from SMEs how to move faster. But there is also scope for the large enterprise to collaborate with the smaller one. Large enterprises are essentially eco-systems with their own internal and external collaborations and partnerships, which can provide attractive platforms for start-ups – as well as the resources, skills and experience that may not be available in a small, young company. The large enterprise has the scale and depth to move relatively quickly and across multiple channels, developing strong pipelines of innovation with multiple opportunities pursued simultaneously – and they’re able to carry (and afford) the risk this entails.
SMEs may not have the staff and expertise that can help sustain their growth trajectory, so collaboration with large businesses can give them access to enterprise-grade resources with global scale and reach. At the same time, large enterprises can benefit from access to focused teams in start-ups and SMEs who are working on interesting niche ideas.
For example, we have been collaborating with Careem (the ride hailing company) at its own breath-taking speed of growth, but this digitally-born customer can also leverage our scale and experience; vital assets as digital businesses eventually come into contact with the real physical world. It’s a powerful combination.
Bringing together start-ups and enterprises, government and academia, and helping to develop and accelerate their innovation and growth, will benefit Dubai enormously. Could we see a Silicon Valley-like culture emerge in the Middle East enabled by technology? We believe it’s entirely possible.
In order to make this happen, we need a constant stream of innovation – because ideas depreciate quickly in today’s digital age. Working together will help us create and sustain this pipeline of innovation, driven by entrepreneurs and start-ups.
By creating clusters of innovation, and fostering collaboration between large enterprises and SMEs, Dubai stands to become a model of how businesses (large and small) will thrive in the 21st century.
Today, many of the largest and most valuable companies in the world are young, tech-based companies: the new multinational companies (MNCs). At Orange Business Services, we work with MNCs around the world, including over 500 MNCs operating across the Middle East and Africa region. However, MNCs are increasingly acting and behaving as SMEs – for example, Orange is also a retail bank and a retailer, in addition to everything else we do. So, it’s in the interests of every MNC to innovate and disrupt themselves before a competitor beats them to it – and collaborations can help.
As a partner to the recently launched Dubai Smart City Accelerator programme, Orange is supporting the incubator phase over the next three years with a team of expert mentors to work with 40 start-ups, who will focus on Smart City-related innovations and apps.
So, we will actively collaborate with 40 fast and agile start-ups through our experienced mentors, who will provide a commercial mindset combined with a deep understanding of innovation, and specialty skills in areas such as sales, marketing, HR, and finance. They will use their internal Orange network to provide deep expertise and advice on the startups’ solutions for smart buildings, smart businesses and smart citizens.
This is an exciting place and time to be an innovator. We relish the challenge and opportunity.