Dubai 100: the emirate launches new generation of health startups

An innovative new programme propels young teams from around the world on their entrepreneurial journey

Imagine an app that enables children with severe speech impairments to communicate through pictures; or a device that helps clinicians in remote rural communities to perform rapid, potentially life-saving screening for respiratory infections.

These game-changing inventions could soon be widely available thanks to a new Dubai-based initiative.  

Dubai 100 is an intensive 100-day programme designed to develop and accelerate the growth of young talent in the digital health sector.

The initiative sees teams of budding med-tech entrepreneurs from all over the world take part in workshop and mentoring sessions led by international experts, serial entrepreneurs, industry leaders, practitioners and investors.

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Participants said the programme had given them an invaluable leg-up on their entrepreneurial journeys

Launched by Falcon and Associates, the Dubai 100 “pre-accelerator” has been designed to provide much-needed support and open doors for entrepreneurs at the very start of their journey, explains programme head Roland Daher.

“Such early-stage entrepreneurs often do not have a clear understanding of what it takes to build a company that can scale. Our programme targets first-time entrepreneurs to help them with the validation phase that many new startups miss.”

Daher adds that Dubai’s enabling environment offers a further incentive for prospective candidates.

“The startup scene is thriving here and we see entrepreneurs around the world who are very excited by the opportunities Dubai offers. It's a great test-bed for ideas and the ease of access to established and emerging markets means that our startups think globally from their inception.”

By focusing on a small pool of teams, the Dubai 100 syllabus is tailored specifically to each group’s needs. The methodology includes three strands: testing and validating the product; mentoring from industry experts; and training in business skills.

[Leadership] is what we look for when we are looking to invest

Dany Farha, CEO of venture capital firm Beco Capital

Dubai 100’s debut cohort, including teams from Italy, Germany, UK, Argentina, Kenya and Hong Kong, graduated at an event that saw them pitch their ideas to a panel of experts and investors.

Speaking at the session, participants said the programme had given them an invaluable leg-up on their entrepreneurial journeys.

“What I enjoyed most about Dubai 100 was the exposure to very different people from the industry, as well as startup founders who are a step ahead of us – and to customers,” said Verena Kretschmann, from Anvajo, a German startup building a male infertility home-testing kit.

“As a tech company you can get lost in developing and refining the idea,” Kretschmann added. “We learned the importance of being quick, taking decisions and setting deadlines.”

Crucially, expert panellists at the graduates’ pitching session were also impressed by the teams’ calibre.

Dany Farha, CEO of venture capital firm Beco Capital, remarked upon the graduates’ leadership skills, honed and developed by the Dubai 100 programme. “[Leadership] is what we look for when we are looking to invest,” he said.

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Teams of budding med-tech entrepreneurs from all over the world took part in workshop and mentoring sessions

Referencing a smartphone app produced by Argentinian team OTTAA that uses a predictive algorithm to help speech-impaired people communicate through images, panellist Peyvand Khaleghian, Managing Partner at investment firm Avicenna, noted: “The teams have clearly taken full advantage of everything Dubai has to offer.

“The presentation by OTTAA was especially moving. The technology they are developing could transform the way people communicate after a stroke or head injury.”

And the debut teams are already reaping the rewards. Verena Kretschmann and her fellow Anvajo co-founders have enjoyed significant progress since their participation in the programme, undergoing a validation trial in Abu Dhabi with a fertility clinic. Meanwhile Arch, from the UK, ran a pilot progamme with a Dubai-based hospital for their app, which aims to deliver life-saving efficiencies by improving clinician communication across hospitals wards.

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The methodology includes three strands: testing and validating the product; mentoring from industry experts; and training in business skills

To apply or find out more about the Dubai 100 programme visit www.dubai100.ae  

This article was updated in March 2017