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VIDEO: Are UAE entrepreneurs really innovative?

Kamal Hassan advises all starting Entrepreneurs to take a roller coaster ride, because that's what entrepreneurship will be like.


November 6, 2012 3:00 by

Recently, the results of an international study by Booz & Company caught Kipp’s eye. It was a study that observed the most innovative companies around the world, ranking them on the basis of business sophistication and innovation with their ideas, culture and output. It caught our eye because the only representation on that list that emerged from the GCC was Saudi Arabia’s SABIC.

As Kipp sat down with Kamal Hassan, President & CEO of Innovation 360 Institute (otherwise referred to as i360), we discussed just exactly how innovative the UAE is in terms of its SME landscape, what makes a good Entrepreneur and the importance of both education and passion when climbing the ladder of innovation.

Innovation 360 is a global innovation management consultancy that helps companies of all sizes and government organizations bridge the gap between innovation strategy and execution.

One of the key topics that Kipp was interested in wasn’t restricted to the mere empowerment of women in the workplace – as it has been a hot topic in the country over the past few years – but the amount of businesswomen and female entrepreneurs. Kipp said that, judging by what we constantly hear and see, there is a lack of them.

“I completely disagree with that,” says Hassan. “Yes there is an imbalance in the population, which translates to the work place but whenever we hold an event or business seminar, over 70 percent of the attendees are female entrepreneurs.”

He continues to express his optimism about this matter and that even though there is a lack of women entrepreneurs in the ‘hard-core’ technology segment, there are plenty on the creative side.

Diversity, naturally, has always been a word that is closely associated with the UAE’s work force. “We have a very diverse culture, which brings a lot of opportunities for innovation. Here we can have a Middle Eastern Arab, a European and an Asian in one company and that creates the benefit similar to areas like Silicon Valley which is rare to find except in the UAE,” Hassan says.

Some of the remaining challenges, according to him, are related to residency, immigration and start-up costs. “Of course, over the last 5 years, many free zones in the UAE have reduced the costs for start-ups dramatically. At one point it would have cost up to AED 50,000 where now it can be as low as AED 10,000.”

“On the part of the government, there are still some changes to be made in terms of residency or immigration because if an expatriate can call the country home then they’re likely to produce and create more.”

While Hassan briefly touched on the issue of a bankruptcy law, or lack thereof, in the UAE, Kipp wondered how far changes made by the government will progress in the next few years.

“I’ve moved here five years ago and since then, a lot has changed. There is a strong push to change policies. The leaders are listening and I think they’re working very hard to push and promote the culture of innovation. The changes might be slower than we would want because innovators want things to happen quickly but there are definitely changes.”


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