Stock Dubai skyline
The like of Dubai Internet City had already made the emirate known to global tech. With D33, Dubai is targeting a place among the top global innovation hubs. And with that will come more jobs in tech. Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: Here’s message for tech professionals and wannabe entrepreneurs everywhere – Come to Dubai.

The city has been a prime attraction for tech/digital ventures, but with the D33 – the newly unveiled ‘Dubai Economic Agenda’ – the plan is to scale up the possibilities for tech ventures and their founders. From all over the world.

In particular, two aspects of the D33 mission document will be of interest – ‘Sandbox Dubai’, which aims to make the city one of the top-tier global hubs for business innovation and enable the testing and marketing of new products and technologies.

And then there is the plan to support 30 companies from new/emerging sectors to be true global ‘unicorns’, i.e., carry valuations of $1 billion and more.

What the D33 announcement has done is bring in another facet to what has already pushed Dubai up the rankings as a hotbed for new-tech to incubate ideas and bring them to market. Dubai’s credentials are thus being reinforced even when the tech space in the US is going though some extremely painful readjustments, with Salesforce being the latest to trim its workforce. And by as much as 10 per cent, or around 8,000 jobs lost.

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Open doors

This is thus the precise moment when emerging tech hubs such as Dubai can state its case. ““It’s not like 15-20 years ago, where moving to the GCC in search for new pastures was the last option,” said Mahananda Banerji, Founder of Youbook, an executive recruitment firm.

“There could be a huge brain drain from the US to this part of the world. Even traditional industries are now tech-driven - the opportunities are limitless.”

UAE’s hiring tech

“For another two to three years at least, data engineers, tech scientists, and digital marketing professionals would continue to be in demand,” Roy said.

Add in the possibilities provided by AI, all of the cloud computing needs, fintech and other digital-enabled services, then the prospects on UAE’s tech spending remaining at current elevated levels are unlikely to be blunted.

For instance, hyper-scale cloud computing is expected to provide SMEs and startups in the UAE with Dh62.6 billion worth of economic benefits between 2022-30, said a report commissioned by Amazon Web Services (AWS) in partnership with the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy.

New ways

The ways to measure future success in the tech space is also changing. “We are entering a different era of how we think about tech,” said Chengyi Lin, an INSEAD Affiliate Professor of Strategy and an expert on digital transformation. “The era of overnight success and Big Tech occupying the top charts of Fortune 500 companies. And fast growth because of global digital expansion is over.

“For companies like Google, Microsoft and Snapchat, this is a growth adjustment. However, the abrupt and largescale layoffs at Twitter can’t be placed in that broader category – it’s more idiosyncratic.”

Hard times

Fares Akkad is the Regional Director at Meta, which recently had to let go of some of the staff here as part of the global cut. According to Akkad’s LinkedIn account statement that day, “Yesterday was one of the hardest days of my professional career. We had to let go of 11K people globally, which unfortunately impacted the MENA team as well.”

“These departures are purely due to needed restructures to face some challenging macro-economic conditions. The team members leaving us are some of the most talented, capable and kind people I have had the pleasure to work with.”

Can UAE’s home-grown tech space pick up the slack?

That’s the expectation within the local tech industry. That Dubai and the UAE can be the magnet for those professionals to kickstart a second career. Or even launch their own ventures. Where a D33 program can help.

“We need to adopt a more mature way to look at startups, with less hype,” said Roy. There needs to be diffusion of tech across industries as well.”

The D33 will make that happen…