Growing up in Dubai, Chris Darnell and Rene Morgan met each other during their first year of school at Jebel Ali Primary School. In 2020 the friends saw an opportunity to work together on an idea that they believed was not only in line with Dubai’s Smart City Vision, but something that could help strengthen communities and the residents within.
“Having lived in Dubai for all these years, we’ve seen first-hand how difficult it can be for new and long-term expats to connect with their neighbours, given that the so many families stay here for only a few years. COVID-19 made matters worse with the lockdown, placing further limitations on our social connectivity,” says Renee.
“To combat the problem, we decided to launch Hayi, (Arabic for neighbourhood), a free-to-use social network for neighbourhoods in the UAE, where neighbours can connect, share information and befriend those in their community. We are both working full time on the startup and are super passionate about the prospect of creating a unique platform for all communities across the country, something we wish was available while we were growing up here,” he explains.
Since launching the app in September last year, Hayi has more than 2,000 verified neighbours onboard across 13 different neighbourhoods. “Earlier this week we launched in Motor City to provide neighbours with a digital solution to connect with their community. We are in the process of adding local business discounts to the app, as well as a feature for community management to connect with all residents in a more social manner. We hope to tailor the app so there is something for everyone!” says Chris.
Along with the startup, the friends have launched a social initiative where they try to spread awareness on the growing problem of littering. “Dubai deserts have recently been under the spotlight since the Municipality removed 130 tonnes of rubbish over a six-week period and we’ve noticed more and more residents discussing the levels of litter within their neighbourhoods,” says Rene.
“In each of our active neighbourhoods, we have conducted volunteer clean-ups, with the goal of organizing small volunteer groups across the city where eco-friendly neighbours of all ages can meet and volunteer their time to keep their community clean. We have had overwhelmingly positive feedback from neighbours, with many already expressing their interest in joining the cause.
We are currently in the midst of some exciting partnerships with Community Managers across the region to assist in organizing more official social initiatives and events within the communities to truly create a sense of community both online and offline. We believe this initiative will help the Government with its environmental efforts and will encourage neighbours across the city to try and live a more eco-friendly lifestyle.”
By the end of 2021, the boys hope to launch the app in all neighbourhoods across Dubai and Abu Dhabi and are looking to expand to the wider GCC to provide all neighbours across the region with an exclusive social network for their community. If you’d like to join the digital community for Motor City or any of our other neighbourhoods, you can download the Hayi app which is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.