When Cyberport, Hong Kong's incubator for digital technology entrepreneurship, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dubai Future Foundation back in February this year, it was the beginning of a long-term collaboration that encouraged tech companies in the two communities to expand into Hong Kong and Dubai. The MoU was signed by Simon Chan, Chairman of Cyberport, and Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation, in the presence of Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications and Deputy Managing Director of Dubai Future Foundation, as well as John Lee, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
“As part of the MoU, Cyberport will facilitate Dubai start-ups with potential to land in Cyberport through our variety of entrepreneurship programmes, funding and landing support, joint events and seminars, while Cyberport community start-ups and technology companies will get funding and landing support in Dubai, ultimately facilitating knowledge exchange and collaboration for Web3 applications,” explains Chan.
In a span of six months since its inception in January this year, Web3 Hub@Cyberport has attracted more than 100 Web3 companies. It has now grown into a world-class hub for Web3 start-ups with more than 180 Web3-related enterprises, spanning Web3 applications and content such as NFTs and metaverse; fintech including virtual asset trading platforms and decentralised finance; foundational services; and middleware such as blockchain development tools and data analytics. “Among the 190 companies, 80 per cent are local while 11 per cent are from mainland China and 9 per cent from overseas,” says Chan. “Founders come from the mainland and more than 15 countries and regions, including North America, Europe, Japan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia.”
Through its tailored programmes for Web3 that include support for office space, business development, financial support and opportunities for exchange and cooperation in the Web3 community, Cyberport continues to promote the development of the Web3 ecosystem.
“We have so far organised and supported more than 17 diversified Web3 events to promote industry exchanges, knowledge sharing and awareness of different kinds of Web3 applications,” he adds. “We have established partnerships with more than 40 Web3 investment funds to connect investment opportunities for the Web3 community and are actively exploring cooperative projects with leading blockchain companies to provide technical and network support.” About 41 Web3 companies that are a part of Cyberport’s continuous improvement programme are eligible for advanced facilities and support as well as funding of up to 1.1 million Hong Kong dollars.
Shining a spotlight on the new possibilities has been Cyberport’s annual signature event, Digital Entertainment Leadership Forum (DELF) 2023, which focused on how digital entertainment experiences in arts, education, sports and lifestyle are evolving in the era of Web3.
Held from August 25-27 in Hong Kong featuring 90 speakers under the theme, Power Up! When Entertainment Goes Beyond 3oundaries, the event brought more than 3,500 international and local participants to its four experience zones: Artainment, Edutainment, Sportainment, and LOHAS, where attendees could experience groundbreaking digital technologies from local technology companies.
“What we wanted to showcase in our Digital Entertainment Leadership Forum 2023 was our belief in Web3 technologies, which includes blockchain and decentralised platforms,” explains Chan. “And that Web3 can reshape industries and enable new business models. Cyberport recognises the potential of AI in driving innovation and personalisation within digital entertainment.”
He believes the partnership between Cyberport and Dubai will bring about revolutionary changes in art, education, sports and lifestyle experiences with the aid of the latest in technology. “Our key focus areas include talent development, youth entrepreneurship, start-up support, and fostering a dynamic innovation ecosystem,” he says. “Through partnerships with international entities such as Dubai Future Foundation, Cyberport will be able to support propel the technology industry and facilitate the adoption of digital solutions across public and private sectors.”
With the friendly start-up ecosystem in Dubai offering newcomers the opportunity to not only scale in the emirate but throughout the Middle East, it holds immense appeal for Cyberport’s community of start-ups. Add to that the perks of being located in Dubai’s free zones such as the Dubai Future District where Dubai Future Foundation is based. Cyberport’s start-ups can easily leverage on benefits they offer such as 100 per cent foreign business ownership, tax-free policies and low-cost set-up.
On Dubai Future Foundation’s part, the focus will be on facilitating knowledge exchange through reports and white papers in addition to providing Cyberport’s start-ups with viable use cases in the metaverse and Web3 applications. “This is essential for the growth of our start-ups and to showcase their innovations and gain exposure in the Middle East market,” explains Chan.
Co-organising events and webinars with Dubai Future Foundation and other relevant Dubai governmental agencies, Chan hopes, will enrich each other’s innovation and technology ecosystem and leverage a mutually beneficial partnership. “By exchanging knowledge, fostering collaboration, and organising events, both regions can leverage their unique strengths and expertise to drive economic growth and remain at the forefront of rapidly evolving technological shifts,” he says.
Negawatt Utility, a smart building specialist, signed a MoU with Abu Dhabi smart city, Masdar, and its start-up accelerator, Catalyst, for green city planning, which entails monitoring data in energy consumption and corresponding adjustment for energy efficiency, and rolling out gamification to raise public awareness of energy conservation and decarbonisation.
SleekFlow, an omnichannel social marketing platform, was invited to join the L'Occitane accelerator programme of L’Occitane MENA, French luxury brand focusing on smart retail solutions, and is going to set up a branch office in the Middle East.
Animoca Brands, a global leading Web3 company that advances digital property rights for the open metaverse, partnered with Manga Productions, an animation company in Saudi Arabia, to cooperate on a Web3 project, facilitated by Cyberport’s Asia MENA Culture Technology Economic Collaboration Forum organised in December 2022. Animoca Brands has also announced its investment of seed funding into Nuqtah, the first NFT trading platform in Saudi Arabia, to promote Web3 and digital asset development in the Middle East.
Hex Trust, a digital asset management company, has launched its operations in Dubai after receiving a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) licence from Dubai’s Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority (VARA), acting as the first fully operational virtual asset custodian in Dubai, and provides virtual asset custody and staking services for corporate clients and sophisticated investors.
Farmacy, specialising in urban farming and development of smart mobile farms that grow vegetables hydroponically, has successfully secured business partnership in the Middle East and is planning to enter the local market later this year.
Agritech company Farm66 provides hydroponic technology to the Middle East countries, which can produce 9,000 vegetables per month to improve local agricultural self-sufficiency. Farm66 built a container laboratory in a factory on the mainland, equipped with an automated system to remotely control the planting environment. Then the container is transported to Abu Dhabi, where vegetables can be produced on the spot.
Interactive customer engagement platform VIMOS represented Hong Kong to participate in the Entrepreneurship World Cup 2022 in Saudi Arabia and has successfully entered top 20 finalists, paving the way for expansion into the Middle East market.