View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Technology
14 October 2020

Startup Insights: Microsoft on early-stage tech startups

By Sarah Williams

In the first of a new series, where Hub71’s global partners give us their take on the evolving startup world, we spoke to Sayed Hashish, General Manager, Microsoft UAE, about what early-stage tech startups need to do to successfully scale.

What advice do you most often give to the founders of new startups?

SH: There are a several aspects that are crucial to launching and growing a business. First, understand your differentiator. Whether your core idea is that differentiator, or whether you’ve taken an idea that’s already been implemented by someone else elsewhere, but have extended and innovated the business model, you need to recognize your essential point of difference. You also have to understand how you can scale that business – and to recognize any limitations on scaling, so you can begin to address them before they become major issues. In general, as someone running any business, you need to learn to always try to look around the corners and anticipate things before they happen so that you can maximize the opportunity of leveraging it. And my final piece of advice is to think how you can leverage partners and resources, most obviously organizations like Microsoft, Mubadala and Hub71, that have such a keen interest in supporting entrepreneurs to be successful and to grow their business.

One benefit that startups from Hub71 mention a lot, is being able to network and get closer to Microsoft and to have you as a tech mentor. Is that something you do consciously?

SH: I’m really pleased you have had this feedback from early-stage tech startups, because that’s exactly what we aspire to be. On a macro level across the country, we try to make sure we’re building this startup ecosystem to help the local software economy, create more jobs in the country and the region. One of the latest IDC reports shows 55,000 new jobs would be created by the cloud and Microsoft’s ecosystem in the UAE by the year 2022. We’re hoping a lot of those jobs will be coming out of the startup ecosystem. There is a gap today in the number of startups from the Middle East region, compared to other areas around the world. We’re aspiring to help bridge this gap.

For the startups we work with in Hub71, we try to do three things. First, we try to provide the computing power they need, which is massive. Again, through the data centers we’ve built in the country, we make this compute power available to them, which is something no startup on their own would be able to build. The second thing is skilling. We help startups build the required skills in cutting-edge technology, whether that’s AI, IoT, blockchain, or machine learning. You name the technology, we work to raise their capabilities, skills and certifications on the latest technologies to help them build their business.

The third area, which we find they care about as much as everything else, is help with business development. A lot of startups need this in the early stage. Both within country and through the Microsoft network of offices across the world, we have what we call “partner co-sell initiatives”. Basically, we give incentives to the Microsoft salespeople across the globe to sell those partner solutions. You can imagine how this can benefit a startup. They have a bright idea and a good solution, now we are opening them up not just to the local market, but to regional and global markets through a top-notch sales force. As a result of these three complimentary support areas, we hope to see a lot of unicorns that come out of the region.

Do you have specific advice for early-stage tech startups in the post COVID-19 world?

SH: COVID-19 took the world by surprise. Apart from all the negative areas, there are certain opportunities that have arisen. There are concepts we had been discussing for years that were very tough to put into execution. For example, we’ve been talking about remote learning for years. We’ve been talking about telehealth and telemedicine for years. We’ve been talking about mobility and work from anywhere for many years. But we never imagined the scale of how those concepts would be adopted in just a few months because of necessity.

Again, that represents an opportunity for startups and other businesses. Now we’re moving from the early stages of helping countries on how to react to the crisis via first responders and quick infrastructure to the next phase, where the need is to help countries restart economies and ensure there is employability and job creation, we need to think what solutions will be needed. That is a good opportunity for early-stage tech startups to capitalise on, because those are new challenges, new problems and new areas that need to be solved. It represents an opportunity for great minds that want to work on an idea, a solution or a product that would address and help in restarting the economy.

Learn more about the Hub71 Incentive Programme in our free whitepaper “Roadmap to Abu Dhabi: How to unlock new opportunities for your Tech Startup”, which includes information included on page 19 for how to be one of the few startups chosen to join the programme, and best tips for success. Download whitepaper

Content from our partners
Unlocking the potential of a national asset, St Pancras International
Time for Labour to turn the tide on children’s health
How can we deliver better rail journeys for customers?

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.