The Power of Global Connectedness: Something Special in the UAE

For ecosystem builders and policymakers trying to attract businesses to grow in their region, the question is: why here?
Samantha Evans
on July 03, 2024

Building global category leaders in the tech industry means internationalization. We all know that! The critical factor for scaling tech companies is the how, why, and when — timing is everything. For ecosystem builders and policymakers trying to attract businesses to grow in their region, the question is: why here?

I am pleased to say that for the first time in many, many years, I have stopped hearing the obsolete question of “How can we be the next Silicon Valley?” Instead, leaders are attempting to reverse engineer the needs of tech scaleups to attract more foreign companies to expand into their region. They are asking: how can we help scaling companies catapult growth? What makes us unique from other regions? What do we offer that other hubs don’t? Think outside of the usual marketing lines of “cheaper than, bigger than, more flights/universities/talent,” and insert anything here!

Anyone can read the data and see that the same initiatives that put Silicon Valley on the map nearly 100 years ago are still relevant today for growing technology ecosystems: business-friendly policies and ease of governance, tax incentives, talent in abundance, access to capital and customers, etc. 

The Importance of Global Connectedness

One thing we talk less about is the human side of entrepreneurship and innovation.We build to improve. We learn from the people and environment we are surrounded by. Community matters.

In 2017, Startup Genome explored the concept of connectedness by introducing the Global Connectedness Factor to the Global Startup Ecosystem Report (GSER - see our 2024 report here). We defined Global Connectedness as the degree of international connections between ecosystem stakeholders, originating from the practical observation that startups in globally-connected ecosystems have greater ease in creating leading innovations, accessing global markets, and seizing global category leadership. Global Connectedness provides founders with access to global knowledge and personal connections that can support them in international expansion and, therefore, on their way to building billion dollar businesses.

In the Startup Genome Scaleup Report, we delved even deeper into the power of connectedness, showing that startups with high levels of Global Connectedness have a 3.25x higher rate of becoming a scaleup, defined as an early-stage startup with a valuation of $50 million or more.

Connectedness in Action

Maybe it's the Social Anthropologist in me - when I was studying for my Social Anthropology Masters many years ago, I fell out of love with it, not because it wasn't interesting, but because I felt the only career path open to me was to be an academic. I wanted to have an impact in the world - not just write about it, especially knowing that being in an environment will change it.

What I really love is meeting new people and learning about customs, cultures, economies, histories, personal stories, and building relationships with people who inevitably shape me as a human. I can remember every precise moment – a decision led me to a new adventure, all accepting an invitation to meet someone, each of them life changing.

I recently moved to Abu Dhabi and one thing that has blown me away is the community and global connectedness of this place! Having lived in Manchester, London, San Francisco, and New York, and being a regular visitor to Singapore, Japan, Korea, and Australia, I have a unique perspective on what a community actually looks like and that feeling when you know you are part of something special.

I have been excitedly building my knowledge and network across the GCC for a number of years. With more than 85% expats in the UAE and a high-growth tech economy, I knew I would have an impact here and be impacted, bringing together my global network and experience, and adding much more to my own knowledge from the people here. This melting pot of cultures, experiences, and knowledge, colliding with a government with high ambition and resources to invest into diversifying their economy, results in a fast moving, open, and innovative environment. You cannot learn and develop in an echo chamber - they know that here more than many places.

Attracting the Best Talent

We have the data on how to build and we have the experience and knowledge shared from those who came before, but one thing you cannot artificially create is the innovative hunger and entrepreneurial spirit of an ecosystem.

My advice to ecosystems trying to attract the best of the best? Increase job opportunities and diversify your economy. Look at what is unique in your ecosystem. Go out, speak to someone with a different perspective or background from you - I promise it will change your life! Global connectedness matters.

Learn more about the importance of Global Connectedness and the crucial factor for ecosystem growth from Startup Genome’s Founder and President, Marc Penzel, here.

This is the first part in an ongoing series from Samantha Evans, Startup Genome's Managing Director, MENA. In upcoming articles, Sam will share more about her experiences with scaling and attracting companies in the world's leading ecosystems.

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