DUBAI // The UAE is fast becoming a key player on the global IT scene because of its strategic geographical location, according to a Web entrepreneur who has launched a company in the Emirates.
Mohammed Hamedi, who founded the software firm Droid Shield, said the UAE held huge potential to be a hub for computer firms.
“Generally, convincing people that the Mena region can develop groundbreaking technology is a big problem, and you can’t blame them. But in the last couple years, things have changed,” Mr Hamedi said.
The Middle East was often perceived as a backwater in matters of technology, he said, but this reputation had faded as more firms chose to open regional offices in the UAE.
“It’s important to be able to reach different areas in the region,” he said, speaking ahead of the opening of his company’s office in Dubai’s Silicon Oasis.
“In the UAE, I am three hours from any major Mena economy, which gives me an edge.”
Mr Hamedi’s company is developing software to allow users to access computers remotely with their phones, based on the Android operating system owned by Google.
Android is the most widely used operating system for smartphones, according to new figures released last Friday by the technology research firm Canalys.
Started in November 2009, Droid Shield has an edge over its US competitors thanks to its presence in the Mena region.
Its location in the UAE, Mr Hamedi said, has allowed it to be in touch with local businesses, to be able to “Arabise” and develop custom solutions for different vendors.
“The UAE is seen as the economic hub of the region and the availability of technology that we can work on here is very important,” he said.
“Despite the financial crisis, we believe that the country was and shall remain a great home for entrepreneurial initiatives,” said Walid Hanna, the managing partner of Middle East Venture Partners, a Beirut-based venture capital firm that is funding the business.
“We believe it has tremendous potential because we predict a growing market demand for such a remote management solution on devices using the Android platform, such as phones, tablets, smartbooks and netbooks,” he added.
Mr Hamedi said his company was essentially riding the success of the Android platform. “It’s a matter of execution at the end of the day.”
He said that previously, people did not have the opportunity to get into this lucrative market because it was captured by iPhones and BlackBerries. “But now, off the top of my head, I can count 20 top vendors actually making phones, and I noticed a big gap in the Android space.
“There was a niche who felt what’s happening to the Android market is similar to what happened to the PC market in the sense that, initially, it was very elitist and then when Windows happened, prices of hardware went down and hundreds of people started making these kinds of computers.”
Mr Hamedi, 36, has used the experience gained from his previous start-up, Sphere Networks, and his background experience with Hewlett-Packard in the US to create what he hopes will become known as a benchmark operating system for mobile devices.
“I wanted to do something different, yet I wanted to leverage my experience,” he said.