x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Hoping to help oaks grow from acorns

The Life: Hans Henrik Christensen, the managing director of a new incubation centre in the UAE called Silicon Oasis Founders, talks about how he wants to shape the industry in the Emirates.

Hans Henrik Christensen, the director of Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority, will help entrepreneurs to launch their firm. Antonie Robertson / The National
Hans Henrik Christensen, the director of Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority, will help entrepreneurs to launch their firm. Antonie Robertson / The National

Hans Henrik Christensen, the director of Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA) free zone, is a busy man.

He is one of the managing directors of Silicon Oasis Founders (Sof) in the run-up to its official launch in November.

Owned by the Dubai Government, Sof will help start-up companies in mobile applications, e-commerce and internet technologies. Here, Mr Christensen talks about what Sof has to offer.

What is the centre all about?

DSOA is funding the complete operations and staffing it. We have also secured outside sponsorship, which we will announce next month. Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is one of the partners. Anyone, including RIT students, can apply at our incubator and there is a strict selection process. We are looking for entrepreneurs who have a basic product to sell. If we see it has a market value, we will incubate the business plan in exchange for 30 to 40 per cent equity. We want the entrepreneur to have a majority stake. We will help launch and establish the company, and also help in selling it or setting up a venture capitalist on board. The incubator will house the companies for six to 12 months.

How many ventures are you planning to help a year?

We are expecting three ventures to come in and next year five. The number will increase over time. Any given year, we can incubate between five and 10 ventures in parallel. We have enough space for 10 ventures.

What do you invest in a company?

Between US$50,000 (Dh183,647) and $150,000.

How optimistic are you about getting quality ideas?

We have received 100 applications already. We are taking applications and screening them. We already have our first venture on board and we expect to have the second by later this month. Hopefully, we will have a third by November. We believe [the Emirates] is going to be a hub for entrepreneurs. A lot of people from Europe, the United States, the Arab world and India are setting up companies here in the free zone.

What is the aim of the Sof?

We would like to ... shape the incubator industry here. We want to have very strict process to select ventures and create a strong ecosystem for partners.

What are the challenges?

To get people to produce professional applications. If you are looking at getting Emirati entrepreneurs, many are reluctant to leave government jobs and take risks. But we can help them minimise the risks.

ssahoo@thenational.ae