Middle Eastern promise: NDRC to help run accelerator in Oman

23 Nov 2017

Image: Maha Al Balushi, managing director of Techween, Oman Technology Fund, with Gary Leyden, commercial director, NDRC. Image: Shane O’Neill/SON Photographic

NDRC to kick-start a start-up revolution in Middle East and North Africa region.

Dublin’s NDRC has won a major deal with the Oman government’s technology investment fund to run a pre-seed accelerator in Muscat.

The deal with Oman Technology Fund (OTF) represents a new international chapter for NDRC.

‘We decided that it was important to go into a collaboration with a strong partner and gain from that knowledge transfer’

10 start-ups from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will be selected to take part in the accelerator.

NDRC will provide its expertise as well as personnel over the course of the three-month programme, with the required capital investment coming from OTF.

Seeding a whole new start-up ecosystem

The accelerator will commence in January 2018 and will include a two-week visit by Omani representatives to Dublin in early 2018.

OTF was launched by the Oman Investment Fund in October 2016 and recently partnered with 500 Startups to train and accelerate its later-stage tech start-ups.

“Signing this agreement with NDRC highlights our shared principles regarding the start-up ecosystem, helping us to provide training and expertise to early-stage technology companies,” said Yousef Al Harthy, OTF chair.

“Between OTF and NDRC, we will help with their progression, development, innovation and access into both local and regional markets. These start-ups will also become better equipped to compete with larger companies, and support the Oman economy.”

NDRC commercial director Gary Leyden explained that the initial contact between the OTF and NDRC came about through Dublin-based venture capital firm Atlantic Bridge Partners, due to OTF’s international investment activities.

“Already it is apparent that there are some very rich opportunities in terms of e-commerce start-ups and fintech start-ups. There are also some promising VR and AR start-ups as well as qualified graduates with AR and VR expertise,” Leyden said.

Also speaking with Siliconrepublic.com was Maha Al Balushi, managing director of Techween, OTF, who explained that the Omani tech community was making the transition from locally focused IT service players into product-oriented start-ups.

“We are at the start of this journey and we need to open the door very widely. There is a lot of diversity in the ideas that we have seen so far. Oman is rich in potential in this area. We have a very young population – 60pc of people in Oman are under 25 – and there are lots of initiatives underway to cater for job creation in the private sector.

“NDRC is ahead of us in experience when it comes to accelerating the start-ups in the early stage. We decided that it was important to go into a collaboration with a strong partner and gain from that knowledge transfer.”

In a recent economic impact infographic, NDRC revealed that so far, its start-ups have generated more than 1,600 jobs directly and indirectly worldwide.

Keeping with its original mission of helping to commercialise tech transfer from academia, around 44pc of NDRC entrepreneurs have a master’s or PhD qualification.

About 34 of NDRC’s graduating start-ups have established operations overseas and 40pc are now considering establishing a base in the UK due to Brexit.

In 2015, NDRC was ranked the No 2 university business accelerator in the world by UBI Global.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years