HCT InnCuVation Forum 2021 Culminates with Fast-Paced Startup Pitch Competition in Cooperation with the Emirates Angels Investors Association


10 Student Startups Vie for Top Honors & Potential Angel Investor Support

InnCuVation Forum to Become Annual Opportunity for Government, Industry & Academia to Reach, Connect and Launch

Abu Dhabi: E-Fate, a company promoting sustainability through the collection of electronic waste has been named the winner of the Startup Pitch Day competition, on the final day of the inaugural HCT InnCuVation Forum 2021.

The entrepreneurial venture was one of 10 student-run startups presented in a fast-paced Startup Pitch Competition, where budding entrepreneurs each had five minutes to impress a panel of judges, members of the Emirates Angels Investors Association (EAIA). Joining E-Fate on the winners’ podium were “3D Design & Printing” (3DCP) in 2nd place and “Match My Skin” in 3rd place.

E-Fate, launched in 2019, specializes in managing and collecting electronic waste from urban communities and large and medium sized companies. Company spokesman, Mohamed Al Hammadi, explained the company is targeting to collect more than 100 tons of e-waste in 2021. The aim of E-Fate is to play a substantial role in positioning the UAE as a leader in the field of recycling, he said.

The Emirates Angels Investors Association (EAIA), a non-profit association founded in 2020, aims to fill the gap in the early-stage investments in the UAE ecosystem. 

Association Chairman, Mr. Masaood Al Masaood, an HCT alumnus himself, said: “The Higher Colleges of Technology have always been at the forefront of technology and I am really proud to see this prestigious institution is more focused on technology today than ever. Young future leaders choose HCT because of its long history and proven track record of creating the leaders of the future.”

Mr. Al Masaood shared his insights into the relatively novel concept of angel investors and the Association he founded in 2019. “We aim to support and promote start-up investment in the UAE. We connect startups to our members and we aim to bring the best practices from the field of angel investing to the UAE,” he said.

The distinguished judging panel, formed by three EAIA members, was comprised of Maha Al Fahim, the Founder of Highwater Venture Partners; Mr. Mana Al Suwaidi, the Executive Chairman of STRATEGI Advisors; and Mr. Tom Rebollini, CFO of the Emirates Consortium LLC.

Mr. Nicola Bettio, HCT Executive Director of Applied Research, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, explained that the 10 startups graduated from the first cycle of the Startup Accelerator, held under HCT’s Startup Development Program. 

“Our Startup Development Program aims to create awareness and interest among students about entrepreneurship, to strengthen their business ideas through bootcamps and finally to help them to build solid business in the accelerator program,” he said. 

“Empowering students and helping them to become entrepreneurs are integral parts of our DNA, in full alignment with article 6 of the 50 Year Charter, to create free economic and creative zones in universities and graduating companies and entrepreneurs,” he added.

The startup 3DCP provides technology solutions for the design of 3D printed buildings (in particular thermal insulation). Company representative Abdulla Al Suwaidi said the concept utilizes unique patterns and designs to minimize the materials being used in construction projects, ensuring low thermal conductivity of walls while preserving their structural integrity.

Match my Skin offers health and wellness services, particularly cosmetics and skin care, via an AI and AR mobile App. Customers will be able to find the most suitable foundation and skin care products based on their skin type.

Mr. Bettio said the high quality of our startups reflected the scope and the depth of the activities run in the HCT’s Startup Development Program. 

“Since July 2020, the program has engaged with more than 1,220 student participants, launched 67 startups (33 of which are led by female students). Of those, 21 have obtained commercial trade licenses and have commercial operations in place. Our annual program is based on 14 Entrepreneurship talks, 10 Inspire & Ideate workshops, 10 Startup Bootcamps and two cycles of the Accelerator to encourage and grow the entrepreneurial mindset among HCT students,” he said.

The final day also featured the inspiring keynote address from Mr. Omar Al Mahmoud, Chief Executive Officer of the ICT Fund. Mr. Al Mahmoud praised HCT for developing high quality entrepreneurial graduates, saying it was a “key component of the creation of human capital in the UAE”. He noted that the ICT Fund, the mission of which is to support the UAE’s ICT sector by investing in education, R &D, incubation and entrepreneurship and national technology initiatives, is working closely with the HCT to support entrepreneurship and startups.

He spoke about the skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur, including self-awareness and setting ambitious goals and solid expectations. Referring to the journey of an entrepreneur, Mr. Al Mahmoud said: “Even if you don’t make it the first time, you can always pivot and change as you go along. You can attempt the many paths that will eventually lead you to the summit”.

Mr. Al Mahmoud also highlighted the need to maintain self-discipline, organization, perfectionism, prudence and diligence. “You need to give it your all, not half-way,” he added.

Mr. Nicola Bettio commented on the significance of the Emirates Angels Investors Association’s presence in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. “This initiative by the Association is one of the key pillars of entrepreneurial support in the UAE. Angel investors are a key component of any mature and well-working startup ecosystem. They not only invest in startups, they provide coaching, mentoring, introductions, they are the most active investors,” he said. 

Dr. Alex Zahavich, HCT Chief Academic Officer, said the hugely successful forum was testimony to the can-do spirit of HCT. “We celebrated our students’ and faculties’ innovative successes, with a stellar list of keynote speakers, panelists and audience members, all in front a global audience. We have accomplished something special and we are just getting started, as we intend making the forum an annual event to engage with government, industry and academia to reach, connect and launch, echoing the forum’s theme,” he said.

About HCT:

Founded in 1988, the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) is the UAE’s largest applied higher educational institution, gaining a well-respected reputation for innovative education practices and job-focused experiential learning.

Over 20,000 students attend 16 modern, technology-oriented men’s and women’s campuses throughout the UAE. HCT offers over 70 academic programs in Applied Media, Business, Computer Information Science, Education, Engineering Technology & Science and Health Sciences.

These programs are all designed in consultation with business and industry leaders, and incorporate principles of Innovation and Entrepreneurship to ensure HCT students’ skills are up-to-date and to the highest standards. The HCT courses are a hybrid blend of innovative, technology-driven academic studies and work-relevant programs, ensuring that HCT graduates have the necessary 21st century skills to make positive and lasting contributions to society in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

The HCT 4.0 strategic plan, which is strongly aligned to the goals of the National Employment Strategy 2031, was launched in March 2019 with the theme of Employability and Beyond, and consists of three pillars – “Technical Leaders”, “No Emirati Left Behind” and “Graduate Companies”. HCT 4.0 will equip UAE’s National workforce with future skills required in the labor market, so as to meet national goals. It will also empower graduates and employees to be familiar with technological updates and enhance their skills, so as to keep pace with accelerating job changes dictated by the 4th Industrial Revolution and the rapid development of Artificial Intelligence skills.

HCT is a vital contributor to the national agendas, including providing education opportunities to every male and female Emirati and also being announced as a free zone, under the UAE’s Fifty Year Charter”, which stipulates that UAE public and private universities will be announced as free zones that allow students to carry out business and creative activities. In addition, the HCT is prominent in its role as a federal institution by promoting applied research opportunities to faculty and students.

The HCT has also embraced a global perspective on applied education by establishing the Global Applied Education Network (GAEN), which sees it partner with global educational institutions.