The future of proptech is in Abu Dhabi

Anyone who’s been to the UAE or even seen aerial shots of the country knows how quickly the construction and property markets move there, with high-rise buildings and new developments appearing seemingly overnight.

The capital city and largest emirate, Abu Dhabi, is continuing to boom despite Covid-19 putting a halt on sales and even rental property movement. According to a study produced recently by Bayut.com, (a home-grown UAE brand and one of the region’s huge proptech success stories), even with the pandemic, Q1 and Q2 market movement in Abu Dhabi remains at the same level as in 2019, with some regions showing some growth – a positive sign for the UAE economy generally and the property market specifically.

But it’s not just the buying, selling and renting areas of the property market that are flourishing in Abu Dhabi – proptech companies focused on the tech side – including products and services and B2B – are seeing the UAE as a growth market. The reason for that is most likely the country’s push for tech innovation, which is, according to businessman Ahmad Alwan is a “top-down directive that comes straight from the government.”

According to Alwan, who leads Strategy and Corporate Development at Abu Dhabi’s tech ecosystem, Hub71, there is a “real ambition in the UAE to drive the economy from being a technology consumer to a technology producer”. And while that’s been happening for quite some time, this year the government has given a real push via Hub71 to attract foreign high-growth technology companies to Abu Dhabi to set up their proptech businesses. Hub71’s incentive programme includes subsidised housing, office space and health insurance for companies in their seed and emergent stage, anywhere from 2-25 people that have raised more than $100k in institutional funding.

Maan Al Awlaqi, executive director of strategy and transformation at Aldar Properties shared his thoughts on the market and what Hub71 is bringing to the table. Aldar is the capital city’s largest property developer and is responsible for the city’s most notable developments.

“Above and beyond fiscal incentives – which are necessary but not enough on their own – Hub71 offers real benefit for members in the network that they plug into. It’s a vibrant incubation space for entrepreneurs working on a wide variety of sectors.

“The platform works closely with international venture capitalists to facilitate funding for members and has actively partnered with leading corporations to catalyse activity across its focal sectors. As an example, last year Aldar signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Hub71 so that start-ups across the ecosystem can benefit from our support, including mentoring, innovation workshops and piloting new proptech products.”


One such startup who benefits from the comprehensive Hub71 network, SensGreen, which provides cleaner air for buildings with its smart, AI-based system. SensGreen’s owner, Turkish national Hasan Tosun knew that Abu Dhabi was the next logical step for its third office (the first is in Ankara, Turkey and the second in Singapore).

“Abu Dhabi is the best place in the world to start a cleantech company right now, because it offers very competitive advantages for clean energy technologies. The emirate has been incentivising a lot of companies to invest more into renewables and energy efficiency, which is where we come in.”

But not only has Tosun seen the advantage of being in a country dedicated to clean energy and property tech, he’s also profited from the network of mentors and business strategists.

“Hub71 has really been our dedicated partner in upselling and improvement, introducing us to companies and clients, marketers and investors – all which helps to make us better. As a tech entrepreneur here, I’ve not only expanded my network, but it’s also made me a better businessman –to make decisions in a better way and take critical decisions faster.

To sum up the benefits of Abu Dhabi as a location for property technology startups, Awlaqi had this to say: “Bringing together all the threads of our previous discussion, it is essential for such startups to base themselves within a dynamic, diverse and well-resourced ecosystem that allows them to tap investment and collaborate.

“We will continue our march towards a world built around the Internet of Things, machine learning, AI and blockchain. Proptech startups focused on these areas – be it through smart buildings, AI-powered broker portals or otherwise – will be well placed to drive Proptech 3.0 and the shared economy forward.”

CityMetric is now City Monitor! Come see us at our new home

City Monitor is now live in beta at citymonitor.ai.

CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is now a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission is to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

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As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

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I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

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Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.