Tarik Belhachemi is in charge of Business Development for unified communications solutions within Orange Business Services Middle East & Africa. He joined the Dubai team in 2013, where he leads a small team of business developers. They help large companies and high-potential start-ups adopt unified communications solutions (IP telephony, instant messaging, corporate social networks, conferencing, etc).
“Orange and start-ups are a win-win: they bring us local solutions and we offer them international opportunities through the Orange Fab network”
Tarik Belhachemi, Head of Business Development, Collaboration Solutions, within Orange Business Services Middle East & Africa
“In the UAE, and more specifically in Dubai, start-ups enjoy a privileged environment. There are several incubators and accelerators – some of them international – to support their development, facilitate their move to the region, provide co-working spaces, and organise tradeshows that highlight their innovations.
At the same time, the authorities have introduced favourable conditions for start-ups because they believe they’ll contribute to Dubai’s rapid transformation – as the UAE’s most dynamic emirate, Dubai aims to become an international showcase for innovation. It has created ‘free zones’ which enable companies to enter the emirate more easily while benefiting from tax breaks.
This policy has been effective, with start-ups from this ecosystem becoming successful unicorns such as Careem – the ‘Uber’ of the Middle East – which has already raised more than $1 billion. Souq.com has been acquired by Amazon, while Fetchr continues its rapid development thanks to its disruptive delivery solution.
Orange is among the key stakeholders in the city’s transition to becoming a renowned Smart City. Since 2017, we’ve partnered with the Startupbootcamp (opens in a new window) (1) accelerator and the Dubai Silicon Oasis free zone. Startupbootcamp, with the support and expertise of Orange Business Services, is working with start-ups to help develop their activities in a range of Smart City fields (IoT, Blockchain, Smart Transportation, Energy Management, Analytics).
The accelerator’s first season welcomed 10 start-ups selected from more than 1,000 candidates around the world. They follow a 3-month programme where they receive advice from mentors, including Orange Business Services experts, a workspace within the free zone, high-quality coaching and funding of $15,000. For our part, we offer our expertise and know-how to help them develop their business model, find partners, unblock technical difficulties…
The five start-ups mentored by Orange all share our Smart City vision. One example is InteliTaap, a traffic flow solution that analyses customer’s movements around a hypermarket live on a smartphone even without them needing a Wi-Fi connection. An Argentinian start-up CountIT has developed sensors that can be placed on street lighting to analyse traffic in real time and provide the city with live and consolidated data. This means traffic calming measures can be put in place to ease congestion and prevent pollution spikes. Finally, Smart Sensor Devices, a Swedish start-up, has developed ‘all-in-one’ miniature sensors that accurately measure a multitude of environmental air quality criteria that can be used in a range of IoT Smart City projects.
These innovations all respond to local issues, and we’re looking to promote them to our customers and prospects. We either market them in partnership with the start-up – which enables us to differentiate and enrich our offer with unique innovations. Or we advise our customers on the best way to integrate the start-up’s concept.
At the end of the acceleration period, some of these start-ups can be integrated into our solutions catalogue, such as the collaboration between the start-up Arabot and Orange Jordan.”
(1) Founded in 2010 in Copenhagen, Startupbootcamp is an international accelerator of around twenty accelerators, one of which is located in Dubai.
Smart Sensor Devices is a Swedish start-up founded in late 2015. It offers specialised sensors and connectivity solutions for a wide range of applications. It focuses on the rapidly growing IoT market and hopes to become a major partner in Dubai’s smart city transformation by providing environmental sensors and monitoring devices. Axel G. Hammer, Founder & CEO of Smart Sensor Devices, and Alex Juanro, Partner & Director of Business Development, tell us more about their start-up.
“Orange Business Services has been one of our great local partners. The opportunity to have a local proof of concept for our air quality system in their Dubai office was a milestone achievement for us”
Axel G. Hammer, Founder & CEO of Smart Sensor Devices, and Alex Juanro, Partner & Director of Business Development
Where did you get the idea to create Smart Sensor Devices?
Axel G. Hammer : I was working as the chief technology officer for a service-based company and helping start-ups develop wireless connectivity and hardware components for their products. That’s where I got the idea to create a start-up to help other companies accelerate their product development through IoT hardware and connectivity product platforms.
Tell us more about your association with Orange Business Services?
Alex Juanro : We applied for the Startupbootcamp (SBC) programme in Stockholm. We were one of 20 teams selected from a pool of 1,000 start-ups worldwide for the final in Dubai. We met Orange Business Services as part of the SBC programme as we were looking for local mentors and partners. They have been one of our great local partners.
Axel G. Hammer : The opportunity to have a local proof of concept for our air quality system in their Dubai office was a milestone achievement for us.
How is your company doing today?
Axel G. Hammer : We have stable monthly revenue from our business in the Nordic region and are looking to launch a new product called “hibou Air Quality”—an environmental sensor system. Our immediate challenge is to market this new product in the UAE. We currently have a presence in the Nordics, Europe, Dubai and Malaysia, and our ambition is to become a global IoT sensor networks supplier.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Alex Juanro : Participate in SBC and try to establish local partnerships with global integrators such as Orange Business Services. This will help your company gain credibility and rapidly grow into a successful start-up.