May 20, 2024
Business Events GCC UAE

Global investors with $7 billion under management set to finance startups at Super Angels Summit 2023 in Abu Dhabi

Gulf emirate clinches the world’s first and largest angel investment event

The UAE has firmly established itself on the global startup map, with the UAE government’s Entrepreneurial Nation initiative seeking to develop 8,000+ startups and SMEs in the Gulf nation by 2030 and setting up 20 startups valued at more than $1 billion by 2031.

The Entrepreneurial Nation programme is set to receive a significant boost when the Super Angels Summit – the world’s first and largest angel investment summit – is held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) from December 15-16, 2023.

The two-day conference and expo is set to draw 2,000+ attendees from across the globe and is being organised by India-headquartered Venture Catalysts++, with the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, ADNEC, The Private Office of Sheikh Saeed Bin Ahmed Al Maktoum, and Emirates Angels Investors Association.

The event is set to feature 85 global speakers, 300+ ecosystem enablers, 500+ startups, 1,000+ investors, and 300+ CXOs.

In an exclusive interview with ‘Middle East News 247’ in Dubai, Ravi K Ranjan, a veteran venture capitalist and Founder and CEO of the Super Angels Summit brand (pictured above), elaborates on why he opted to host the globally significant angel investment event in Abu Dhabi emirate, why the UAE is fast emerging as the go-to destination for the world’s most innovative startups and venture capitalists, and how the upcoming event is set to bring $7 billion in funding to standout startups.

Excerpts from the interview:

On why Super Angels Summit 2023 is being organised in Abu Dhabi and not in any other global city:

We [Venture Catalysts++] are a group of investors based in India. We are the world’s third-largest investors’ group and India’s number one. Hence, it would have been easy to organise the 2023 event in India, our home ground. Also, since we have been organising the event for several years in India at the national level, we wanted to take our rich and varied angel investment experience to a global platform.

In this context, we studied many places worldwide. We observed that the UAE today is truly a melting pot of cultures and nationalities, with many innovators from across the world setting up bases in the UAE.

Indeed, when we talk about 2023 and beyond, the UAE is the platform where ideas and innovations can come together, and innovators and venture capitalists can prosper.

Against this background, we selected the UAE for Super Angels Summit 2023. In addition, the Abu Dhabi government has supported our efforts to bring the event to the emirate. But honestly, as the event is global by nature, I would not be surprised if we hosted variations of the Super Angels Summit in different parts of the world a couple of years later.

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Abu Dhabi will host Super Angels Summit 2023. Image: Jason Lee

On why Abu Dhabi was considered for Super Angels Summit 2023 and not Dubai:

That’s an interesting question. Very interesting because, in my capacity, I have worked with a royal family member of Dubai for the last few years. So, in a way, it was logical for me to organise the event in Dubai, a city I have often visited.

However, during my first visit to Abu Dhabi, I saw the potential the emirate offers for the event for three main reasons.

First, Abu Dhabi has built excellent facilities like AGM and Hub71. Second, the emirate genuinely invites and supports world-class events in Abu Dhabi.

Number three, Abu Dhabi has emerged as one of the biggest financial supporters of startups. In this regard, Abu Dhabi has multiple funds supporting many startups. This is why many Indian startups with a vision to scale operations have successfully raised capital from Abu Dhabi.

I agree that Dubai has successfully put startups on track for many years, more so than Abu Dhabi. Nowadays, Abu Dhabi has moved from traditional businesses and business models to doing something different.

In this context, Abu Dhabi has been hosting some of the top speakers from the startup and technology world, and when we noticed this trend, it surprised us, and we said, ‘OK, let us go ahead and see how we can add value to what Abu Dhabi is striving to achieve.’

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Scores of globally renowned speakers will headline the conference. Image: Venture Catalysts++

On what is empowering the startup ecosystem in the UAE:

There are several factors, but I would list the top three. First is the forward-looking approach of the rulers and leaders of the country. Almost all Web3.0 and crypto startups have moved their base to the UAE in the last two to three years. This was primarily after large economies worldwide, such as China, the US, and India, sidelined crypto, with some countries terming crypto as illegal. We cannot depend on paper currency forever. We have to look at digital currencies.

The UAE has formulated policies so conducive to Web3.0 and crypto companies that they have all moved to the UAE. The country has a clear-cut policy which looks at future innovation. The UAE also invites people from all social backgrounds and all economic classes, allowing one to set up a startup quickly.

There are obvious challenges when you move to a new country. Still, if the challenges are compared between other countries’ economies and the UAE, building a new business in the UAE is much easier.

Also, there are a lot of business-friendly initiatives in the UAE, such as Hub71 and AGM in Abu Dhabi, or DIFC and in5 in Dubai. VC funds are collaborating and helping early-stage entrepreneurs to scale and build solutions based on the intrinsic global nature of conducting business in the UAE.

The second reason is that the UAE’s acceptance of new products or services is also very high. Thus, home-grown brands such as Talabat and Careem are on the street. There is also space for Deliveroo, Zomato, and Jollibee, not to mention several Indian brands.

The third reason is access to capital, which is very important for a startup to build and flourish. Today, the UAE offers, I would say, one of the largest pools of capital that is readily available to startups.

To sum up, all three factors I have mentioned justify why startups from across the globe are trying to shift their base or build their business in the UAE.

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On high-growth areas for startups, in general:

Based on my experience, I would say that startups typically look at societal challenges and try to solve them with their solutions.

Some years ago, when we had a slow internet connection, several mobile application startups were typically built around websites. As such, there were many companies building solutions based on the Internet.

Then, the mobile app age arrived, and you suddenly saw mobile apps galore. Today, some of the biggest companies in the world are app-only or app-first. Then, there was a lot of requirement for e-commerce. When Amazon started in the US, it paved the way for many regional e-commerce players to emerge and become very large in their own right.

Between 2018 and 2022, there were many companies in hyper-local delivery, food delivery, and deep tech. I would now say, post-pandemic, there is, first of all, a lot of emphasis on health tech.

Next comes agritech, because people have realised that you can make money and become successful, but you also need good food. Today, one of the most significant reasons responsible for lifestyle diseases is the food we eat.

Across the world, there is a lot of conversation about putting effort into food companies and sustainable food because agriculture consumes a lot of water, and there is much pesticide usage. So, startups are now focusing on these issues. That’s on one side.

On the other side, we are talking about generative AI today. AI is not productive, but AI as a concept has been there since the early 70s and 80s. AI has taken almost 30 to 40 years to reach where it is today.

In World War 2, when the British scientists in Cambridge cracked the Germans’ Enigma code, that was a concept of early AI in use.

Today, I would say AI is not a startup segment; instead, it is a vertical which can create opportunities for multiple businesses to be built on top of generative AI. For example, some technologies are already available in journalism and can conduct journalism activities.

Most work, including copywriting, editing, etc., will be completely automated two years later. So, people like you and me would only be able to add value to our creativity because the basics would be taken care of, which will be valid for every vertical.

In healthcare, I know some startups working on combining AI and robotics for advanced surgery. Doing so not only reduces the preparation time for surgery but also reduces damage to the human body while reducing the entire process of how long it takes for a patient to heal because the whole process would have been done more efficiently.

On typical challenges that startups encounter in the quest for funding:

Too many startups follow a group or a herd mentality. They look at VCs putting money into one segment, and all the startups go after that segment. They tend to forget that they should not do what everyone else does. They need to look at other verticals to operate in.

Let us assume that investors are putting money into generative AI right now. Implying, gen AI suddenly becomes interesting, healthtech becomes boring, and foodtech becomes interesting.

That’s one challenge we see in startups most of the time. They cannot raise capital because they are pitching to the wrong vertical. Entrepreneurs typically start businesses as founders or CEOs. They say: ‘There’s a VC who has money. I’ll go and pitch to them.’

However, these new entrepreneurs need to do their homework. If they aim to raise, let’s say, $500,000 from building an edtech company, these entrepreneurs must know who the top investors are who have invested in edtech worldwide.

Then, they must find someone to introduce them to a potential investor because investors are very busy. Top-rated investors typically receive around 100 e-mails a day seeking capital injection. They cannot go through each one of the 100 e-mails.

However, an entrepreneur can approach the target investor through a referral or their own portfolio companies. It is then relatively easy to grab an investor’s attention and take things from there.

Also, fundraising is a full-time job. Raising capital takes almost 40 to 60 weekly work hours for 12 to 18 weeks.

People think, ‘OK, I have pitched to five investors. They all said no. Maybe I can’t raise capital.’ But that may not be the case. A startup seeking funding has to reach out to at least 100 investors and follow up consistently. Build and follow the process; that is how one can achieve fundraising.

I typically encounter startups who struggle to raise $500,000. Then, I also come across startups that have raised $100 million, and as they are oversubscribed, they cannot take more money and have to decline further investors.

What is essential for startups seeking funding to remember is the way you are telling the story and the way you are reaching out to investors.

On the roadmap that led to Super Angels Summit 2023:

I have been a part of the global startup ecosystem for a long time and have worked with many stakeholders, domains, etc.

In my capacity, I have trained 200,000+ entrepreneurs, 20,000+ academicians, and 2,000+ government officials. I have also been a speaker, a jury member and an expert and helped launch 2,000+ startups.

If you are in the startup world, you attend events almost every other day. So, I have been looking at the kind of startup events which are happening across the world.

In 2018, I developed a programme called Angel Investment Master Class, a simple 60 to 90-minute physical or online session for people with disposable income. The initiative currently invests in real estate, gold, and equity assets.

We then introduced the Angel Investment Master Class participants to angel investment. To date, we have organised 1,000+ sessions across the world. Because of this one programme, we have brought 6,000+ angel investors into the investment ecosystem.

Back in 2022, when deciding how to upscale the Angel Investment Master Class programme I thought, why do we not organise it at a global scale and a more significant level so that we can educate more people about angel investment and where they can meet experts from other parts of the world who have been in the field for a long time?

All this gave birth to the Super Angels Summit 2023 concept.

On the total funding that Super Angels Summit 2023 is offering startups:

In our group – Venture Catalysts++ – one of the event’s main organisers, we have six fund houses with $1 billion. We have sought to be very neutral with the event. We, therefore, invited almost all the other reputed angel networks in India as well. We also have angel networks from Russia, Southeast Asia, North America, the UK, Europe, and Africa.

Investors are coming to the event with a total capital pool of $7 billion.

How much a startup can raise at the event depends on many factors. Therefore, we have split the pitching process into two parts. For part one, we are doing a ‘Super Pitch ’ battle. To date, we have received 1,500+ applications from startups.

We have begun shortlisting these startups. Of these top startups, 32, 16, eight and then four will pitch to investors from the main stage in tournament style. At the end of this round, the top two winners will receive cash prizes, and they will also get a commitment to raising capital from the jury members at the event.

At Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, the Super Angels Summit 2023 venue, and as part two, we will have a Startup Stage where startups will pitch directly to investors throughout the day.

We have launched the Super Angels Summit app – now available for Android and iOS – where all the startups at the event are listed, and investors can indicate how much they wish to put into a startup. By the end of the two-day conference, we will collect all these interactions and have a combined investment figure.

To summarise, we have the top VC networks at the event, and they are all looking to raise investment in the startups that interest them. The participating startups are primarily based in India, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

On the sustainability agenda of Super Angels Summit 2023:

We will have a special stage for sustainability and an ESG-focused track. We have many attendees from across the world who are ESG experts and will talk about their expertise in investing in ESG-led companies and supporting the next wave of ESG-led entities, such as sustainability and the green economy.

Super Angels Summit 2023 will see many global experts who have built successful businesses in the green economy sharing their expert expertise. We also have many startups who are building ESG-focused solutions and who will be pitching for investment at the event.

On the speakers’ mix at Super Angels Summit 2023:

As of today, we have 75 speakers confirmed. We are going to have a total of 85 speakers. It is a 100% global mix as we have people from almost all parts of the world, and 40% of the speakers are women. It is a mix of people who have built successful businesses, invested in many successful businesses, and led some of the largest corporations in the world.

We also have speakers who represent government agencies, as we wanted to have a mix of all the critical stakeholders of the startup ecosystem come together and share their expertise because you cannot focus more on one platform and ignore another. We want to have a healthy balance of stakeholders and a global dialogue.

On the Super Angels Summit 2023 theme:

Our theme is straightforward. We believe that today, the world is truly global and borderless regarding how you can build and scale your business. We want this event to be a testament that you can make a business from anywhere in the world and sell anywhere in the world.

You will find investors; you will find support globally to build and scale your businesses. We want this event to exemplify how global economies are intertwined and support each other.

On the upcoming event’s key takeaways:

There are unique takeaways for all the stakeholders. First, investors at the event can meet other investors from other parts of the world and learn how others’ economies are performing. Maybe they would also instead invest in another economy.

Then, aspiring investors will be able to meet well-established investors and learn from them how they can also start investing in startups. Super Angels Summit 2023 is a goldmine of opportunity because, for every square foot, an investor will meet another investor.

We also invite youth from colleges and academia to interact with resource personnel at the event and get inspired. To build a healthy startup ecosystem, you need young people with ideas and solutions to better the world.

From an organising point of view, there is a lot of learning in building a global event of this size in the UAE, a foreign location, and we are doing it for the first time. In effect, there’s a win-win for everyone at the conference.

On follow-up measures after the event:

The Super Angels Summit mobile app will be a year-long activation, allowing this year’s attendees to initiate or continue interaction with startups, investors, partners, and organisers.

We will also launch a Super Angels University as a virtual university as we already possess a large part of the curriculum that we will soon supplement with a new curriculum.

The virtual university aims to offer a year-long learning opportunity on how to invest in startups, find promising startups, and earn wealth from startups.

We will launch the Super Angels University at the Abu Dhabi conference, which will go live a month after the conference ends. The virtual university’s content will be accessible to conference attendees simply by logging in with their registered e-mail ID.

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Super Angels Summit 2023 conference and expo layout at ADNEC. Image: Venture Catalysts++.

On the legacy of Super Angels Summit 2023:

We certainly want this event to be successful regarding participants finding value. We want startups to raise capital and want investors and aspiring investors to learn from the conference, return, and start investing in startups.

If we can convert just 5% of attendees from the conference from going from non-investing to investing, that will be a success matrix for us.

On women’s role in the startup world:

If one looks at the global statistics, less than 5% of startups funded are by women. In VC, there are a lot of challenges. We all understand this. I know that we can invite more women leaders to talk.

We can invite more women to participate in our event and get inspired. This is our humble effort. For a long time, I have led many women in tech initiatives for companies such as Google, NASSCOM and others, where we hosted women-focused programmes.

That again becomes a question of debate. Should you have a women-only event? I do not think so. What we need to do is that we need to organise an event which is very open and inclusive for everyone.

We need to invite more women because only a tiny percentage are active in the startup ecosystem. We must tell them: ‘Listen, it is a fair playing field for all of you.’ We need to make a fair playing field for women so that they can also fully participate in the startup world.

Once investors see many women entrepreneurs setting up successful startups, they will have the motivation and courage to invest in women-led businesses. Women have to come forward and start building more businesses. I am sure that capital will be available for them when they do so.

On the recently concluded GITEX Global 2023 event in Dubai being billed as the ‘largest technology and startup event in the world’ and Super Angels Summit 2023 in comparison:

GITEX Global was the world’s largest technology and startup event in October 2023. On the other hand, We are going to have just 2,000+ attendees.

However, we are the world’s first and largest angel investors summit. There are no conferences focused exclusively on angel investors on a global scale. Some conferences focus entirely on VC, while others concentrate only on technology companies.

We are entirely focused on angel investors. So, in effect, our entire conference agenda, the dialogue, and the conversation will be around angel investment by angel investors. In this manner, we have become the world’s largest angel investors conference. We expect 500+ startups to attend the event in Abu Dhabi on December 15 and 16, 2023.

As of date, I cannot comment on the final number of startups attending the event and can only do so once the event concludes. Super Angels Summit 2023 is the world’s first and largest angel investment summit.

On synergy with COP28:

There are two huge globally significant events taking place in the UAE around the time of our event. One is the Abu Dhabi Finance Week [November 27-30, 2023], and the second is COP28 [November 30-December 12, 2023].

We have focused on sustainability and built a unique sustainability-focused track. While at COP28, prominent government leaders will talk about climate change policies, at our conference; because we are investors with a focus on startups, we will discuss and emphasise how investors should look at supporting the next wave of ESG startups. So, this is our tie-in with the upcoming climate change event in the UAE.

Featured image: Venture Catalysts++

Last Updated on 2 months by Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto is an award-winning journalist with wide-ranging Middle East and Asia experience in the tech, aerospace, defence, luxury watchmaking, business, automotive, and fashion verticals. He is passionate about conserving endangered native wildlife globally. Arnold enjoys 4x4 off-roading, camping and exploring global destinations off the beaten track.
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