In Conversation with H.E. Ahmad Abdullah Juma Bin Byat, Vice Chairman of the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy

In Conversation with H.E. Ahmad Abdullah Juma Bin Byat, Vice Chairman of the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy

By Erika Masako Welch, 26 June 2023

Fueled by an unmatched passion for excellence, His Excellency Ahmad Abdulla bin Byat is a force to be reckoned with on the Dubai and greater MENA business landscape. Known for the breadth of his business acumen, and his visionary leadership, H.E. bin Byat is one of the most respected corporate leaders in Dubai today.

Being at the helm of many of Dubai’s most prominent companies and overseeing the Emirate’s most important projects and investments, H.E. bin Byat has proven to be instrumental in Dubai’s economy over the past three decades.

He is perhaps best known for his leadership positions at Du Telecommunications and Dubai Holding. He was chairman of Du Telecommunications from 2006 to 2018. Under his leadership, Du expanded exponentially, pitting against the incumbent goliath Etisalat, and has gained significant market share over the years.

He also led Dubai Holding from 2009 to 2017, first as CEO, then later as vice chairman. At Dubai Holding, H.E. bin Byat played the instrumental role of developing the Dubai we now know and love. Dubai Holding, one of the largest investment holding companies in the United Arab Emirates, grew significantly under his leadership.

Drawing Dubai’s Skyline

Dubai skyline speaks volumes of the integral part Dubai Holding has played in the city’s development. Iconic projects like Burj Al Arab, Dubai Healthcare City and Business Bay are just a few of the projects in Dubai Holding’s portfolio. During his time at Dubai Holding, H.E. bin Byat navigated through the Global Financial Crisis with a diversification strategy that grew the company’s portfolio beyond real estate and into healthcare, finance, and technology. 

He led the company’s global expansion in new markets and industries and was instrumental in establishing Dubai Holding as one of the leading investment companies in the UAE.

Today H.E. Ahmad bin Byat is the founding chairman and CEO of Zaina Investments LLC, a private family office that invests in local tech startups, vice chairman of Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy, and a member of the Higher Committee for Future Technologies for Dubai.

We sit down with H.E. bin Byat to discuss Dubai’s changing investment landscape over the past three decades.

“Our leaders have always reminded us that what is good for business is good for Dubai,” H.E. bin Byat said. “Dubai has always been a welcoming place for many merchants from the region to do business.” But, what has impressed him the most is the geographic reach Dubai has today and the pace at which the Emirate has achieved it. “I’ve watched as Dubai expanded its geographic attraction footprint to the whole globe!”

He further explained, “What I find most exciting is that Dubai’s ambitions are limitless. Dubai does not have a history of failures to hold it back. It’s on an exploratory mission. Dubai likes to try unique projects and approaches to improve the economy, and the social and business environment, and it does it through both policy changes, and through physical and digital means.” 



A Digital Economy Hub

H.E. bin Byat was appointed vice chairman of the board of directors at DCDE in 2020. He has been instrumental in shaping the organization’s direction and driving its mission to promote Dubai as a global hub for digital economy. H.E. bin Byat is a strong advocate of digitalization of businesses and has been at the forefront of efforts to promote the adoption of tech solutions in various industries.

When asked why he thinks Dubai has a real shot at becoming the next capital of global digital economy, he was quite matter-of-fact. “Dubai’s leadership is non-political; it’s purely focused on developing the city to become a global commerce platform, welcoming diverse businesses across industries, and attracting the best talent.”

He then listed Dubai’s strengths one by one. “Dubai’s ease of doing business, advanced infrastructure, strong rule of law, and geographic positioning between East and West, while providing proximity and ease of travel to a market of more than 2 billion people – puts Dubai in a great position. I am certain that Dubai will remain the preferred location for startups because it offers the needed fundamentals.” He added, “What is not yet certain is Dubai’s ability to support digital companies through their journey to become a Unicorn and beyond that – and that is what we are working on now.”

When asked about the DCDE board’s biggest focus at present, H.E. bin Byat emphasized on the development of a long-term strategic approach to elevate the city’s attractiveness, bringing businesses closer to policymakers so that there are no gaps or overlaps between policy and business. He also stressed the need to provide various support channels to the digital business community so that DCDE could listen and learn about their needs to then act as a sounding board for the policymakers.

Dubai’s Future Directions

H.E. bin Byat has recently been playing a major role in the formation of the Higher Committee for Future Technologies for Dubai. Chaired by the Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the committee is working to promote Dubai’s position as a leader in digital economy globally. The goal is to promote Dubai’s status as a hub for developing and testing new technologies and help establish it as one of the top ten metaverse economies in the world. It also oversees Dubai’s ambitions to be home to 20 unicorns by 2031.

When asked how realistic an ambition this ’20 unicorns by 2031’ goal is, H.E. bin Byat said, “Very realistic.” Ahmad bin Byat imagines that these unicorns will be born from a diverse set of industries, from financial technology to health tech, food tech, artificial intelligence and mobility solutions. 

“Regional security and geopolitical concerns” are Dubai’s biggest challenges in its attempt to become the number one digital economy capital in the world, according to him. However, he assured that as the digital economy expands, more startups will be conceived.

While discussing the local Venture Capital ecosystem, H.E. bin Byat reminded us how small and nascent the entire VC ecosystem is globally. “Globally, VC funding totaled to something around US $470 billion in 2022, which is just 12% of the global Private Equity and M&A deal activity– so there is huge room for growth here.”

He continued, “With growth in digital investments accelerating year on year, we expect Dubai to take a large share because we are ready for it.” H.E. bin Byat explained that he believes only a few cities are positioned as well as Dubai to become home to future industries, innovative ventures, and clean businesses. He reasoned that Dubai’s size coupled with its ambitions, clear strategic priorities and advanced infrastructure - make Dubai hard to compete with.

One area for improvement we landed on during the conversation was the viability of IPO exits for mature startups in Dubai and the region. Thus far, Dubai-based startups have yet to exit via local IPO, tending to head West for stronger listings. H.E. bin Byat saw this as a lost opportunity. “Our local and regional stock markets need to reinvent themselves and focus immediately on this growing digital segment through separate platforms built with digital companies’ needs in mind, before it’s too late,” he heeded.

Related: Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy: Why Dubai is a Great Global Launchpad for MENA Startups

Dubai’s Ability to Reinvent Itself 

With a series of visionary initiatives and investments in cutting-edge technology, Dubai is well on its way to achieving its ambitions. From its world-class fiber-optic network and cloud-based systems to its innovative approaches to smart city development, Dubai has set the standard for how cities can leverage technology to enhance the lives of its citizens and attract global businesses.

Just one recent example is the opening of the Moro Hub in February 2023, world’s largest solar-powered data centre. The 100-MW facility is a Dubai 10X initiative, which is an innovative program launched by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2017. The initiative entails government entities creating disruptive, exponential change, placing Dubai 10 years ahead of leading global cities.

“Dubai’s agility and ability to reinvent itself continuously is its biggest advantage in the global race to become the Digital Economy capital of the world,” said H.E. bin Byat. The city’s journey to becoming the digital capital of the world is also seemingly a testament to the power of technology and the impact it can have on society and the economy.

To get the lay of the investor landscape across Dubai and MENA, and for insights provided by the investors backing the start-ups and scale-ups that are changing the face of entrepreneurship in the region, read the report by clicking here.



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