We keep getting these cryptic, tantalizing emails. “You’re not going to believe what’s going here … ” “We were up until three in the morning …” “This place is unbelievable...” “I’ve never been so inspired in my life."
The source of these midnight notes is a team of engineers and designers we sent to Dubai last week. We’re not sure if they’re coming back. The reason they went is to join the Dubai Future Accelerators, a 12-week program that brings high-tech companies from around the world to the burgeoning Gulf capital to prototype large-scale solutions for social and environmental challenges.
It may sound unusual for a two-year-old startup like us to enter an accelerator, which are incubator programs for early stage startups looking for their first big break. We've raised more than $100 million and the team is now surpassing 180 people in three locations. But the Future Accelerators is not your typical accelerator. Honeywell is here, too. Members get an immediate partner in the Dubai government with serious access to the highest levels to get things done, and those chosen to move forward with a government partner after the program is over can tap into the emirate's $275 million Future Endowment Fund.
This was not an opportunity we were about to pass up. It just fits with our ethos of speed and competitive fire. The program received more than 2,000 applications from 73 countries. Fewer than 2% of applicants were selected. It’s easier to get into Harvard or Stanford.
The Future Accelerators will focus on seven "21st century challenges" that represent significant opportunities for economic growth, job creation and social development for the city of Dubai. The challenges involve the application of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics, genomics, 3D printing, distributed ledgers, biomimicry and biotechnology, as well as new business models and ways of working. The challenges highlight important areas of Dubai government innovation, including healthcare, education, transportation, infrastructure, renewable energy and digital transformation.
Hyperloop One is part of the automated transport challenge and will be working closely with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority to make Hyperloop technology a cornerstone of the world’s most advanced transportation infrastructure. When the DFA wraps up in December, we’re going to show the RTA and government exactly how a Hyperloop One network will reduce congestion in Dubai by 20% and emissions by 30%. We’ve also declared November 7 as the day when the team in Dubai is going to unveil a new Hyperloop passenger experience that will change how the world thinks about transportation.
Some of the world’s most advanced tech companies are there with us, including Next, a modular mass-transportation solution, ConsenSys, the largest Ethereum blockchain software company in the world, BYD, one of China’s biggest electric car companies, and Construction Robotics, which makes the world’s first bricklaying bot. Proving it’s not all little startups, the DFA also includes the likes of Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei and Honeywell, a Fortune 100 firm, that is seeking to build a new way of delivering healthcare at home.
We’re not giving away our shot. We have a core group of big thinkers on location, and will be streaming through our best in engineering, product, design, strategy, operations, legal, marketing and finance. The Hyperloop One team that went first fell under the spell of a city and region that inspires builders to think big and invent from first principles rather than on what’s come before. “I'm just geeked at the scale and speed of what we're putting out,” says Hyperloop One Director of Product Development Chris Vasquez.
The Dubai Future Accelerators was launched this year by Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, who was asked to set it up by UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. It is run out of the Dubai Future Foundation. Definitely check it out. Few other countries can or would put on something this audacious.
Read the press release