The fate of 1776‘s Dubai location has been largely unknown as the merger with Philadelphia-based co-working group Benjamin’s Desk continues. However, a recently established partnership with the United Arab Emirates government is paving the way for the location’s new future.
1776 Dubai is being spun out into Area 2071, a new government-sponsored incubator and hub for innovation in the United Arab Emirates. 1776 Dubai members will now be Area 2071 members, and all of Area 2071’s programmings, such as Challenge Cups and other corporate-sponsored pitch competitions, will be powered by the UNION platform.
“Area 2071 has a lot of resemblance to what we’ve always believed at 1776,” said Evan Burfield, CEO of UNION and executive chairman at 1776, in an interview. “Very central to this is, they want to create a place where startups, large corporations and institutions, and policymakers and government can be working in close proximity [both physically and virtually] to really tackle and solve important challenge.”
Area 2071 is a part of the UAE Centennial 2071 goals to make the nation one of the most advanced on the planet. Right now, the country has goals leading up to 2021, with the idea being to add more that will carry the country to 2071, the 100th anniversary of the federation of the UAE.
Area 2071 is expected to be approximately 100,000 sq. ft. when it launches the first “phase” of its new program in early 2018. Partners include the United Nations and Procter & Gamble, and key industry focuses for Area 2071 include aviation, transport & logistics, health, retail and technology. The program aims to make it easier for startups to launch, grow and navigate the business landscape in the UAE, where each firm must acquire a business license through the government before operating.
1776’s Dubai’s two employees are now at UNION, and they will both work with Area 2071 to make various programming offerings a reality. 1776 Dubai had about 30 members who will now be in the Area 2071 hub.
With the new 1776 brand focused solely on expanding along the Northeast U.S. corridor, it makes sense that the Dubai campus would be spun out into Area 2071. Burfield said the new set-up in Dubai is simply an evolution of 1776’s partnership with the government of Dubai.
“It is an absolute evolution of our program, from us operating an incubator to us powering a much larger incubator,” Burfield said. “It’s a continuation and a deepening of our commitment to Dubai.”
1776 Dubai’s campus was announced in April 2016 as a partnership with the Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation, which promotes innovation in the United Arab Emirates. 1776 also came in as an advisory to help the country encourage innovation, and the firm started talking with the UAE government about the campus and its advisory role after hosting a Challenge Cup event in Dubai in 2015.
As the UAE treks through its Centennial 2071 goals, it approached 1776 about being a part of Area 2071 earlier this Fall.
Burfield said moving forward, UNION plans to focus on helping startup hubs, like 1776, Area 2071 and current client Capital Factory in Austin, utilize the platform to support in-house programming efforts. Examples include hosting the Challenge Cup or a corporate-sponsored incubator program, Burfield said.
“You can be a startup anywhere, working with your local incubator, your local accelerator, participating in a local competition, but via the UNION platform, you’re getting access to the right networks — whether those are mentors, corporations that are looking to innovate, investors for your business — wherever they are in the world.”
The news of 1776 Dubai’s spin out comes three weeks after 1776 and Philly-based Benjamin’s Desk announced their merger. The UNION platform spun out on its own, with Burfield running it as CEO while also staying on board at the new 1776 brand as its executive chairman. Benjamin’s Desk two co-founders, Anthony and Jennifer Maher, are now the co-CEOs of the new 1776, overseeing all incubator and co-working space locations in the D.C. metro area and in Philadelphia. 1776 will primarily be focused on the Northeast Corridor moving forward, while UNION is focused on working with clients around the world.