Oasis500 is a leading early stage and seed investment company, thefirst of its kind in Jordan and the MENA region. The organization programincludes entrepreneurship training, mentorship guidance, businessincubation and additional follow-up investment and funding if required.The notion is to turn new business ideas into startups and helping existingentrepreneurs grow their companies with angel investor and mentornetworks. Says, Yousef Hamidaddin, CEO, Oasis500.
The role of technology in sustainable urbanization
Technology can offer many new tools and opportunities for entrepreneurs to address urban problems. For example, the city of Barcelona in Spain, and Songdo in South Korea are embedding sensors into the urban infrastructure, which will help citizens better manage their consumption of electricity, and make smarter, greener choices about the way they move around the city.
Technology can also help provide a platform for people to share ideas and raise concerns. Twitter is an obvious example – it’s a fantastic marketplace for ideas and solutions to be shared widely, and, if used strategically, can be an excellent tool for those campaigning for more sustainable solutions. There are also other fantastic citizenship platforms such as the PublicStuff app in the US and Colab in Brazil (finalist and winner of New Cities Foundation’s 2014 AppMyCity! contest), and the online campaigning platform Avaaz.
Many new cities that are being built today have the great advantage of being able to start from scratch and implement smart technology as part of a green strategy. New cities that are putting sustainability at the heart of their construction plans include Songdo (S. Korea), HafenCity Hamburg (Germany) and Lavasa (India). It will be interesting to see how the leaders of these cities plan and strategize for the future to ensure that not only the cities themselves are a success, but that they serve as examples for other, “older” cities to follow. In tandem, we hope that entrepreneurs and innovators across the world will be inspired by the potentials of new technologies to continue to invent and build new, sustainable ideas and projects. Other examples are:
Oslo, Norway: Examples of pioneering practices include intelligent lighting that adjusts intensity depending on traffic conditions and weather, bio-methane from waste to power mass transit and heating, and an “eco-certification” program that involves all 43,000 employees of the city. By 2030, Oslo aims to cut carbon emissions by 50% – Norway as a whole plans to be carbon neutral by 2050 – and is targeting its transportation sector for the greatest gains. The city’s heating system is currently powered by 80% renewable energy, mainly from biomass from residual waste. This relationship annually saves the carbon emissions equivalent to 60,000 vehicles. Within the next decade, Oslo plans on expanding the system to reach 100% renewable sources for heating.
Malmö, Sweden: Over the last decades Malmö, in the southern part of Sweden, has made a remarkable journey from an industrial city based on its shipyard and other heavy industries to a modern entity founded on knowledge and sustainability. The transformation of the city of Malmö is especially obvious in the Western Harbour district, where polluted industrial areas have been replaced by office buildings and residential houses. This development was designed to use and produce 100% locally renewable energy over the course of a year. Buildings receive energy from solar, wind and a heat pump that extracts heat from an aquifer, facilitating seasonal storage of heat and cold water in the limestone strata underground.
Reasons for nurturing startups in the technology sector
Oasis500 has started investing in ICT for the following reasons. ICT is a field that requires minimal investment in assets to create and launch a company and accelerate it to create a big impact. Also our expertise as a team was in the ICT field and that allowed us to be able to help those startups in accelerating their business, accessing new markets and creating solid products that will grow exponentially. To add to this, the ICT sector in Jordan is one of the main contributors in the GDP, it contributes around 14% in addition to the availability of high caliber workforce.
For the first time we have introduced the competition (Omraan) that involves ideas in the urban and green cities spaces. All previous investments were restricted to technology based companies. One of the latest companies we have invested in is PieRide a carpool service that aims at reducing traffic by offering carpooling services to the residents of Cairo.
In fact, ICT and Digital businesses is a major contributor to the economy in Jordan. It constitutes around 14% of the total GDP. With Omraan we are trying to expand and benefit from this contribution to include areas such as smart and green cities. The efforts are still in their early stages, but we believe that they will be one of the pillars of this sector in the near future, and will serve the region as a whole.
Omraan, meaning “building” in Arabic, is a unique global initiative aimed at identifying and rewarding aspiring entrepreneurs who are developing promising technologies that tackle urban challenges, with a particular relevance to urban environments in the Middle East. Omraan is an exciting and impactful collaboration between Oasis500, the New Cities Foundation, and the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) to incubate urban technologies in Middle Eastern cities.
Technology startups and innovators have to submit a brief statement explaining their idea followed by a detailed presentation. Best applications will be interviewed by Omraan jury members over Skype/phone and the applicants will have to give a 10-minute pitch presentation to be considered for the award. In order to qualify, start-ups must provide technological solutions to urban problems through mobile, web, cloud, ecommerce, gaming, entertainment, enterprise software, digital news, digital advertising, and social networks.
Oasis500 focuses on the MENA region and is attracting the best global talents to start their businesses to serve the region. Indian talent over the past few years has proven to be of a great caliber. We are trying to help them get the exposure and support for them to be able to startup their businesses in MENA and grow globally in the future.