Tariq Bin Hendi, Ph.D leads the tech hub investment strategy for Abu Dhabi, overseeing its $545 million Innovation Program which has made investments in agtech, fintech, and biotech startups across the region. So far Abu Dhabi’s global tech ecosystem Hub71 has backed over 100 startups from more than 16 nations in the region and beyond.

What’s the biggest opportunity in the MENA region that’s often overlooked? 

Agtech is a counter-intuitive opportunity. There’s a new wave of investment and entrepreneurs coming to the region from all over the world looking to turn the desert green through land, sea and space projects. AerofarmsPure Harvest, and Nanoracks are just a few of the pioneers in this space that we’ve backed.

What’s the most common misconception about MENA’s markets?

Entrepreneurs and companies cannot take a one-size fits all approach when it comes to doing business in MENA markets. The regional opportunity is substantial and every market is different, from customs and regulations, to infrastructure and support.

What key operational changes do you anticipate for your organization after the pandemic?

Simplification will be the top priority for us. We want both innovators and established companies and we want to make sure we are helping to simplify their experience and their growth in Abu Dhabi and ultimately, access the region from here. 

Outside of Abu Dhabi, which markets are you most excited about in the MENA region as an investor? 

We’ve just opened offices in eight international markets to serve as a bridge to the region in New York, San Francisco, Frankfurt, London, Paris, Beijing, Seoul and Tel Aviv, where we’ve identified health, agriculture and fintech as fields of potential collaboration. But it’s also about identifying the region’s talent like the Lebanese founders Eddy Marounand and Elie Habib, whose music streaming service Anghami we backed. It is now set to list on the Nasdaq, making it the first Arab tech company with a U.S. public listing.

*This 3 Minutes With interview first appeared in the Rest of World weekly newsletter. Sign up here.