There aren’t many companies with a description as intergalactically intriguing as “we are a force accelerator”, but if anyone can claim it without being accused of exaggeration, it is indeed aerospace and defence force accelerator, start-up enabler and consultancy firm Gothams.
Founded in Austin, Texas, in 2018, Gothams’ purpose is to help the aerospace and defence sectors to progress, particularly when it comes to digital transformation, emerging technologies and hiring and training the best people – including the industry’s best and brightest women.
The future of space travel in the UAE
While the UAE and its capital, Abu Dhabi, may not spring immediately to mind for aerospace engineering, the ambitious Gulf nation is giving Cape Canaveral a run for its money – literally. The UAE has one of the largest markets in the world when it comes to aerospace investment, with the government recently declaring the industry one of its strategic focus sectors. Putting that in figures, the UAE has invested 13.3 per cent of its GDP ($47.4bn) in the aviation sector, with $5.4bn of that going towards aerospace technologies.
Elodie Robin-Guillerm, Gothams’ project director, spoke with Verdict about the future of aerospace and how her company is helping take the industry into infinity and beyond.
“We have experts and advisers across government, military, business and technology,” she explained via Zoom, “and we use them to provide consultation to established businesses. But we also assist in scaling early-stage tech start-ups and help them engage within the global aerospace, aviation and defence industry through a 12-week work program in our Abu Dhabi facilities.”
Gothams is part of Abu Dhabi’s rapid-growth tech ecosystem, Hub71, which works with tech business owners to help accelerate development via its incentive programme as well as facilitating partnerships and mentorships with heavy hitters such as Mastercard, Mubadala Investment Co, Microsoft and Techstars.
As part of its work as a start-up accelerator, Gothams hosts demo days, connects start-up owners with Silicon Valley and Abu Dhabi investors, and offers $120,000 in investment for start-ups taking part in its 12-week programme. In 2019, the programme had 99 applicants and chose four, providing them with not only investment but also 150 hours of direct mentoring from world-renowned leaders in aerospace and defence. All four start-ups (US-based Natilus, Palestine-founded Red Crow Intelligence, US-based Precious Payload and UK-based EarthX) made the move to Abu Dhabi early this year.
The 2020 cohort saw a welcome change in constituents: a large number of female tech start-up owners in defence, aerospace and aviation. Lest some think this egalitarian progress is the result of affirmative action, Robin-Guillerm says it happened simply and without intervention.
The French native, who began her career more than 15 years ago with Airbus, makes no secret of the fact that her industry is a male-dominated one. But why did the shift happen?
“I think for two reasons: one, because we want to make sure that the start-ups we choose [for the accelerator programme] are forward-thinking, that they’re bringing new ideas and breakthrough technologies into the industry. And this year, those really innovative companies just happen to be owned by women.
“The second thing is the open-mindedness of the Gothams team and of the UAE generally and the fact that we are one of the only programmes in the world that offers what we do. And women in the industry are a little bit unique, just like us.”
The 2020 cohort comprises eight start-ups: one from the UAE, six from Europe and one from Canada. And, says Robin-Guillerm, due to the UAE’s excellent response to the pandemic and falling infection rates, all of the business owners are keen to move themselves and their families to the UAE to begin bringing their breakthrough technologies into the next stage.
“In addition to this year’s cohort being 70% female, we also have really interesting solutions and businesses coming from Eastern European countries, which is wonderful. So really, Gothams, the UAE, Hub71 – we are all breaking these stereotypes, pushing the boundaries and saying, ‘What is it you want to do? OK, let’s do it.’”
Learn more about the Hub71 Incentive Programme in our free white paper Roadmap to Abu Dhabi: How to unlock new opportunities for your Tech Startup, which includes information on page 19 for how to be one of the few start-ups chosen to join the programme and best tips for success. Download white paper.