Ford's Inaugural Entrepreneurship Academy searching for brightest tech-minded startups in Dubai

Press Release

  • Tech-minded entrepreneurs took part in the very first Henry Ford Entrepreneurship Academy (HFEA) Future Transportation and Mobility workshop, piloted in collaboration with Dubai’s Youth Hub, 21-23 October
  • Distinctive programme offered 14 entrepreneurs unrivalled access to some of the industry’s prominent mentors, global and regional business leaders, and co-founders of effective enterprises, including Ford Middle East and Africa President, Mark Ovenden
  • Two entrepreneurs – Alexandre Rigaud and Abdulla Al Ali – chosen as joint winners, with their respective projects awarded much sought after in-depth consultancy from premier US-based start-up strategy firms

DUBAI, UAE: Ford Middle East and Africa recently brought to a close its inaugural Henry Ford Entrepreneurship Academy (HFEA) Mobility and Future Transportation workshop in Dubai, where it has hosted a unique three-day event at the UAE Ministry of Youth Affairs’ Youth Hub.

Not only was this the first-ever HFEA focused on business ideas which have the potential to shape the future of mobility – impacting how people and goods move across all modes of transportation – but the unique workshop also called on Ford Motor Company Vice President and President of Ford Middle East and Africa, Mark Ovenden, to act as one of the mentors to the 14 participating young entrepreneurs. 

Joining Ford’s senior executive in mentoring future business-leaders at Dubai’s Youth Hub were Dr. Georges Aoude, co-founder and CEO of Derq, a company making waves in the fields of artificial intelligence and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technologies. Also on hand to provide invaluable mentorship were senior members of Huawei Middle East – including Wang Su, Vice President of Marketing – which is charged with furnishing the region’s automotive industry with the 5G technology required for future autonomous vehicles.

Ford is no stranger to supporting entrepreneurship. Taking part in similar previous events – from the inaugural Detroit Startup Week in 2016, to mentoring past Techstars Mobility Driven by Detroit winner, Dubai start-up Derq – has highlighted the company’s commitment to finding solutions for future transportation, and shows a belief that the younger generation of innovators are key to the success of mobility solutions. 

As part of Dubai’s push to become the world’s smartest city, its leaders have launched a number of initiatives aimed at improving the lives of its residents. That includes the seamless and efficient movement of people through innovative infrastructure, like the Autonomous Transportation Strategy which targets having 25 per cent of the total transportation in the city made autonomous by 2030, and help to reduce costs and pollution considerably. This unique HFEA workshop aims to shine a light on the projects of young entrepreneurs that can help achieve the UAE government’s goal.

"Under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the nation is actively looking to our youth to deliver the excellence and leadership needed to address all issues and challenges our society will face in the future," said Her Excellency Shamma Al Mazrui, the UAE's Minister of State for Youth Affairs.

"To achieve that goal, it's important that we not only create spaces like the Youth Hub in Dubai, but that we also utilise it by joining in partnership with forward-thinking brands like Ford, which can provide the kind of training to nurture and advance the entrepreneurial mind-set of these future business leaders," Her Excellency Al Mazrui added.

“Henry Ford helped put the world on wheels so everyone could enjoy the benefits of mobility. He also believed the only purpose of a company was that of service to society,” said Mark Ovenden, President of Ford Middle East and Africa and Vice President of Ford Motor Company. “Supporting the younger generation of entrepreneurs as they help us address future mobility challenges is a crucial component to their success. Youth is creating our tomorrow, and entrepreneurship is the driving force. 

“Dubai, and the UAE in general, can be considered to be one of the most important testing grounds for future transportation. Aided by a government driven to excel in creating a smart, sustainable and innovative city, it becomes a hot-bed of entrepreneurship, and an ideal location to launch the Henry Ford Entrepreneurship Academy’s inaugural Future Transportation and Mobility workshop,” Ovenden concluded.

This year’s HFEA workshop, under the theme of tackling Mobility and Future Transportation, saw 14 entrepreneurs – from UAE-wide applications – participate in the programme between October 21-23. 

Led by HFEA programme architect, Jay Markiewicz, and hosted by the UAE’s Ministry of Youth Affairs’ Youth Hub in Dubai, the three-day Mobility and Future Transportation workshop culminated in a pitch competition for participants, whereby the business proposals deemed to hold the greatest potential were awarded much sought-after, in-depth, consultancy from a premier US-based start-up strategy firm.

Alexandre Rigaud, whose company specialises in the development of cryptocurrencies, and Blockchain products and solutions, and Abdulla Al Ali, who pitched a software platform that better understands, predicts, and improves on traffic situations, emerged as joint winners. 

The Ford Motor Company Fund, which is responsible for financing the HFEA, invests about one third of its funds in support of education, including scholarships and programmes that help schools offer students new approaches to learning. Since its launch in 2015, the Henry Ford Entrepreneurship Academy has trained close to 300 entrepreneurs across the Middle East and North Africa.

Together with the Ford Motor Company Fund and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), the Henry Ford Entrepreneurship Academy workshops offer a great opportunity for local future business leaders to excel in their endeavours, and influences them to think and act like entrepreneurs.