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Fostering Innovation Through Creative Spaces & Communities, With Raja Al Mazrouei

Updated: Apr 1

Episode 5: Fostering Innovation Through Creative Spaces & Communities with Raja Al Mazrouei

In this episode, we sit down with Raja Al Mazrouei to hear her insights on building an innovation hub as the Executive Vice President of the DIFC FinTech Hive. We discuss:

  1. Structuring corporate ventures for success

  2. COVID-19's effects on startup co-working spaces and accelerators

  3. The importance of communities to drive innovation

DIFC FinTech Hive was launched in 2017 as a program to bring financial institutions and technology startups together to experiment with technology. Subsequently, these experiments needed to be licensed ahead of being deployed within the financial institutions, and so DIFC FinTech Hive was created as an independent co-working space from which these startups could operate.

Raja's suggestions for intrapreneurs looking to create successful innovation-driven corporate projects:

  1. Adopt a mindset fit to connect with new types of people

  2. Get support from the larger players

  3. Build a sustainable business model from the get-go

  4. Embed a performance-driven culture across the team

Raja's tips for building effective co-working spaces:

  1. Craft a value proposition in the startups' language and share it with them on the platforms they utilize (more commonly digital marketing and startup events).

  2. Focus on creating value from community and workspace flexibility.

  3. Utilize bright colors to create inspiring spaces.

  4. Consistently operate events to encourage collaboration and create a friendly atmosphere. In a post-COVID-19 era, use virtual event platforms to keep the momentum going, at least in a hybrid model. Many of these platforms have come to rise alongside COVID-19, including Eve Virtual in MENA (who've recently raised USD 1 million in Seed funding). Raja suggests London-based Hoppin (who've recently raised USD 40 million in Series A funding). Meanwhile, Facebook has introduced live broadcasts to encourage social digital gatherings.

  5. Virtual formats will unlock other opportunities (e.g. the increased bandwidth will allow space to operate more programs and therefore help more startups).

  6. Your team will drive success ultimately, whilst digital tools are just their means to it.

"I used to spend an hour in a meeting and now 20 minutes is my maximum."

Raja's tips to effectively network digitally:

  1. Add people on LinkedIn after meeting them at a conference and share your contact details thereon through the platform.

  2. Social media platform preferences differ across MENA countries (e.g. Twitter in Saudi Arabia is popular, whereas LinkedIn in the UAE is preferred, whilst Facebook is not prevalent for startup engagement at all).

  3. Have a different communication strategy on each platform.

"Our highest engagement is coming through Instagram and LinkedIn."

Raja is passionate about women empowerment and believes they play a large role in developing the economy. She aspires to help women understand how to create value through her roles with:

  • AccelerateHer - focused on developing the careers of women in Financial Services by exposing them to FinTech and personal development workshops.

  • Money 20/20's Rise Program - focused on developing the careers of women in Financial Services by introducing aspiring young women to accomplished leaders.

  • Reach - focused on providing mentorship opportunities for young women within Financial Services by pairing them with professionals.

Spark! Studios blog


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