Issue 2: Welcome to the Startup Oasis

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Welcome to Backstory, a weekly newsletter crafted to turn global technology shifts into a three-minute read. Xische has led debate on the issues that matter most across technology and governance for over a decade. We aim to distill our insights to help you connect the dots. This is a special extra edition of the newsletter. Feel free to share feedback at as we refine our voice. Towards a meaningful future! – Danish Farhan.


Welcome to the Startup Oasis

Not too long ago, few could have thought that the Middle East’s most valuable technology companies would be born and bred in Dubai. But oh what a difference a decade makes. In a historic move revealing the power of Dubai’s startup ecosystem, Uber acquired the UAE’s Careem for $3bn last week. It is the largest technology sector transaction in the region since Amazon bought another Dubai-based company, for $580mn in 2017.  
Why Careem matters: The UAE has invested substantial resources into building an innovation ecosystem that feeds its homegrown technology startup community. As the hub for young Middle Eastern talent, Dubai has transformed itself into the world’s first Silicon Wadi. The acquisition of homegrown companies such as Careem and shows that Dubai’s startup power is a force to be reckoned with.
Regional impact: The Careem deal is clear proof for investors, programmers, and entrepreneurs from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia that Dubai is the right place to open up shop. For the UAE leadership, the acquisition highlights the benefits of investment into technology. Put simply: expect more innovation, applications, and platforms to come from Dubai’s startup oasis. There is no going back now.


“Being human in the digital world is about building a digital world for humans."

Andrew Keen, author of How to Fix the Future


Here come the regulators: Facebook and Google dominate more than half of the world’s internet advertising market. This remarkable feat gives them extraordinary power over how we experience the internet. It has also raised some eyebrows among lawmakers. Even Mark Zuckerberg is calling for fresh regulations. This week, we jumped into the waters of this complex debate to explore the role of small states in the coming digital reckoning.   

A recipe for delight: Have we lost the element of surprise in our internet-saturated lives? Many feel that the omnipresent algorithms of digital giants are eroding the serendipity of stumbling upon new experiences or ideas online. We wrote about one unusual way to reintroduce the delight of discovery in our digital lives. The solution might surprise you.


And the Grammy goes to: An algorithm? Submitted for your consideration: Warner Music signed an AI algorithm to a record deal. You read that correctly. Endel, an AI-powered algorithm that lives on an app, generates “reactive, personalized soundscapes” to promote focus and relaxation. Endel’s tunes might sound far out, but it’s topping the charts of musical innovation.

A whopper of a deal: Silicon Valley already has disrupted how we socialize, how we work, and how we travel, so why not how we eat? Impossible Foods, a Silicon Valley startup valued at $1bn, has created a plant-based “hamburger” that tastes like a hamburger (unlike other veggie burgers). Impossible is not on a vegetarian quest. They just want to lower meat consumption to offset its environmental impacts. Now Burger King has inked a partnership to sell their burgers in the US. What a time to be alive!


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