In an exclusive interview, CEO of TONOMUS Venture Studio, Beverly Rider, discusses the trends that will drive entrepreneurship, what startups and scaleups will need to thrive and the key components in building the right ecosystem
Starting a business is complex. Sustaining its growth and making sure that it can continue to thrive is even more challenging. Yet entrepreneurs across the Middle East and globally are stepping up to meet the demands of the “new world” and many are rethinking their business models. In such a scenario, access to funding, knowledge, and support systems is critical for startups and scaleups.
TONOMUS, the leading cognitive technology enterprise enabling the realization of NEOM’s vision to build the world’s first cognitive city, is developing a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region by creating more inclusive networks and support systems.
“Our Venture Studio enables emerging and established entrepreneurs and C-suite executives to develop Silicon Valley-modelled ventures and disruptive sustainable solutions,” says Beverly Rider, CEO of TONOMUS Venture Studio.
In an exclusive interview with Fast Company Middle East, Rider says one of TONOMUS’ key strategic pillars is to sustain and extend innovation that makes a difference to people’s lives – at NEOM and beyond. “We are building a cognitive world of ubiquitous connectivity free of digital divides that transforms the human experience for even the most remote communities,” she adds.
Emphasizing the importance of attracting and nourishing best-in-class tech talent, Rider envisages a global innovation ecosystem, including a network of venture studios spanning NEOM, Silicon Valley, and other international financial and tech hubs, to empower, launch and scale ventures for the long-term. “This will provide a fertile ground for collaboration between NEOM residents, entrepreneurs, startups, and a wide variety of stakeholders and institutions.”
Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us why building an infrastructure for innovation is important.
One of our key strategic pillars is to sustain and extend innovation that genuinely makes a difference to people’s lives – at NEOM and beyond. As such, a robust infrastructure is crucial to empower TONOMUS in its efforts to nurture entrepreneurship within and beyond the organization, helping cement NEOM’s reputation as the epicenter of innovation. We aim to do this by attracting the world’s brightest minds and providing top tech talent opportunities to bring their ideas to life.
How can the right ecosystem be created for entrepreneurs? What are the key components?
The entrepreneurship ecosystem we are building at TONOMUS comprises several key elements, one of which is certainly the TONOMUS Venture Studio. It enables emerging and established entrepreneurs and C-suite executives to develop Silicon Valley-modelled ventures and disruptive, sustainable solutions. The resulting innovation powers NEOM’s sectors, in addition to the portfolio of predictive, proactive cognitive technologies that we are building.
As CEO of the TONOMUS Venture Studio, I am also focused on attracting investment and fostering long-term optimization, which are key components of a productive, sustainable entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Tell us three trends that will drive entrepreneurship in 2023.
TONOMUS is powering the world’s first ecosystem of cognitive, human-centric technologies designed to understand and project the future needs of communities so that new experiences and value can be created. These disruptive, transformative solutions include a digital twin metaverse that seamlessly merges physical and virtual realities, a groundbreaking data consent management platform that puts personal data ownership back into users’ hands, and a cognitive virtual assistant with sophisticated natural language processing and AI capabilities, to name a few.
Inclusivity in access to technology and services is another important factor that has the potential to drive entrepreneurship in the coming year. To this end, we are building a cognitive world of ubiquitous connectivity free of digital divides that transforms the human experience for even the most remote communities. With enhanced access to vital services such as education and healthcare, as well as universal connectivity courtesy of what we call “Digital Air”, TONOMUS aims to deliver transformative benefits to communities and opportunities for its members to learn new skills, innovate and bring new ideas to life by engaging in entrepreneurial activity.
Finally, we have embraced hybrid-remote work as part of a culture that sustains a global, flexible workforce – always on the move and responsible for attracting investors and partners to NEOM.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to startups?
I am a passionate believer in taking educated guesses, the importance of everyone rolling up their sleeves and doing whatever it takes to get the job done, failing fast, hiring the best, cultivating future leaders, and leading by example.
How does TONOMUS view partnerships to achieve ambitious objectives?
Our strategic partnerships with global tech giants and leading infrastructure/service providers will enable us to co-invent the future of living with cutting-edge cognitive technologies. Examples include TONOMUS’ $200 million joint venture with OneWeb, whose constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites will help bridge the digital divide via reliable connectivity and transform the lives of rural communities by enabling access to services such as education and healthcare.
Another example is Oracle, the world’s largest database management company and the anchor tenant at ZeroPoint DC – the region’s first next-generation hyperscale data center. The half-billion-dollar JV with EzdiTek will provide fast, effective, high-capacity connectivity, computing power, and data storage.
Partnerships such as these will help position Saudi Arabia as a world leader in technology and attract both emerging and elite talent from the kingdom and beyond.
Our partnerships also inspire the growth of a world-class knowledge economy and drive the creation of a dynamic, multicultural platform for knowledge exchange on a global scale.
What will the future scaleups need to thrive?
The most effective ally that future scaleups would need to thrive is a global innovation ecosystem. At TONOMUS, we envision this as a network of venture studios spanning NEOM, Silicon Valley, and other international financial and tech hubs that have the capacity to build, launch and scale ventures with structures and cap tables designed to attract investment and optimize for the long-term. This will provide a fertile ground for collaboration between NEOM residents, entrepreneurs, startups, and a wide variety of stakeholders and institutions.
How is TONOMUS attracting and hiring exceptional talent?
We aim to attract and nourish global, best-in-class tech talent and enable investment in a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs – both from the region and beyond – who choose to accelerate their careers by moving to or working with NEOM. By acting as venture co-founder and becoming a global employer of choice, TONOMUS aims to empower entrepreneurs to bring their world-changing ideas to life through a differentiated, employee-centric value chain anchored in a culture of innovation, trust, and accountability.
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