Venture Building: an ‘InGenius’ approach to innovation
Currently, we are traversing a bright, exciting age of technological advancement. From traditional tech giants and their wide-ranging solutions enabling digital transformation to utilising tech for conservation, connectivity and education worldwide, an abundance of creativity is spilling over and colouring almost every single industry ‒ even those deemed traditionally Luddite-like.
An industry-recognised market leader for digital transformation, cloud services and cyber security, Injazat is enthusiastically and strategically invigorating the industry via several global tech partnership networks, and co-creating digital platforms and services. As such, this Middle-East technology leader ‒ located in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE ‒ has turned its attention to partnering with up-and-coming ventures creating out-of-the-box technology platforms and businesses with both the Governments and Private Corporates.
This core, driving focus of empowerment through end-to-end digital solutions has led to Injazat’s newest creation, InGenius Ventures, for which the parent company’s Vice President, Nour El Ansari, is the Chief Venture Builder.
“I joined in April 2020, in the digital business building department, as it was named then,” says El Ansari of his start at Injazat, which coincided with the 2020 global pandemic. “I have spent almost a year working on the strategy and the transformation of Injazat, accelerating its shift from an IT outsourcing company to a real technology company that is able to provide its clients with a full digital transformation enabled by cloud advanced applications and cyber security, but also to help them challenge their current business models through venture building. And this is where we have created and named InGenius Ventures.”
InGenius Ventures: tech-enabled disruptive businesses with a human focus
With a wide range of expertise across business, technology and digital solutions ‒ not to mention prior experience of founding ventures and developing innovations ‒ El Ansari is the perfect man to lead Injazat’s dedicated Venture Building activities.
Born in Morocco, he went on to study engineering in France, spending the vast majority of his career thus far in Paris, where he married and started a family. “My background is as an engineer from TELECOM Paris, so basically in technology, I like to think of myself as a generalist engineer. I'm very passionate about technology,” El Ansari explains.
It was after living and working in France for a while that El Ansari really started “leveraging [his] engineering background for the sake of having a business impact”, working for the renowned management consultancy BearingPoint, and then co-founding a startup in Paris with his wife that provided platforms funded and incubated by the French Chamber of Commerce.
First, working in management consulting provided El Ansari with the “corporate advisory capabilities, delivery toughness and the experience of transforming and setting up new businesses and strategies for large telecom corporations and government executives”.
Then, through his early venture-building experience ‒ which buoyed his “startup spirit” ‒ El Ansari displayed passion for what he deems “disruptive tech”, otherwise known as technology that aims to change the game through the alteration of traditional business models. In short, the process deepened his profound desire to develop end-to-end digital technologies that have an impact “beyond the surface level”.
This process also gave El Ansari experience of the entire startup journey, from initial conception to a “real, funded startup” with a dedicated team by his side: “That was where I really tackled all the issues related to building a company ‒ recruiting people, managing a team, thinking about the journey from an idea to a real funded startup.”
While he definitely had an impact with his first startup, it wasn’t until El Ansari started working as Injazat’s Chief Venture Builder ‒ a position he gained after joining Injazat through his connections in Abu Dhabi ‒ that he realised the scope of meaningful, influential change that could be achieved with a larger network as a base.
And it’s in this environment that the InGenius Ventures’ story began.
“InGenius Ventures is a venture builder, which is significantly different from a startup studio or a startup accelerator, because the aim of a venture builder is to build assets for the group, to have control and a real impact through the ventures that we own,” explains El Ansari, keen to highlight how startups and ventures differ.
“One of the most exciting journeys is when we co-create with our partners and try to go beyond basic digital transformation to discover adjacent opportunities for their core business, which is a way for them to diversify whether they are in healthcare, in government, in oil and gas, and so on. In that journey, we play the role of the technology investor, partner and venture-building specialist.”
There are multiple stages in venture building: the first of these is the Explore stage that starts with a “pool of ideas”, which funnels suggestions that are prioritised via “a matrix of criteria” to helps “de-risk investments” for the company and its partners; then comes the secondary data research, where a range of methodologies are utilised to highlight market potential and any challenges that need overcoming; this is followed by the design and validation phases, which include “building an investment proposal on a theoretical basis, using data that can be bought or researched, as well as a practical dimension, such as running a Proof of Concept to measure market traction on the venture idea so that the investment case can be revamped based on real data”; next is the build and recruit phase, which is fairly self-explanatory; and the final part of the process is growth and expansion, achieved via symbiosis between InGenius and the venture partner.
The most notable part of this process is the fact that InGenius Ventures accompanies the venture throughout the entire journey, whereas many others will exit following the ‘build phase’. In essence, InGenius is an investor and isn’t just there to extract short-term profit; it’s there to cultivate talent and develop impactful, long-lasting businesses.
Developing a digital ecosystem
In order for Injazat and InGenius Ventures to have the type of impact envisioned by El Ansari and his team, developing digital ecosystems is essential. This means identifying a range of partners and investors from across different sectors, as well as from across both the public and private spheres.
Such an ecosystem would enable InGenius to link its chosen ventures with governmental departments, as well as to the technology and platforms accessible via its partners, and would enhance the venture builder’s ability to bounce initial ideas through the various stages of innovation ‒ from design and validation, through to the building and growth phases ‒ extending the venture’s longevity in addition to the overall positive impact.
El Ansari wants the development of digital ecosystems to be connected to, and accelerated by, government leadership, providing an example of how this may work in the future: “Health tech is presenting a huge potential, and I think that the digital ecosystem of healthcare will accelerate once it's led by the government and supported by the private sector. The scheme I see there is a hyper-platform that can host other platforms.”
“Another example is Advanced and Autonomous Mobility in which, unless the government takes the lead, the friction between regulation and private operations’ newness may indefinitely slow down any deployment progress. Proof of this can be seen when looking back at aviation developments, which were based on accelerated military innovations. The reason it happened so fast is that military innovations are government-driven and born in a quasi-unregulated realm of urgency…”
An open-innovation approach teamed with collaboration
“My day-to-day job is to oversee a portfolio of ventures that we source from different channels, including our strategic partners that are already technology clients for us, but also from new partners that could be future co-investing venture partners,” says El Ansari.
To obtain a rounded digital ecosystem, El Ansari champions an “open-innovation” approach to collaboration and partner-building ‒ and here, he uses a kitchen analogy to demonstrate what he means by this.
“In what we call the ‘InGenius Kitchen’, we take an open innovation approach, which is based on sharing a pool of ideas from our teams and from our teams’ networks that could make sense to one of our partners.” In other words, each idea or solution is like an individual ingredient coming together in a proverbial pot to build a full venture recipe that may or may not work.
When it comes to choosing what to work on, El Ansari states that the decision hinges on whether ventures have the following three elements: a human design perspective, a business design one, and a tech design one. All three are required for long-term partnerships, which links back to El Ansari’s interest in complex industry disruptions, from HealthTech to Smart Cities.
“We are part of a group that is probably a regional or global leader in AI and cloud ‒ Group 42. And AI is now impacting a lot of industries that we want to play in,” enthuses El Ansari, before outlining how this will look in future. “Among the few things that I personally see on the horizon ‒ and that I'm really excited about ‒ is the potential of health tech, which is something that everyone knows, but I think the digital ecosystem of healthcare will be accelerated once it's led by the government and supported by the private sector.”
He adds: “This is the future because health should be connected and pivoted in a preventive manner. Our group, with the capabilities of AI components, can help people take care of their health in a predictive way ‒ as the English would say, ‘prevention is better than cure’!”
Another key partnership for Injazat is Gellify, who the company has partnered with for the last few years.
“They present a few characteristics that are close to our new company, Injazat 4.0, as we call it. Gellify presents a condensed level of talent, high adaptability, as well as being another kind of VC-backed venture builder, startup accelerator and investor. They also developed consulting and advisory capabilities that are key in helping us crack some of our challenges, whether with our transformation or other areas. So they play a key partner role,” explains El Ansari.
“We have what we call delivery partners and venture partners. This encompasses best-in-class consultancies, as well as established technology companies, research companies, and obviously, companies from the realm of startups.”
In terms of future partnerships, El Ansari states that both Injazat and InGenius Ventures are looking to diversify this portfolio of partner companies, perhaps by working more closely with different government departments, as well as tech companies.
Mission possible: pioneering with purpose and bridging the innovation gap between the corporation and start-up models
At Injazat, InGenius Ventures’ overarching mission is to build ventures with a significant impact on society, in terms of both businesses and individual citizens, in-line with the country’s leadership trajectory.
“The goal is to improve many dimensions of our purpose, to have a purpose that is around people and businesses, around safety, peace and environment, too. I personally call them ‘The Four Ps’: People, Peace, Planet, and Progress,” smiles El Ansari, summarising his goals ‒ which are many and wide-ranging.
The core pillar of this, though, is the human element; El Ansari feels that InGenius can generate untold societal benefits from really emphasising its purpose in the space between corporations and start-ups.
“Venture building is a job by itself, because it comes at the intersection of two worlds: corporations and start-ups. We are not an innovation department in an established corporation, and we're not a startup living in an accelerator. Instead, InGenius Ventures makes the link between the two,” he establishes.
As such, El Ansari is excited by the future of technological innovation, imagining the applications of AI in road safety and vehicle tracking, and how blockchain may end up impacting more than the financial world.
“I think that the way we manage transactions will be deeply transformed by blockchain. The way the cinema industry works could also be completely changed by blockchain, with a cryptocurrency not only transforming the way we finance the next blockbuster, but also transforming the way cinema tickets and platforms like Netflix work,” predicts El Ansari, his brain evidently ticking away with the burgeoning possibilities forming in his mind.
“So the major disruptor for Netflix would be a blockchain that's distributing access to watch movies directly to people from productions. Which movies would have been financed through an ICO, and this is something that we're talking about ‒ but the day it happens, the cinema industry will never look like before because its investment budgets will be multiplied and the way we consume it will change.”