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Katie Wachsberger, co-founder, Dana Global

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Katie Wachsberger, co-founder and chief operations officer, Dana Global

Dana Global is an Abu Dhabi-based venture builder for women-led startups in desert technology: agtech, foodtech, water solutions, circular economy, and renewable energy specifically geared for the unique desert climate of the Middle East. 

What does your company do?

We work closely with our portfolio companies – early-stage businesses and entrepreneurs – to guide them toward success in Mena’s markets. 

We emphasise early-stage pilots and feasibility testing in the field, differentiating us from other venture platforms. All the sectors we cover promote sustainable tech practices in desert climate and are commercially feasible for fast implementation in regional markets.

What do you look for when hiring talent? 

We look for dynamic individuals with hands-on experience, who are fast learners and passionate about their expertise. When hiring for leadership positions, we prioritise talent with outstanding communication skills, self-awareness and humour – because so much of business in our region is about relationships.

What counts for more – luck or hard work?

Hard work is everything, but there are some days where the universe is on your side, and some days when it isn’t. The most important thing is to maintain a positive outlook and to remember that ups and downs are part of any job or any experience, and to embrace the downs as opportunities to grow and to empathise.

What was your biggest ‘lucky’ moment?

Meeting a future Dana investor in an elevator. Sometimes its best to trust your gut and to just start talking to someone you have a good feeling about.

What one thing do you wish you’d done differently?

After spending these past years at Dana discovering the amazing science-based solutions that have the potential to save our planet and change the trajectory of our damaging environmental behaviour, I wish I had spent more time in academia studying biology and chemistry and developed a deeper scientific background – as opposed to focusing on business.

If you could rule the world for a day, what three things would you change?

  1. I would institute a tax on investments that do not directly contribute to the effort to build a more sustainable economy, to encourage people to put their capital in the future of our planet. 
  2. Equally as important, I would bring more women into leading political and regulatory roles. Women are naturally more community-focused and have the courage to make decisions based on collective progress instead of individual gain.
  3. I would make it mandatory to spend at least two hours per day outdoors in the natural climate, since nature is our wisest teacher about life, renewal, circularity, change and resilience.

What three factors do entrepreneurs misjudge about the Gulf market?

  1. While many people realise the opportunities for scaling and funding here in the GCC, most don’t realise the region’s incredible talent pool.
  2. The Gulf countries, and the UAE in particular, are a melting pot of Mena’s most educated and motivated minds.
  3. We have a local tradition of preservation which creates fertile ground for climate and agritech entrepreneurs to find the motivation and encouragement they need, and offers a massive opportunity to develop, test and scale tech solutions for challenges of the desert – which are, unfortunately, becoming a reality everywhere.  

Dream mentor?

The Emirati grandma I never had.