A Chat with Zada Haj, CEO at Middle-Eastern Female Venture Builder: DANA

DANA is the first of its kind – an Abu Dhabi-based venture builder supporting female founders with cutting edge solutions for challenges of the desert climate, focusing on agritech, food security, water and energy, and circular economy.

We work with the startups in our portfolio as temporary co-founders to ensure their technological and commercial success. We emphasize the importance of Proof of Concept and early-stage pilots as part of our unique due diligence process.


How did you come up with the idea for DANA? 

DANA was founded after the tragic loss of Dana Salah, who was an entrepreneur, an engineer, and a leader in the Palestinian tech ecosystem.

Our mission is inspired by keeping her memory alive in emphasizing female leadership and sustainability – because we believe these are the key elements to build a dynamic region all its peoples can thrive in. Desert tech is an important sector for the future of this region as climate challenges are continually growing and food security is a real issue. We are proud to support the creation of a sustainable economy in Dana’s name.

How has DANA evolved over the last couple of years?

DANA has been active for two years now in Abu Dhabi and throughout the MENA region. We work with startups from the UAE, KSA, Morocco, Israel, Palestine, and Egypt, supporting homegrown tech solutions coming from academia, incubation programs, hackathons, start-ups, or any other entrepreneurial endeavour.

Over the years our business model has evolved to put special emphasis on our beta sites – the importance of our hands-on engagement with founders cannot be overstated. This incubation, support and growth mechanism at the same time enables us to vet all projects in great detail, and form an opinion on potential investment opportunities.

What can we hope to see from DANA in the future?

We are now in the process of fundraising the DANA Limited Partnership to invest in our top companies. We will be one of the very first pioneering MENA investment platforms emphasizing the potential of desert tech, agritech and foodtech.

We believe in the importance of bringing more women into the finance & venture capital space, while also uniting around the dire need for collective climate action.