With COVID decimating traditional business models, placing an emphasis on technology and digitalisation has never been more important. Malta has been positioning itself to become a digital hub in the heart of the Med for some time now, with private players in the industry being instrumental to reach this goal.
This series catches up with the island’s foremost tech and digital entrepreneurs to understand what they do, and what the future holds.
(Standing, left to right) Kristian Zarb Adami, Edward Borg, Angelo Dalli, Johan Zammit & Gege Gatt / (Seated, left to right) Brian Zarb Adami, Simon Azzopardi & Stefan Farrugia
Those pictured form part of the 'Changing the tech game' series / Picture taken by Bernard Polidano
About yourself, your company and your greatest professional accomplishment to date…
I am a serial entrepreneur and AI expert, and have been involved in various successful companies and exits, including making over 40 business angel investments. In the last 20 years I have had various experiences in executive positions in technology, entertainment and FinTech companies. I have had this long track record recognised twice in 2014 and 2019, when I was awarded Malta’s Top Entrepreneur of the Year award.
My passion is to create scalable, repeatable technology businesses that lead by innovation. 111 Holdings is an entrepreneur driven group that brings together passionate start-up founders, angel investors, creative people, scientific innovators and engineering gurus to create a constant flow of new and exciting projects.
What are the latest developments in your sector?
As a member of the European Business Angel Network (EBAN) and senator representative of the World Business Angel Forum (WBAF), I am happy to be a founding member of the newly set up Business Angels Malta (BAM) network. BAM aims to create a better ecosystem in Malta for start-up entrepreneurs and founders as well as business angels, fostering a competitive mentality and celebrating grassroots innovation while actually providing the funds, mentoring and support necessary to make it happen.
I am also heavily involved in my latest AI company, Umnai, which is creating new ground-breaking AI technology that can explain and optimise itself and its decisions, while helping to assist people rather than replacing them, with an emphasis on achieving a positive social impact.
What developments do you foresee for Malta to become a digital island?
I hope that BAM grows steadily and is supported locally to start the beginnings of what could be a new significant contributor to the country’s GDP. I also hope to see public-private partnerships, such as a co-investment fund, finally created in Malta and also have more incentives that support local entrepreneurs to compete effectively and enable them to take advantage of Malta’s corporate benefits, like foreigners already enjoy.
The National AI Strategy, where I had led the investment workgroup, together with the upcoming National Digital Strategy for Malta promise to be a positive step in the right direction to catalyse Malta’s momentum in this area.
This is the eighth in a series of interviews with Malta’s leading tech entrepreneurs.
Read the first, with IO-Labs CEO Kristian Zarb Adami, here. Or check out the second, with Thought3D Co-Founder Edward Borg, here.
The third, an interview with Silicon Valletta President Simon Azzopardi, can be found here. And the fourth, with EBO.ai CEO Gege Gatt, can be read here.
You can read the fifth interview, with CyberSift CEO Brian Zarb Adami, here.
The sixth interview, with the founder and CEO of Smart Studios, Johan Zammit, here.
You can read the seventh interview, with the founder and CEO of Eunoia, Stefan Farrugia, here.
This feature was first carried in the 2021 edition of Digital Island.
by Bernard Polidano