Welcome to the Emirates Man weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businessmen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.

This week, we speak to Alexander Heller, Founder and CEO of HyperSpace, a future-forward entertainment and leisure company pioneering next-gen attractions connected to digital lifestyle in the region.

The same group behind AYA Universe, a ticketed experiential park in Wafi Mall that relies on digital effects to conjure otherworldly interactive takes. Just in its short five-month, it has received thousands of visitors, and just recently at the Arabian Travel Market, HyperSpace announced its plans to open House of Hype at the end of 2023 in Dubai Mall, pushing the augmented agenda a step further. Spanning avatars and metaverses, it is a digital-heavy surreal experience where visitors can immerse and engage in an out-of-this-world virtual land.

Alexander’s CV comes with art-world cred, where he has spent seven years in the creative space: he launched Dubai-based gallery Leila Heller in 2016 alongside gallerist Leila Heller to get it off the ground. Alexander’s experience as managing director helped informed an understanding of the region, validating his drive to explore business opportunities.

AYA Universe

What was your favourite subject at school?

My favorite subject in school was architecture, which I took during my last two years of high school. I have always been motivated by the human ability to create large monolithic structures and build physical spaces with our own hands.

What was your first job?

My first job was working with my mother, Gallerist Leila Heller of Leila Heller Gallery. I helped in launching her Dubai-based gallery in 2016, which provided me with great insights into the region and opportunities to build a business towards broader creative interest. While the art world was not my ultimate calling, it did provide me the opportunity to explore further opportunities in the GCC and build a business of my own in the region.

What eventually brought you to Dubai?

Having lived in New York and the UK, I feel Dubai has exceptional and diverse offerings that are currently unmatched to the rest of the world. Dubai has a thriving retail ecosystem, it is also one of the most visited cities in the world and has a tourist demographic that is very much aligned with the kind of consumer base that we want to bring to AYA and House of Hype. I saw an opportunity in the market to bring a new format of entertainment attraction to the market in the short/medium format which really speaks to a social media/gaming/content creator audience in a lean forward capacity, and an entertainment-seeking tourist as a lean back audience. Dubai has positioned itself as a true city of the future, and become increasingly attractive to live in. At the outset of starting HyperSpace, moving to Dubai was a true leap of faith by many of our team members at HyperSpace, who relocated from the US and Europe.

What inspired you to enter the entertainment space?

We saw an opportunity in the entertainment space to build a business that aligned with the experience economy through the future of location-based entertainment. Our parks enable our audience to be creative, consume content and exist within highly experiential environments that enhance this category of consumption.

Talk us through the concept of HyperSpace.

HyperSpace is a Dubai/Riyadh-based future-forward entertainment company, building a new format of location-based entertainment linking physical and digital entertainment through highly tech-enabled immersive experience parks. At HyperSpace, we build large physical spaces that are highly driven by creativity, which certainly stems from this initial interest in architectural and spatial creation. The parks sit at the convergence of social media arena and real-world video games, engaging their audience meaningfully through an IRL physical experience and through digital engagement and gameplay. HyperSpace’s multi-brand offering spans portals to digital immersive worlds to parks powered by tokens and digital assets, run on game economies that mirror AAA video games. They are purpose-built for mass-market entertainment seekers, content creators, and gamer/Web3 audiences.

AYA Universe

What are the key elements of your role?

I work closely with our senior leadership to run the day-to-day operations of our business, dictate the path for future growth, and focus on the broader vision of where we are going and the strategy to execute our ambitions. As well as working closely with our group of investors and the board of the company to capitalize our business effectively and oversee all elements of business development. I am fortunate to have the most extraordinary team around me, in particular Desi Gonzalez, our COO, and Rama Allen, our CCO, who run the company alongside me.

Talk us through your daily routine.

My schedule is primarily focused around my work and involves a fair amount of travel to markets that we are exploring opportunities and looking to expand our business to, namely Saudi Arabia. We are fortunate to have a team very committed to in-office work, and I spend most of my time at our sites or in the office engaged with our team members. On the weekends I like to enjoy Dubai as an outdoor city, and spend time playing sports and going to the beach when I can. Dubai is a global hub where many close friends from around the world spend time, and I am fortunate that my parents live in Dubai half the year and spend much of my free time with them.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?

Creating a company is built on one’s ability to stomach challenges and adversity; the only way to look is forward. It’s all about the people you work alongside, businesses are built by communities, not individuals.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

You only have one reputation in this world.

And what is the worst?

Anything related to taking shortcuts, quick wins, and fast opportunities. From my experience there isn’t much that replaces hard work.

What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

I tend to be a big dreamer, so I like to surround myself with people that keep me grounded.

What are your future goals and plans for your career?

Right now, I am building a dream business with an amazing group of people. Being part of a larger conversation around innovation, exploring opportunities and living life through an inquisitive and curious lens is a great gift. Building a skill set to action those perceptions makes that experience far more exciting. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a longer journey working with great people and creating value in the process.

– For more on how to look smart and live smarter, follow Emirates Man on Facebook and Instagram

Images: Supplied