Silicon valley of the Middle East

21 Aug 2018
  • Silicon valley of the Middle East

The UAE has been a testament to how innovation and disruption are giving the younger generation a platform to explore their entrepreneurial abilities and scale new heights, while at the same time helping conventional businesses maintain their growth and development.

The nation is witnessing a blend of both radical and conventional entrepreneurs with family businesses dominating a substantial share in the UAE economy and where being an entrepreneur is a just a regular norm.

On World Entrepreneurs' Day, leading startups came forward to share their views on how the nation shapes, incubates and allows the businesses to grow. The UAE is known to recognise talent and radical thinking and that is evident in the string of startups that have mushroomed over a period of time.

Magnitt, a UAE-based startup data platform, indicates that there are 6,000 startups in the region.
"Dubai has started the journey to establish itself as a startup hub. It is focusing on the core pillars of operational support, ecosystem support and financial support. It will need to continue to address all three of these to be the leader it has set out to be," said Arushi Sood, founder and chief executive officer of AtCash Tech.

"Dubai is already establishing frameworks for these pillars. As startups are given the right environment, incentives and access you will see a handful really take off. These 'shooting stars' will catapult Dubai to being viewed as a leading startup hub and environment. The Dubai government is already seen as a leader in the technology innovation and adoption. Its continued support of startups is sure to attract global talent and the 'shooting stars' will be a self-fulfilling prophesy.

"The entrepreneurship environment in the UAE is blossoming quite like the entrepreneurs they are supporting. While nascent the right ingredients are in place. Capital markets are still developing, however structures like In5 provide tremendous operational support... It takes a community to raise a startup; the UAE is well into establishing that community," adds Sood.

Some of the top sectors that have gained momentum in the UAE startups scene is e-commerce which has recorded a growth of 12 per cent in the first half, followed by technology, IT solutions and delivery and logistics.

Sunil Malhotra, founder of Bchain Consultants, said: "Dubai is poised to grow over the medium term as it never fails to test, experiment and finally succeed. The two unicorns that Dubai has produced in the past are Souq and Careem and in the next five years, more will be produced from Dubai."

"The UAE has organisations driving innovation and providing hands on support for entrepreneurs and startups. It is inspiring to see spaces that provide a solid foundation and support structure for newly-established startups through world-class facilities and professionals who have the openness, friendliness and patience to walk a new company through every step of the way from licence to office space to supporting company growth plans and visions," explains Veronica Murguia, head of Mena and market expansion at SettleMint ME.

The vision that Dubai has for 2020 will drive forward the need for more consciousness in daily life and work, Murguia adds. The entrepreneurial and technology driven ecosystem will evolve through deep professional awakening as more and more consciousness meets with career development.

"The personal awakening is also a professional one and I am excited to witness and support the evolution of teams, communities and projects which will have at their core the mission to solve the challenges that we are facing today as a society and be part of the upcoming accelerators, incubators, programmes, events, meet-ups and activities that will be the driving force to bring humanity back into the technological stratosphere," adds Murguia.

Habib Sassi, founder of Airshoppers, said: "The world belongs to entrepreneurs and as a startup hub, Dubai would ensure that an efficient banking, payment, licensing, legal ecosystem is in place. Dubai should be a centre for key entrepreneurship events, launching accelerators and incubators and engaging forums where entrepreneurs can share concerns and learn best practices from others."

Even investors from overseas markets affirm that Dubai has carved its own identity and a niche that indicates the growth and the development curve of the nation.

Riyad Joucka, founder of the Middle East Architecture Network, said: "Being an entrepreneur extremely challenging, however, the support we got from In5 to set up our company and office and the exciting projects we get from our clients makes things easier. I see a lot more smart people moving here and setting up shop. I see new ideas coming from the UAE and Dubai, not just imitations of foreign startups."