Halcyon days for UAE-based start-ups

26/09/2022 by Ali Sajwani

As I’ve often pointed out, the UAE is a ripe market for those hungry for success –

those willing to take risks in a risk-averse environment; those entrepreneurs willing to go the extra mile to buck the trend and survive the first year of business. 

Starting a business is tough. We all know this–some of us, only too well. 

But beyond the much-discussed benefits of launching your visionary business idea in an environment like the UAE, I’d like to take a moment to explain some of the additional advantages and benefits of setting up right here in the heart of the global business world. 

We are aware of the world-class infrastructure, business support frameworks, and advantageous tax regimes. More foreign entities are eyeing up the UAE as a focal point for their businesses on the back of its excellent handling of the pandemic and bold move to a four-day working week.  

Many nations now have aggressive anti-immigration policies in place, but the UAE has always been welcoming, tolerant, and accepting. There are now more visa types than ever before, offering a range of different advantages. 

Current visa types include three-year company employment visas; investor or partner visas; company investment visas; the ten-year investment or partnership visa; property ownership visas; and the Golden Visa–issued to investors or those who are deemed to have made extraordinary achievements in, or impact upon, the UAE.

And hot on the heels of the enormous success of Expo 2020, the vast district is now being turned into a ground-breaking business, cultural, and residential district – a futuristic city-within-a-city, where start-ups gain a raft of advantages from free office rent to simple visas and tax advantages.

Described as a green, futuristic, tech-enabled city, driven by sustainability, innovation, education, and entertainment, Expo City Dubai already has a start-up innovation scheme in place, Scale2Dubai.

This global entrepreneurship programme will enable start-ups and small businesses to scale up and gain access to new markets. With free rent and a two-year visa on offer, companies are invited to help make the Expo 2020 legacy a vibrant one, characterised by innovation and global cooperation. 

District 2020 will also actively facilitate access to accelerator and incubator programmes, funding opportunities, funding, and talent, underpinned by a state-of-the-art IT infrastructure.

There are few places on earth where so many people from so many different countries live together in harmony. With zero unemployment and a relatively young, well-educated, and affluent population, the UAE has proved itself to be a perfect testbed for new products and services. This small, multicultural environment lends itself to product and service testing with minimal investment required, allowing business dreams to become reality. 

According to BBC Travel, in Dubai alone, there are more than 200 nationalities rubbing shoulders every day, putting it among the top 10 most multicultural cities in the world. Pundits also suggest Dubai looks set to become one of the most culturally diverse cities by 2030.

Such a melting pot – coupled with Dubai and the UAE’s long history as a global trading post – has seen the rise of some 10,000 SMEs, according to the Economic Times. Meanwhile, Dubai Chamber figures suggest there are more than 250 scale-ups, which have raised venture capital funding of $5.4 billion. No surprise, perhaps, that there are plans afoot to create, encourage, and attract 20 unicorns–start-ups with at least a $1 billion valuation–by 2031. 

Anywhere with such a stable economy and a thriving business environment will always attract investors, of course. And the region is renowned for being a global trading hub, from the ancient Silk Road traders to today’s cutting-edge bitcoin apps. There’s a strong backbone of the wealth in the UAE, from corporate investors to savvy individuals who live here to take advantage of the laissez-faire tax regime and good salaries. Start-ups with a great idea and a solid business plan have an excellent opportunity to find investors of all shapes and sizes.

One such investment organisation is Emirates Angels, formed in 2020 to positively contribute to the nation’s early-stage investment ecosystem through its lively investor network, with a focus on tech-based start-ups. It offers education, events, networking opportunities, and, of course, funding. So, what are you waiting for? Let the UAE become home to all your business dreams.

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