Why the UAE is a breeding ground for unicorns

05/07/2022 by Ali Sajwani

The title of this blog doesn’t refer, of course, to the horned horses of myth, rather the term ‘unicorn’ has come to mean a start-up company valued at over $1 billion.

Apparently, the term fell into common use because, just like those mythical creatures, such a thing is a rare phenomenon. But I’ve noticed that right here, on our shores, we’ve created the perfect breeding grounds for unicorns. 

In fact, there are amazing government plans afoot to help generate no less than 20 unicorn start-ups in the UAE by 2031. The UAE’s multi-faceted ‘Entrepreneurial Nation‘ scheme aims to help forge public-private alliances and funding for start-ups.

It has a three-pronged approach. Firstly, a “SkillUp academy” will provide education and training in entrepreneurial skills.

A “StartUp initiative” aims to discover and celebrate entrepreneurial success stories and help UAE entrepreneurs develop their ventures. Thirdly, a “ScaleUp Platform” aims to help potential future unicorns with full business support, including offers from industry giants such as UPS, AWS, Cisco and Huawei. 

The national scheme is designed to help new businesses expand, offer help in exporting their products and services, and tap into online sales.

It’s great to have a new business idea, but what stalls a lot of start-ups is access to funding. Last year saw the launch of an AED1 billion “Dubai Future District Fund,” intending to help launch 1,000 locally-based tech companies by 2026, and increase start-up investments from AED1.5 billion to AED4 billion.

The fund, a Dubai Securities and Exchange Higher Committee initiative, forms part of the Dubai Future District’s (DFD) efforts to support tech-focused start-ups, and encourage them to list on the Dubai Financial Markets and stock exchange.

The fund is another exciting development in the UAE’s bold journey towards becoming a global entrepreneurship hub. Providing access to capital for seed and start-up businesses will make Dubai and the UAE more attractive to both entrepreneurial talent and to savvy international investors.  

And it’s not just funding that will drive the UAE’s ambitions towards creating so many unicorns – there are many other attractive initiatives underway. 

For example, you may recall the news from just over a year ago, when the Ministry of Economy launched an Innovation Patent initiative to empower inventors to protect their inventions at the national level – which will undoubtedly help start-ups protect their IP and reassure them it’s a good place to do business. 

The Innovation Patent service is designed by the Ministry to attract inventors and innovators, while encouraging start-up companies which focus on innovation, technology and entrepreneurial ideas. 

We even have a Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, appointed in 2020 to help facilitate smoother business start-ups.

The government is acutely aware of the local inclination towards entrepreneurship. It’s in our character. But it is also aware that many people run a start-up as a side hustle, so it is taking steps to encourage the younger generation to eschew the ‘ease’ of a comfortable job and pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, with all this training, funding and support. 

What’s clear is that the UAE has all the pieces of the jigsaw in place to help everyone achieve their business goals.

Now, what’s your entrepreneurial dream? 

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