Dubai launches new online platform to attract and support digital-focused start-ups

The Business in Dubai programme will offer access to funding, workspaces and other opportunities for growth

The Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy welcomed seven partners into its Business in Dubai platform, which being positioned as a one-stop shop that will bridge gaps faced by start-ups in terms of access to funding, workspaces and other opportunities for growth. Antonie Robertson / The National
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The Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy has formally launched a new platform aimed at attracting and supporting digital-focused start-ups as the emirate pushes forth with its aim to become a digital economy powerhouse.

The Business in Dubai programme, which was first announced in June, is being positioned as a one-stop shop that will bridge gaps faced by start-ups in terms of access to funding, workspaces and other opportunities for growth.

The programme also aims to enable them to boost their contribution to Dubai's economy, in partnership with private and government organisations.

The initiative brings together seven new partners – the Dubai World Trade Centre, telecom operator du, Dubai Islamic Bank, Mashreq, Commercial Bank of Dubai, Tecom Group's start-up incubator in5 and workspace platform Letswork.

Their participation was formalised with a preliminary agreement, signed by their top executives at the event on Monday.

The new partners join telecoms operator e& – formerly known as Etisalat – Dubai CommerCity and digital payments platforms Telr and Safexpay, who had signed on in June.

The Business in Dubai programme focuses on two fundamental pillars – a business-matching service that will connect companies with partners, investors and customers, and a comprehensive range of institutional services delivered in co-operation with the Dubai Chamber’s partners.

It will also include incentives to attract more local and international digital start-ups to operate in the emirate.

Digital-focused companies are "extremely important ... so we try to provide what they require. We know Dubai supports people in a good way, but it's the businesses that require certain supports", Ahmad bin Byat, vice chairman of the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy, told reporters at the event.

Partner banks of the initiative will set up dedicated teams to assist start-ups, he said.

"It won't be just cost effective – it's also more efficient. Instead of these companies going to different places, they can access this platform and get the services, with our team also available to help."

The initiative comes as part of the Dubai Chamber’s drive to create a business environment that enables digital companies to thrive and contribute to the goals of the Dubai Economic Agenda, or D33.

300 digital start-ups

Last year the UAE government announced its Digital Economy Strategy with the goal of increasing the contribution of the sector to the GDP by 20 per cent over the next 10 years, up from 9.7 per cent in 2022, as it seeks to leverage cutting-edge technologies and attract high-skilled talent.

The new initiative is also a step towards Dubai's target of attracting 300 digital start-ups to the emirate by 2024 and boosting its non-oil GDP.

The Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy attracted 69 digital start-ups during the first quarter of 2023.

Business in Dubai "not only unites our strengths but also fortifies the business landscape, empowering more companies to achieve global growth by starting or scaling up from Dubai", said Majed Al Suwaidi, senior vice president of Dubai Media City, part of Tecom Group.

Developing start-ups’ contribution to the economy will help achieve the target of doubling the UAE's gross domestic product by 2031, Abdulla bin Touq, UAE's Minister of Economy, said this month.

Last year, the Ministry of Economy unveiled its updated Entrepreneurial Nation programme, which seeks to develop more than 8,000 SMEs and start-ups by 2030.

The Emirates also aims to be home to 20 unicorns – start-ups with a valuation of $1 billion and above – by 2031, double the number initially planned.

Video: New license aims to ease barriers for start-ups in Dubai

Video: New license aims to ease barriers for start-ups in Dubai

In December, the UAE launched Future 100, a programme aimed at supporting and honouring the top 100 start-ups that are expected to have a significant impact on the country's economy.

The Dubai Chamber is also organising the Expand North Star summit at this month's Gitex Global technology conference, which is dedicated to connecting start-ups with investors.

The summit will be held in Dubai from October 15 to 18 alongside Gitex Global and is expected to attract more than 1,400 exhibitors and 1,000 investors. It could be a "record breaker" for Dubai, Mr bin Byat said.

"Dubai is becoming very attractive for such talent because these businesses require a specific type of talent from around the world. We see people moving from East and West to Dubai – a lot of young, talented individuals – and they start their company here," he added.

Updated: October 02, 2023, 1:49 PM