Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, on Wednesday, launched ‘Dubai Next’ – a new digital crowdfunding platform for supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups.
The new initiative will contribute to "stimulating positive competition and encouraging youth to put forward innovative ideas as well as obtain community support through crowdfunding", Sheikh Hamdan said in a statement.
"It will also empower a generation that is capable of innovating to succeed in a competitive commercial environment, thus reinforcing the fundamental role of SMEs in economic development so that the UAE can continue to stand as a model for youth empowerment,” he added.
Crowdfunding – a type of alternative finance – refers to the practice of funding a project or venture by raising small amounts of capital from a large group of people, usually through the internet.
Dubai, the commercial and trading hub of the Middle East, is home to a number of global tech start-ups that have chosen to base their headquarters out of the emirate due to its business friendly legislation.
Messaging app Telegram, advertising technology company Media.net, Wrappup, the developer of an AI-based productivity app acquired by US tech firm Voicera, and Emerging Markets Property Group – the parent company behind the Bayut and Dubizzle portals are all based out of Dubai.
Dubai Next will further support the start-ups and allow youth and innovators in the emirate to secure the required funding to launch their projects.
It will allow students and innovators to pitch before potential investors and enable emerging enterprises to grow, expand and launch new products in the market.
The SME sector is a key pillar of the national economy and the “UAE continues to give increasing attention to the sector through initiatives and programmes launched to support entrepreneurship in the city”, Sheikh Hamdan said.
The SME sector represents more than 94 per cent of total companies and employs over 86 per cent of the private sector workforce in the UAE, according to a Dubai Chamber report released in November.
Within Dubai, SMEs constitute 95 per cent of companies and employ 42 per cent of the workforce, contributing to 40 per cent of the emirate’s economy, the report added.
“The Dubai Next platform is fully aligned with the Dubai SME’s mission to create platforms that promote entrepreneurship,” Abdul Al Janahi, chief executive of Dubai SME, said.
The launch of the initiative indicates the Dubai government’s efforts to provide innovative solutions to the challenges faced by innovators, said Mr Al Janahi.
The emirate has “enabled entrepreneurs to implement their vision and transform their ideas into distinct projects that support sustainable development and efforts to build a knowledge economy,” Sami Al Qamzi, director general of Dubai Economy, said.