UAE's AIM Start-up programme doubles the number of start-up exhibitors

More than 500 start-ups will take part, with a quarter entering the pitch contest at the Annual Investment Meeting in Dubai in April

Dubai, April 09, 2018: Visitors at the Annual Investment Meeting at the world trade centre in Dubai. Satish Kumar for the National /Story by Deena Kamel
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AIM Start-up, a UAE Ministry of Economy initiative, will feature double the number of start-up exhibitors at its 2019 event, the SME platform said on Monday.

Around 500 start-ups will attend the innovation showcase and pitch competition, now in its third year, which will take place in conjunction with the UAE’s Annual Investment Meeting and Future Cities Show from April 8 to 10 at the Dubai World Trade Centre. Last year 250 companies exhibited at the event.

Adeeb Alafeefi, director of the national programme for SMEs and projects, said AIM Start-up is “one of the best platforms for entrepreneurs and SMEs”.

“Today SMEs in the UAE are around 98 per cent of trade licenses in the country, meaning the backbone of our economic development is based on developing and enhancing and building a platform of supporting SMEs and entrepreneurs,” he added.

The initiative received approximately 600 applications last year, of which 250 exhibited and 50 entered the pitch competition. This year, of the thousands of applicants, around 500 will exhibit and 120 will be able to pitch their ideas to investors and incubators, according to Fares Sahnoune, AIM Start-up project manager.

The Annual Investment Meeting (AIM), now in its ninth year, is the largest global gathering of corporate leaders, policymakers, regional and international investors, entrepreneurs, academics and experts showcasing information and strategies on attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Last year the event attracted more than 20,000 participants from more than 140 countries.

Of the 500 start-ups competing, AIM Start-up wants 20 per cent to come from the UAE. Five winners will receive $10,000 (Dh36,731) each in seed money to support their project and applications are still open.

While applicants are welcomed from all over the world, there is a focus on the region. Dawood Al Shezawi, president of the AIM Start-up organising committee, said roadshows in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and Oman selected 41 start-ups to be among the 500.

According to the 2018 MENA Venture Investment Report from Magnitt, the Middle East’s largest start-up data platform, $893 million was invested across 366 deals last year - an increase of 31 per cent in total funding and increase of 3 per cent in number of deals when compared to 2017. UAE led the region with 30 per cent of the number of deals and 70 per cent of the funding.

“The UAE itself is covering 70 per cent of the region’s investments in start-ups,” Mr Alafeefi said. “The vision of the UAE government is to support start-ups, to support SMEs and to improve their activities."

Mr Alafeefi added that AIM Start-up platform is unique because it “invites decision-makers, start-ups, entrepreneurs, venture capitals and angel investors under one roof”.