UAE's new economic initiatives to accelerate small businesses' growth, Dubai SME CEO says

The agency's new digital crowdfunding platform attracted 543 campaigns, of which 44 have been approved to go live online

Abdul Baset Al Janahi (right), chief executive of Dubai SME, and Saeed Al Marri (left), deputy chief executive of Dubai SME, with Yousuf Al Arif, founder of start-up Padel 26. Courtesy Dubai SME
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The UAE government's new set of economic initiatives will bolster the growth of small-and-medium-enterprises (SMEs) and "crystalise efforts" to back entrepreneurs, the chief executive of Dubai SME said.

On June 28, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, announced new initiatives aimed at supporting family companies, helping start-ups and attracting more skilled workers to the UAE.

"The digital economy is the future economy, the business model will change, that change is not easy and needs perseverance," Abdul Basit Al Janahi, chief executive of Dubai SMEs said at a press conference on Tuesday. "Everybody knows that entrepreneurship and SMEs are the beginning of everything. From a regulatory point of view ... the initiatives make our lives and the entrepreneurs' lives easier."

The initiatives are part of the UAE's drive to become a knowledge-based economy. They include an entrepreneurial academy (Skill-Up Academy), a new platform to support the growth of start-ups (Scale-Up Platform) and an online portal to provide investors with comprehensive information about investment opportunities in the UAE.

In addition, an accelerator for family-owned businesses will help them access new markets. An economic research institute established in collaboration with leading universities will drive R&D and a global investment conference (Investopia) will be held in March next year.

Dubai SME also said its new digital crowdfunding platform received 543 requests for funds from entrepreneurs since its launch in May. Of these, it approved 44 requests to go live on the platform, where backers can select and support projects.

Dubai Next, the not-for-profit crowdfunding platform operated by Dubai SME, received total funding requests for more than Dh27.7 million.

The selected projects received 72 funding contributions from 58 investors, Dubai SME officials said at the press conference.

Dubai Next has helped to "democratise and simplify" fund-raising for SMEs, Mr Al Janahi said.

The platform collects the funds in an Escrow account in MBRF and guarantees the project to encourage investors, Mr Al Janahi said.

Dubai Next has helped Emirati start-up Padel 26 to raise the capital required to launch, generating Dh100,000 on the platform with the rest of the capital provided by The Mohammed Bin Rashid Fund.

Padel 26, a project that involves indoor doubles courts for the sport of padel, is the first project to raise capital on Dubai Next.

Crowdfunding involves sourcing small amounts of money to support a single commercial venture.

Dubai Next allows individuals and companies to support a project initiated by a friend of family member.

The amount can be refunded if the project fails to reach its target fund amount. Entrepreneurs retain 100 per cent ownership of their project and the platform cannot be used to offer equity.