The top 10 start-ups to work for in the UAE

The companies are hiring and embracing the flexibility that workers now want, LinkedIn says

On-demand fuel-booking app Cafu was ranked as the best start-up to work for in the UAE in 2021, according to LinkedIn. Adam Workman / The National
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On-demand fuel-booking app Cafu has been ranked as the best start-up to work for in the UAE this year by professional network LinkedIn.

Dubai-based cloud kitchen company Kitopi, real estate and facilities management company Inspire Integrated Services, sustainable energy company Yellow Door Energy and weekly meal subscription service Hello Chef complete the top five, according to the 2021 LinkedIn Top Start-ups list.

Other sought-after start-up employers in the UAE include delivery app Swan, payment technology firm Pyypl, digital banking platform YAP, digital health insurance provider Sehteq and bus-sharing and ride hailing service Swvl, according to the LinkedIn list.

Fuelled by LinkedIn data, the global Top Start-ups List is an annual ranking of the emerging start-ups to watch out for and work for, LinkedIn said in a statement on Wednesday.

The four criteria LinkedIn used to identify the best start-ups in the UAE were employment growth, engagement with employees, job interest and talent attraction. The start-ups were analysed from January to July this year.

Almost all the companies on the UAE list are “currently hiring and embracing the flexibility workers want now”, LinkedIn said.

“Start-ups are a natural place to look to for cutting-edge innovation in how we are approaching the future of work, and LinkedIn’s Top Start-ups list is the place to find the start-ups you should be paying attention to,” said Salma Altantawy, Mena news editor at LinkedIn.

SMEs are the backbone of the UAE economy, with the government introducing measures to help business owners weather the Covid-19 crisis.

More than 400,000 SMEs operate in the UAE. They represent more than 60 per cent of the UAE’s non-oil economy and provide employment opportunities for 86 per cent of the workforce in the private sector, according to the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development.

The total funding secured by start-ups in the Mena region rose by 64 per cent in the first half of the year to $1.2 billion, according to a report from data platform Magnitt. The UAE led the way in terms of deal numbers, with its start-ups securing 61 per cent of all Mena investments, the report found.

“The UAE’s start-ups are innovative and robust, and they play a big role in shaping the country's thriving SME ecosystem,” Ms Altantawy said.

“Although we remain in a state of economic recovery, it’s important that we acknowledge the companies that have made an impact in their field amid global uncertainty, while continuing to be an employer of choice to their teams.”

To be eligible for the UAE Top Start-ups list, a company has to be privately held, have 30 or more employees, be eight years old or younger, and be headquartered in the Emirates, according to the statement.

Start-ups are a natural place to look to for cutting-edge innovation in how we are approaching the future of work
Salma Altantawy, Mena news editor, LinkedIn

LinkedIn found that most successful start-ups in the UAE prioritise convenience and also help users manage money better. For instance, Pyypl is a digital alternative to a credit card, while YAP is a digital banking company that helps users manage money through mobile, LinkedIn said.

Other start-ups use innovation and technology to make an impact, such as Yellow Door Energy’s efficiency solutions that enable businesses to reduce energy costs and lower carbon emissions. Meanwhile, Kitopi helps to reduce waste by enabling restaurants to open delivery-only locations, according to LinkedIn.

Kitopi raised $415 million in a funding round led by SoftBank in July that will help it expand operations in the Middle East and support its entry into South-east Asia.

In July, Swvl said it is listing on the Nasdaq technology index through a merger with special purpose acquisition company Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital. It is the second technology start-up from the Middle East to seek a listing on the US bourse through a SPAC, but the first to have a $1.5bn valuation.

Best start-ups to work for in the UAE

  • Cafu
  • Kitopi
  • Inspire Integrated Services
  • Yellow Door Energy
  • Hello Chef
  • Swan
  • Pyypl
  • YAP
  • Sehteq
  • Swvl
Updated: September 22, 2021, 2:29 PM