Start-ups at Dubai Internet City's in5 incubator hit a record Dh1.4 billion ($381 million) in investments, as the sector leverages the big role technology is playing in helping the economy and society transition to the post-Covid-19 era.
More than 150 new companies have joined in5 – an enabling platform for entrepreneurs to help their ideas reach the marketplace – since 2020, taking the total number of start-ups under its wing to 500. E-commerce, logistics and FinTech generated the most interest, with agriculture technology and food and beverages also gaining traction.
"If people had plans to go into digital transformation in three years, all of a sudden they had to do it overnight. We supported start-ups even during the shutdown, and today the huge interest is returning to the region," Ammar Al Malik, managing director of Dubai Internet City, told The National at Gitex Global in Dubai.
The UAE has become a hotspot for start-ups, with Dubai ranking among the top 35 most attractive cities globally when it comes to securing funding for these companies.
In 2020, start-ups in the Middle East and North Africa attracted record funding of more than $1bn, the first time they hit the 10-figure barrier, according to a Magnitt report.
AgTech firm Desert Control raised around Dh85m in its initial public offering on Euronext Growth Oslo. Traffic safety platform Derq also made an international impression, partnering with driverless tech company Motional to pilot autonomous vehicles in Las Vegas.
Of the 150 new start-ups that were established, a quarter were owned by women, which is nearly twice as high as the regional average, and in line with international standards in places such as Australia, Europe and North America, all of which have a high concentration of start-ups, according to the World Bank.
"We want to make sure innovation is sustainable and is happening on the ground over the next few years. We keep participating in the community, creating talent for everyone," Mr Al Malik said.
Dubai Internet City – from which successful home-grown start-ups such as ride-hailing service Careem and ecommerce platform Souq.com emerged – launched in5 as a tech-focused business incubator before growing and evolving with centres supporting media and design start-ups.
The three in5 centres provide launching pads for budding entrepreneurs to develop their businesses with expert mentorship, networking and funding opportunities.