Dubai Chamber's New Whitepaper Proposes Solutions To Key Funding Challenges Faced By UAE Startups

The report, titled Helping Startups Access Funding and published in collaboration with Roland Berger, was released during an event in the Entrepreneurship Advocacy series run by Dubai Startup Hub, the entrepreneurial support arm of Dubai Chamber, at its head office in March.

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By Megha Merani

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Startups in the UAE need a practical guide to help them navigate the UAE's funding landscape along with access to a wider network of investors who are eager to finance new business ventures, a new whitepaper published by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said.

The report, titled Helping Startups Access Funding and published in collaboration with Roland Berger, was released during an event in the Entrepreneurship Advocacy series run by Dubai Startup Hub, the entrepreneurial support arm of Dubai Chamber, at its head office in March.

The event also saw banking and finance leaders, industry experts, and entrepreneurs shed light on the key funding challenges faced by startups in the UAE, building on the findings of a previous whitepaper released last year that focused on obstacles first-time entrepreneurs face when opening a bank account in the country.

Related: Roadblocks To Innovation: UAE Small Businesses Sound Off On Working With Banks

The whitepaper also called for allocation of more investment for startup incubators and accelerators, as well as for closer cooperation between universities, government agencies and investment funds to expand the scope of investments, to support the growth of startups in the UAE.

Navigating the complex local funding ecosystem, high hurdle rates to qualify for equity capital, and insufficient risk appetite of debt lenders were listed as key challenges for startups in the UAE. In addition, many banks still require startups to have an established company track record of at least three years before they can qualify for funding. The report also found that investor appetite is limited to only a select number of business models, technologies and sectors.

Meanwhile, although the UAE has successfully attracted a diverse set of investors, interest in startups as an asset class is still relatively new, the whitepaper noted, with the bulk of investment still primarily directed towards other asset classes such as real estate and commodities. The document added that a lack of reliable market data adds complexity, cost and uncertainty when it comes to due diligence.

Proposed solutions

Building sector and technology specific ecosystems is the way forward to further elevate the role of startups in the economy, the report said.

This in turn would help drive the UAE forward in its mission to be a world leader in innovation, and develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem where startups, SMEs, and major corporations can promote the use of modern technology, leading to the diversification of the economy, and the creation new job opportunities.

The whitepaper also underlined the need to build more incubator capacity to cater to the growing number of entrepreneurs, adding that most of the currently available spaces still come at a cost that require start-ups to run on a self-financed basis for a fair period.

Related: 10 Ways First-Time Entrepreneurs Can Better Their Startup's Chances At Fundraising

Startups still continue to experience some degree of difficulty in opening a bank account in the UAE, largely due to the various risk policies adopted by banks, the report said, calling on government entities to play a leading role in reducing the risks incurred by banks in financing early-stage startups.

On a positive note, the report said the building blocks for a thriving ecosystem are now in place, noting that the number of startups in the UAE has grown considerably in recent years as the country has become a preferred regional destination for entrepreneurs operating across a wide variety of sectors and fields.

Results of the new whitepaper were based on insights obtained by a survey of banks, startups, venture capital firms, angel investors, incubators, accelerators, and government entities in the UAE.

Check out Dubai Startup Hub's whitepaper on Helping Startups Access Funding here.

This article was originally published on Dubai Startup Hub and has been reposted on Entrepreneur Middle East based on a mutual agreement between the websites.

Related: The Middle East's Startup Hub: Making Dubai A Launchpad For Innovation

Megha Merani

Independent Journalist

Megha Merani is an independent journalist with more than 10 years of newspaper, magazine and web reporting experience in the United Arab Emirates, writing hard news, investigative reports, features and opinion pieces. Her passion for storytelling coupled with a proven instinct for identifying talkgenerating issues has resulted in breaking stories and insightful features that have made local, regional and international headlines. Her work has been published across Thomson Reuters, Zawya, Bloomberg Middle East, Gulf News, former local daily 7DAYS, and government publications.

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