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Four Factors That Allowed The UAE To Emerge As The New Frontier For Global Entrepreneurship Spurred by watershed events in recent human history, the entrepreneurial phenomenon has witnessed a global uptick- and at the forefront of it all is the UAE.

By Majed Al Suwaidi

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Spurred by watershed events in recent human history, the entrepreneurial phenomenon has witnessed a global uptick- and at the forefront of it all is the UAE.

After all, the UAE leadership's swift and comprehensive response to the COVID-19 crisis allowed us to reopen borders faster than countries, not only providing short-term respite to businesses, but reinforcing a long-term confidence in its commercial framework, even in trying times. Even businesses from other countries migrated to enjoy the benefits- Dubai-based firm Pro Partner Group reported a 60% rise in UK registrations year-on-year in the first quarter of 2021. Meanwhile, Dubai Chambers alone welcomed 27,800 new companies in 2021- a 66.8% increase compared to 2020.

Indeed, the UAE's appeal as a global commercial hub is only strengthening. Earning the top ranking in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitoring 2022 report, outperforming the likes of the Netherlands and Finland, is a testament to the country's globally competitive startup ecosystem and commercial hub positioning. The growing volume of venture capitalists (VCs) and big business are stimulating the investment landscape too. Data platform Magnitt has noted that the MENA region witnessed a record-breaking US$2.6 billion in VC funding in 2021, with startups in the UAE accounting for 45% of all funding raised.

Meanwhile, investor confidence is only growing, with the latest numbers reporting that companies in the UAE raised $699 million in the first half of 2022, securing our reign as the leading country for venture capital financing in MENA. Such milestones sing of an environment well-built and fortified- but what makes the UAE –and Dubai, in particular– an attractive and reliable destination for startups and entrepreneurs? Here are four key factors:

1. Comprehensive government framework Over the last few decades, the country's strategic efforts to diversify our economy have led to flourishing sectors in tourism, manufacturing, real estate, and technology. The formation of free zones granted 100% foreign ownership and globally competitive tax regimes, laying the foundations for a dynamic commercial ecosystem by attracting global corporations to set up headquarters, skilled talent, and, with time, startups. Expanding complete ownership eligibility to businesses in renewable energy, space, and agriculture amongst others demonstrated our leadership's adaptive and future-ready mindset.

Issuing comprehensive, forward-looking strategies across key sectors have also been essential in our journey. Initiatives such as Operation 300bn, the Dubai Creative Economy, the UAE Net Zero Strategy, as well as tech-focused strategies in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and, most recently, the metaverse are stimulating growth in emerging global sectors.

2. A strategic location A gateway to the emerging markets across the MENA region, Dubai is positioned at the crossroads of existing and emerging trade routes. Our leading travel and tourism sectors benefit businesses with a comprehensive travel and logistics network enabling transport via sea, road, and, soon, rail. Such connectivity not only opens doors to large swaths of the world's population and diverse markets, but also attracts strong capital flows from across the region for businesses looking to expand operations as well as talent. Such ease of access makes us a convenient halfway point for global industry leaders and experts. Dubai's extensive conference calendar hosts more than 300 events, serving as networking and showcasing platforms for local and regional businesses to pursue partnerships and scale up.

3. Maintaining momentum The introduction of visa categories such as the golden visa, remote work, and their recent amendments to expand eligibility are part of the government's efforts to continue attracting talent, entrepreneurship, and investment, and they cement Dubai as an ideal place to live and work. With the influx and retention of bright and ambitious minds, we effectively replenish the entrepreneurial and investment pool and secure Dubai's economic future. Targeted platforms like in5, paired with strategies in the metaverse, healthcare, sustainability, and digital transformation, also provide a steady flow of public-private directives that supplement opportunities, incentives, and funds. Highlighting areas of focus, and designing programs and strategic initiatives that complement them, keep the wheels of entrepreneurship turning. It is through these mechanisms and frameworks Dubai continues to be the "it" place for business, big and small.

4. Entrepreneurial climate and infrastructure Dubai's ease of doing business has received plenty of acclaim. World-class infrastructure, high internet penetration rates, a robust banking system, and digitized government services alleviate several hurdles that new business owners encounter. A high quality of life and the plethora of opportunities across key sectors have successfully attracted skilled, future-ready talent, many of whom are feeding the entrepreneurial pipeline. Meanwhile, for those in need of guidance can turn to platforms such as in5, where we aim to provide cost-effective business incubation, as well as access to advisory and mentorship, state-of-the-art creative facilities to develop prototypes and content, and access to potential investment opportunities with a dedicated investor space. Our goal is to empower the overarching startup ecosystem by bringing entrepreneurs into a community shared by thriving business hubs, investors and policymakers.

The convergence of public and private sector entrepreneurial initiatives has also led to several success stories. Dubai-based startup Careem became the region's first unicorn in 2019 after it was bought by Uber for US$3.1 billion. Amazon's purchase of and the regional expansion of companies like The Entertainer and Mumzworld represent a landscape bursting with opportunity. Also worth noting are in5 alumni like buy-now-pay-later platform tabby, which secured US$150 million in debt financing this August, and Desert Control, an agri-tech startup that is now listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. Another of our startups, Munch:On, was acquired by Careem in June 2022, symbolizing an entrepreneurial cycle entering a new growth chapter. And a flourishing startup ecosystem stimulates the investment landscape, which is growing with equal vigor.

Related: Why Community Sits At The Heart Of Dubai's Success As A Startup Hub

Majed Al Suwaidi

Managing Director, Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City, and Dubai Production City

Majed Al Suwaidi is the Managing Director of Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City, and Dubai Production City.

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