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Why Community Sits At The Heart Of Dubai's Success As A Startup Hub The country's scope of disruptive startups is growing rapidly, and, in recent years, Dubai's own startup ecosystem has witnessed a significant surge in members, from entrepreneurs to investors alike.

By Majed Al Suwaidi

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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The United Arab Emirates earning a top position in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor's 2022 report is an exceptional feat when up against the likes of the Netherlands, Finland, and the United States. Our climb up the ladder of business renown is over two decades in the making, the labor of developing adaptive policies and regulations to secure business confidence, and fashioning a world-class infrastructure to complement connectivity and growth.

The country's scope of disruptive startups is growing rapidly, and, in recent years, Dubai's own startup ecosystem has witnessed a significant surge in members, from entrepreneurs to investors alike. Bringing together members, nurturing, and expanding this network will be integral to retaining our title for business leadership in the future.

Building a net of moral support

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey. Conversations with entrepreneurs in our business incubator, in5, have revealed that navigating the varied pressures of independent work can be alienating. Many have left the security of high-paying corporate jobs to pursue their ambitions, while others support families who depend on their company's success. A study by UC Berkeley even found that 72% of entrepreneurs reported mental health concerns, a number far too high to ignore.

The moral support entrepreneurs can provide one another is unique and empirical. Having a community where they can come together to discuss their shared paths, problem-solve, and exchange learnings can clear the path to move forward. Considering that a quarter of in5's startups are female led, even female entrepreneurs can find a micro-community that can relate to their unique hurdles.

On the administrative side, incubators provide a comprehensive framework that facilitates setting up and scaling under guidance, mentorship, and navigating bureaucratic hurdles cost-effectively. Even funding-related stressors are curtailed with a team dedicated to facilitating investment opportunities, enabling in5 startups to secure more than AED1.4 billion in funding by October 2021. Part of the premise for our newly introduced space for investors is to help lift that load and maintain our momentum, by providing direct and continued access to and guidance from established venture capitalists and angel investors.

Related: On Dubai Startup Hub's Third Anniversary, A Look Back At The Lessons Learnt Building This Entrepreneurial Community In The Middle East

Long-term relationship building

Incubators provide a valuable meeting point for the startup community. Networking events, pitching workshops, industry conferences, and co-working spaces create opportunities for individuals to forge lasting relationships that will benefit their growth journey, and potentially prove useful once their startups are expanding.

One of the key pillars of in5 since its inception has been to cultivate this common ground. With three innovation centers catering to startups in design, tech and media respectively, entrepreneurs can engage startups in the same sector as them, and form micro-ecosystems of their own. A steering community and expert-led panels bring representatives from global and regional corporations into the fold, expanding the reach of entrepreneurs as well as their knowledge pool.

Meanwhile, association with leading hubs like Dubai Design District (d3), Dubai Internet City, and Dubai Production City mean the opportunities and relationships available in the wider business ecosystems also filter into the startup community. Entrepreneurs gain access to a wide and varied network that understands their sectors, experiences, and professional climates to provide an indispensable support system, thereby aiding startups in accessing potential investors, business partners, and board members.

Foundation for collaboration

Such overlap between established and emerging businesses sets the ultimate stage for knowledge exchange and collaboration. Startups are able to enjoy more brand visibility, considering their access to a dynamic and extensive network, while larger corporations are always on the lookout for fresh solutions and ideas that can safeguard their market share. Communities thus present a unique opportunity to pursue strategic partnerships that can drive innovation and have lasting impact.

Major industry events such as GITEX and Step Conference are just as essential to the ecosystem– entrepreneurs can present their products, services, and insights to public and private decision makers with the aim of catalyzing a larger conversation. Exciting success stories have stemmed from such initiatives, such as the acquisition of in5 startup Home Value by Property Finder at the beginning of the year.

And where there is collaboration, there is room for innovation– the life and blood of any successful company. Bringing together bright minds in distinct stages of their growth journey with access to varied resources and data insights creates an ideal environment to spur innovative thinking and disruptive ideas. In Property Finder's case, for example, access to Home Value's artificial intelligence-led property technology allows them to better serve buyers, tenants, and homeowners with unrivalled data and insights.

Room of opportunities

Business incubators like in5 and government-led strategies such as The Entrepreneurial Nation and the National Agenda for Entrepreneurship are key ingredients to achieving and retaining the UAE's position on prestigious lists like the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. Focused programs enrich opportunities for seed funding and provide an environment that facilitates setting up and scaling with government-backed support.

By creating a comprehensive community that combines entrepreneurs, creative talent, industry thought leaders, policymakers, and investors alike, we can power the engine of economic competitiveness, and attract new talent to choose our city to start new businesses. Dubai has the complete framework and infrastructure that makes community engagement effortless– it is imperative that we ensure that our focus remains on nurturing and adapting it to boost the impact of startups, and consolidate a holistic ecosystem conducive to common success.

Related: Investors Welcome: in5 Dubai To Launch Space Dedicated To Driving Investment In The Middle East

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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