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Sheikh Hamdan Launches Digital Crowdfunding Platform Dubai Next To Boost Funding For Innovative Startups Through its crowdfunding feature, Dubai Next is looking to allow the community to directly participate in supporting new and enterprising projects, which in turn can promote the growth of enterprises and society alike.

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H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai

H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, has launched Dubai Next, a digital platform that will enable innovators and entrepreneurs in the Emirate to secure funding for their projects.

Built with an aim to encourage and support sharing of promising ideas through crowdfunding, the integrated virtual platform will work towards ensuring the UAE's highly competitive SME sector can continue to thrive and contribute to the national economy.

"The Dubai Next platform will contribute to stimulating positive competition and encouraging youth to put forward innovative ideas as well as obtain community support through crowdfunding," H.H. Sheikh Hamdan said in a statement. "It will also empower a generation that is capable of innovating to succeed in a competitive commercial environment, thus reinforcing the fundamental role of SMEs in economic development so that the UAE can continue to stand as a model for youth empowerment."

Source: Dubai Next

The initiative comes at a time when the government of UAE has been actively seeking ways for the nation's youth to launch their own businesses instead of opting for traditional corporate jobs, notes H.H. Sheikh Hamdan. Through its crowdfunding feature, Dubai Next is also looking to allow the community to directly participate in supporting new and enterprising projects, which in turn can promote the growth of enterprises and society alike.

Owing to the digital nature of the platform, aspiring entrepreneurs, including students and youth, are expected to be able to reach out to a wider audience, both within the region and beyond, and gain access to better funding. Dubai SME will also provide an incentives package to the projects that receive financing through Dubai Next. The package will include access to the Hamdan Innovation Incubator (HI2) or one of the 14 certified incubators in Dubai, which will help SMEs to expand and scale locally and globally.

Shahzad Bhatti, founder and CEO of The Co-Dubai

Shahzad Bhatti, founder and CEO of The Co-Dubai, a co-working space and business incubator based in Downtown Dubai, is one of the entrepreneurs that have already enlisted their startups on the Dubai Next platform. As an entity certified by Dubai SME, the startup received early access to the platform, with Bhatti applauding the simplicity and ease of the onboarding process. "The initial registration was quick, as I could use my UAE Pass app, which automatically provided the basic details," he explained. "I then used the guided form to fill in the details on our concept and offer, and I was able to fill this all in within about 15 minutes. It even gives the option to link a video, which I think allows the proposition to be more personal."

As someone who is well versed with the value of crowdfunding campaigns, Bhatti is quite optimistic about his enterprise being on the Dubai Next platform. "Crowdfunding allows us to work with our existing community of customers, partners, and friends to grow our business, while directly benefiting those who will be using our services and spaces in the long run." As the entrepreneurial sphere is still recovering from the COVID-19 crisis, Bhatti adds that the platform is a significant support. "It's been a rockey 12 months for all businesses large and small, but I think it's important to give extra attention to startups and small businesses, as they are the backbone of our economy," he noted. "There are some really fantastic ideas out there that never get the chance to launch, simply because of a lack of traditional funding. Crowdfunding gives them an opportunity to connect with like-minded people who believe in their ideas, and can give them the financial backing they need in return for early access or discounts to the products or services being offered."

Marie-Christine Luijckx, founder and Managing Partner of Fruitful Day, is another entrepreneur who stands by the vaue of crowdfunding for startups. Her startup, which delivers fresh fruits to workplaces and homes on a subscription basis, raised over AED3 million last year on the Eureeca crowdfunding platform. "We chose crowdfunding because it provided a unique opportunity to involve our supporters in a more meaningful way and fund our next stage of growth."

Marie-Christine Luijckx, founder and Managing Partner, Fruitful Day. Source: Fruitful Day.

As someone who's been through the crowdfunding process firsthand, Luijckx has this piece of advice for entrepreneurs seeking to make use of Dubai Next. "Once you have your fundraising details ready, be willing to put the time and effort into spreading the word," she said. "Keep an open mind throughout the process, whether that's on feedback on the pitch or who your potential investors might be. Last of all, make sure you get the structuring right when you close, as an equity investor is on the journey with you for the long run."

The Dubai Next platform also presents another compelling driver for entrepreneurs to consider Dubai as their base, says Carl Dowling, Partner at CBD Corporate Services, a Dubai-based firm that provides company formation and restructuring services. "Platforms such as Dubai Next complements the many new regulations that Dubai has introduced in particular in the last 12 months, which will ensure the Emirate continues to place itself at the forefront of innovation in the Middle East," he said.

Carl Dowling, Partner, CBD Corporate Services. Source: CBD Corporate Services

"What Dubai Next offers is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to bring ideas to life when direct capital investment can be challenging to source," Dowling added. "Dubai has a well-entrenched private equity industry that has been the driver for many success stories; however, we see Dubai Next providing an opportunity for younger entrepreneurs to enter the market and develop their proposition in their infancy. It could bring the launchpad of the Dubai garage-founded tech startup that served the likes of Apple, Google and Amazon- dream big!"

Related: Competitive Advantage: Exploring The Middle East's Potential To Become A Global Fintech Hub

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