Get All Access for $5/mo

Charting New Paths: Embracing The Entrepreneurial Boom In The UAE Together, we can ensure that the entrepreneurial journey in the UAE is not just about surviving but thriving, marking the region as a global beacon for innovation and entrepreneurial success.

By Faisal Toukan

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


In the heart of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a dynamic transformation is underway, marking the dawn of a new era in entrepreneurship. This land, known for its towering skyscrapers and bustling marketplaces, is fast becoming an exciting playground for entrepreneurs. Here, dreamers take flight, bringing their innovative visions to life with passion and relentless zeal. The UAE's evolving licensing and regulatory landscape, such as 100% foreign ownership of mainland businesses and the introduction of freelance work visas, is a testament to its commitment to nurturing this entrepreneurial spirit.

Driven by a deeper purpose to create and make a difference, the emerging generation of entrepreneurs are motivated to explore uncharted territories. This shift towards purpose-driven entrepreneurship is palpable in every corner of the country, from the aromatic kitchens of home-based caterers, to the creative studios of digital startups. Beyond their unified ambition to bring new visions to life, they share a unique quality- the impatience for progress, and a dogged refusal to be bogged down by the lengthy wait times for payments. These entrepreneurs share a common frustration with the traditional financial systems slow pace, born out of the tiresome delays in cashing out with traditional point-of-sale (PoS) systems, which can sometimes take weeks, or the months-long process to open a bank account.

The journey of survival is a tough one that few can make. A report shows that only one in 20 businesses make it past the first year, and only five of 20 make it to the fifth year. A key hurdle these bold visionaries must overcome is payments– specifically, the challenge of seamlessly and reliably making and receiving payments. Amidst this burgeoning landscape of innovation and creativity, receiving payments is a significant pain point for most budding startups. The process of setting up a business banking account and managing transactions is often marred by bureaucratic hurdles and inefficiencies. Entrepreneurs find themselves entangled in the complexities of payment transactions, a reality that can dampen the most fervent of entrepreneurial spirits. This challenge is not just a minor inconvenience- it is a formidable barrier that tests the resilience of startups.

Take, for instance, the journey of June Drops, an innovative home-based business that initially struggled with tracking payments. The lack of clarity from payment providers on who sent payments was a significant hurdle. Or Wicked Chef, where the lack of simplicity and ease of sending and receiving money were major pain points. For a small business, if customers face cumbersome steps to make a payment, it can drive them away, costing the startup valuable customers and business. These stories are not isolated incidents, but a reflection of a broader narrative in the UAE's entrepreneurial ecosystem. The need for an easy, efficient payment platform is not just a desire, but a necessity for survival and growth in this competitive landscape.

Related: Driving The Digital Economy: A Look At Dubai's Initiatives In Building A Resilient Tech Startup Landscape

As the UAE continues to foster this spirit of entrepreneurship, the call for innovation in financial services becomes increasingly urgent, necessitating an environment where businesses can flourish without being hindered by financial constraints. It's about transforming the payment process from a hurdle to a stepping-stone for success. Imagine a system where setting up a payment gateway is as simple and quick as sending an email. Where transactions are swift and easy, empowering businesses with better cash flow management. Today's entrepreneurs are spearheading a culture renaissance in the region, innovating new ways of doing business. They have stepped beyond traditional office spaces, making Instagram and corner cafés their new hubs for success. To meet them where they are, financial solutions providers need to step out of the traditional and get creative as well.

One of the critical challenges in this journey for financial solution providers is building and maintaining trust. The industry has been marred by overpromises and under deliveries, leading to a skepticism among users. The new wave of financial solutions must be efficient, user-friendly, transparent, and reliable. This financial transformation needs to support the broader entrepreneurial and cultural renaissance in the region. By empowering entrepreneurs financially, helping them get paid easily and instantly, we –as financial solution providers- need to fuel the movement of creativity, innovation, and local excellence. Financial tools should be enablers of dreams, supporters of cultural shifts, and contributors to societal growth. I believe it is our responsibility to support an entrepreneur's path to success.

Fortunately, as we witness an increasingly enabling environment in Dubai and the broader UAE, there is also a growing shift in the financial ecosystem towards innovative solutions, paving the way for a brighter, more prosperous future for all entrepreneurs in the region. Take Ziina, for instance, the company I lead, where our mission is to remove all barriers of payment between a business and its customer. We aim to transform the payment process into a simple, enjoyable, and even beautiful experience. By taking away the awkwardness of making, tracking, and receiving payments, we intend to make transactions not only convenient, but a thing of beauty. We envision a financial ecosystem that is efficient and reliable, but also empowering and inspiring- an ecosystem where entrepreneurs can focus on their passion, without being bogged down by financial complexities.

Ziina has been created with this vision, as an ode to the entrepreneurs of the region. Their courage and innovation are the driving forces of the region's vibrant growth and dynamic spirit, and the call for a financial revolution is loud and clear. As we stand at the threshold of this new era, it is imperative that we collectively nurture and support the entrepreneurial spirit that is reshaping the UAE and the wider region. Financial solution providers play a pivotal role in this transformation. By offering streamlined, trustworthy financial services, we empower dreams, and foster the growth of businesses that are the backbone of our economy. Together, we can ensure that the entrepreneurial journey in the UAE is not just about surviving but thriving, marking the region as a global beacon for innovation and entrepreneurial success.

Related: Making It Big: Four Tactics That Enabled UAE-Born Startup Ziina To Make It To Y Combinator

Faisal Toukan

Co-founder and CEO, Ziina

Faisal Toukan is the co-founder and CEO of Ziina, the UAE’s first peer-to-peer payment app that is on a mission to simplify finance for everyone. 

SEO Trends You Need to Be Aware of Right Now, According to a Seasoned Pro

Navigate the future of search engine optimization to elevate your online presence and drive meaningful engagement.


You Don't Need Venture Capital Anymore — Here Are 4 Funding Alternatives

Are you hoping to raise capital for your business without traditional investor interference? Here are four alternatives you could pursue.

Starting a Business

3 Things to Consider Before Your Perfect Business Partner Becomes Your Perfect Disaster

There are many reasons for start-up businesses' high failure rate, including lack of cash, not doing enough research and poor marketing. But this one reason is definitely not getting enough attention.

Business News

How to Be a Billionaire By 25, According to a College Dropout Turned CEO Worth $1.6 Billion

Austin Russell became the world's youngest self-made billionaire in 2020 at age 25.

Starting a Business

He Started an 'Accidental' Business at 25 With Just $2,000 — Then Gave His Product to the Pope: 'Anyone Can Be an Entrepreneur'

Michael Aram, founder of the namesake luxury home and jewelry brand, learned the art of metalworking in India — and used it to launch a global brand.


The 5-Hour Rule Used by Bill Gates, Jack Ma and Elon Musk

The most successful people on the planet are also the people most likely to devote an hour a day to reading and learning.