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Dubai offers countless opportunities for entrepreneurs

Experts said that the UAE is like a beacon for a new age of talent that is making the emirates their home - Supplied
Experts said that the UAE is like a beacon for a new age of talent that is making the emirates their home - Supplied

A decade of the Step Conference has showcased 1,224 startups, welcoming more than 30,000 attendees, over 1,200 speakers, and 252 established investors, and generating upwards of $500 million in funding for startups in Mena as well as other emerging markets


Rohma Sadaqat

Published: Wed 23 Feb 2022, 7:52 PM

Dubai, and the UAE, offer an almost unlimited number of opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to launch and scale up their business, experts said at the Step 2022 conference.

The country’s dedicated focus on maintaining a business friendly environment, and support for entrepreneurs in the form of various initiatives, have set it apart on a global scale, they noted.

Speaking during a panel session on the first day of the event, Ammar Al Malik, managing director of Dubai Internet City, highlighted how the event, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, has evolved to be a major player in Dubai’s entrepreneurial landscape.

“It has been an amazing decade and we have seen a lot of amazing startups,” he said. “The entrepreneurship landscape has changed dramatically over the past 10 years. As Dubai Internet City, we see ourselves as a cornerstone of the UAE’s digital transformation journey. It is in our DNA to ask what more we can do to develop this ecosystem and how to continue to support it in the future.”

The next few years, he said, will see a dramatic shift in how people live their lives. Part of this is due to the acceleration of technology adoption and wave of digitisation, which accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic. While challenges in the region still exist, if there are areas that require DIC’s attention, then they will be tackled in a timely manner, he noted.

Mohamad Ballout, co-founder and CEO of Kitopi, also noted how the region today is like a beacon for a new age of talent that is making the emirates their home. He also highlighted how the landscape for entrepreneurs has evolved over the years.

“Funding for startups has become much easier and is more readily available,” he said. “The amount that many startups today receive in seed funds is almost equal to what we would have seen granted to a Series A in the years past. The mindset regarding the value of stock options has also changed, and people look at them more favourably nowadays compared to a few years ago.”

He also noted how people from around the world are more willing to relocate to Dubai, given how tech and startup friendly it is. “I think Dubai has done a really good job in being a platform for talent from around the world. I also think that it is one of the best times for venture capitalists to be in this region, and that is why you can see big names all having a presence here now.”

Ballout also described the UAE as being similar to “where LA was 20 years, or where China was even before that.”

“There is a big difference in valuations which is why it really is the best time to be here right now,” he said.

Al Malik also stressed the impact that entrepreneurship has on an economy, which is why various entities have to work together to strengthen the ecosystem. “The questions we have to ask ourselves now is how can we help companies scale and how to attract more talent to the region.”

The government, he added, is listening to entrepreneurs and working on making business easier for them. “New laws and initiatives such as the Golden Visa have really helped this mission. We expect a lot more from the ecosystem and we are excited to see what it will bring. Our leadership’s vision to transform the UAE into a global technology hub and establish a world-class digital infrastructure relies on ambitious start-ups pushing the envelope to deliver unique solutions and nurture competition.”


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