To tap the full potential of the UAE and the region's young talented entrepreneurs, the UAE Ministry of Economy launched an initiative to connect promising startups with investors and business partners from other parts of the world.
"We have created a new platform alongside the Annual Investment Meeting called AIM Startup for startups to promote themselves and bring them closer to venture capitalists, funding institutions and incubators. The biggest problem faced by startups is the lack of funding. We are bringing them close to funding institutions and help them grow and create employment and add value to the economy," says Dawood Al Shezawi, CEO and president of AIM Startup.
The Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) is the world's leading platform for foreign direct investment (FDI), aimed at facilitating strategic networking and promoting investments. It is the largest gathering of the international investment community, policy makers, business leaders, regional and international investors, entrepreneurs, leading academics and experts showcasing up-to-date information and strategies on attracting FDI.
The eighth edition of the AIM will be held from April 9 to 11 in Dubai. The theme is 'Linking Developed and Emerging Markets through FDI: Partnerships for Inclusive Growth & Sustainable Development'.
According to Magnitt, the startup movement in the Middle East is accelerating, with 260 startup deals generating $410 million in 2017, up from 176 deals raising $249 million in 2016 while governments are reducing entry-level barriers and improving the environment to do business that is helping startups to expand fast.
"The economic landscape of the Arab world is changing fast. From smart homes to paperless digital payment processes to drones replacing home delivery vehicles to the launch of flying taxis, we are going through an exciting phase in the digital transformation of services. These transformations will be led by startups that will shape our lives," Al Shezawi says.
"We are now conducting region-wide roadshows to select the best startups in the Mena region and provide them an opportunity to be a part of the global platform," he says.
"AIM Startup has generated a huge interest among regional startup companies who are lining up in big numbers at the AIM Startup roadshows and pitch competitions to showcase their project to the funding communities and other stakeholders," Al Shezawi adds.
"The startup movement is also gaining momentum in line with the digital revolution in the region that is gradually embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution [Industry 4.0] and changing the way we live and work," he says.
"Our team is relentlessly working with regional startups to prepare them for meetings with venture capitalists and other funding entities, helping them to expand their services throughout the Arab world."
Earlier, 25 startups were selected out of 100 participating startups in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain through a series of pitch competitions for the grand finale in Dubai.
"The movement is gaining momentum once again as the second round of the AIM Startup roadshows kicked off last week in Kuwait, later in Oman and Egypt - that will see a number of new startup companies enter the final round of the region-wide pitch competition to select the best startups," Al Shezawi says.
Five top startups will be picked from each of the pitch competitions in Kuwait, Oman and Egypt. All of them will then enter into the final round of the competition to attract funding and vie for prizes of up to $50,000.
Haifa Bedrawi, project manager of AIM Startup, says: "As we enter the final phase of the region-wide roadshows and pitch competitions, we see a tremendous amount of energy and interest among young entrepreneurs."
Rami Hajjar, CEO, Hadzup, a UAE-based smartphone applications solutions startup, says that AIM has provided him global exposure. "Presenting at AIM connected me with influential business people all the way from Mauritius and now we are working together on a large project," Hajjar says.
Another UAE-based startup Teleport finds the three-day AIM the best launchpad to showcase its product to investors.
"The openness of investment clients and foreign delegates who showed interest in our ideas was really something to be admired. While our project is changing the way we do logistics in the future, forums like AIM is changing the way countries invest in the future," says Satish Chandra, CEO, Teleport.
Startup investment in Mena is expected to reach $1 billion annually, according to the World Economic Forum.
"With this, AIM Startup gears up for its second edition to help foster the entrepreneurship ecosystem and bridge the investment gap," Al Shezawi says.
He says that startups create quality jobs for tech-savvy young men and women. It is a solution to growing unemployment in the region.
"Startups help the overall economy by creating quality and well-paid jobs. They also fix gaps in the economy by creating added value," he says.
Al Shezawi believes that startups are helping the digital transformation of societies by creating new ventures that ease service deliveries. "They provide comfort to consumers while create a business out of the need. Technology is the biggest enabler in the startup business," he says.
Al Shezawi urges the private sector and government to join hands to enhance the overall startup ecosystem.
"We are just a catalyst. We need to create country-wide platforms where students, entrepreneurs, mentors and funding entities could work together to create the right environment," Al Shezawi concludes.
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