KHALEEJ TIMES, Thursday, Feb 13, 2020 | Jamadi Al Thani 19, 1441
DIC gears to propel growth in UAE's startup ecosystem
Emirates: Dubai is a gateway
to many opportunities in the region due to its business-friendly environment,
world-class infrastructure and diversified economy and Dubai Internet City (DIC)
plays a key role in helping them grow as the biggest technology hub in the
In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times,
Ammar Al Malik, managing director of Dubai Internet City, said: "As the regional
startup and technology ecosystem grows with the UAE leading the field in digital
transformation and artificial intelligence investment, my advice to budding
entrepreneurs is simple: do not miss out on this opportunity."
Following the homegrown successes of Souq and Careem, investors and venture
capitalists have their eyes fixed on the Middle East as they search for the next
unicorn company. Taking the first step to establish a business can be a daunting
prospect, but startup incubators such as in5 Tech at Dubai Internet City provide
all the assistance for the new companies.
"Today, more than 25,000 professionals work at 1,600 tech companies here and we
expect this number to grow to 40,000 over the next five to seven years,
increasing our ability to empower entrepreneurs," added Al Malik.
Innovation incubator in5 has supported more than 200 new companies to date,
helping them raise Dh400 million since it was launched by TECOM Group in 2013.
By offering state-of-the-art facilities, creative spaces, training and
mentorship programmes and world-class infrastructure, Dubai Internet City and
in5 are enabling the next wave of entrepreneurs and startups to seize the
opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution.
A two-day STEP Conference, launched its 9th edition under the theme of 'The
World in Dubai' in partnership with Dubai Internet City (DIC) and the Department
of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism). The conference - which
concluded on Wednesday - witnessed government and business leaders, venture
capitalists, entrepreneurs and innovators together helping the budding
"We also launched startup competition Floating Pitch this year. It attracted
close to 150 entries and nearly 100 entrepreneurs were shortlisted to pitch to
leading companies and institutions such as Qualcomm, Roland Berger, Sky News
Arabia, Eureeca and New York University Abu Dhabi," added Al Malik.
The UAE startup ecosystem is still the most robust and most innovative in the
region. It remains the most favourable destination for both startups and
investors in the Middle East, which is evidenced by the fact that UAE ranks 16th
in the global Ease of Doing Business Report by World Bank. Last year, the
country attracted as much as $704M in venture funding as per Magnitt.
Ali Shabdar, regional director MEA, Zoho Corp, said: "We see great promise in
the consistent growth of the startup community in the country. The UAE is the
home to some of the most promising and globally acknowledged startups. Fuelled
by strategic government programmes and massive support from the private sector,
the ecosystem is growing steadily attracting entrepreneurs from across the
region and beyond."
The success of UAE as a startup hub going forward will come from venture capital
firms and accelerators that are able to work with founders in creating a clear
pathway to scale their business to high growth markets outside of the region and
be able to access the funding network in the US and other international finance
hubs. This is where the selectivity of VCs and accelerators becomes critical.
Nitin Nambiar, chief marketing officer, ASA Ventures, said: "We have noticed
that the top ideators are unable to make the transition to being entrepreneurs
due to limitations in the analysis framework applied by VCs or just lack of
relationships with the key decision makers."
ASA Ventures, for example, is trying to address this need by tapping into the
idea economy and making entrepreneurship more accessible through its soon to be
launched platform called The Next Big Idea - a web series that does away with
traditional VC analysis an brings into play the wisdom and backing of the crowd.
In the case of The Next Big Idea, the pitches are made available for viewing and
sharing online, and the idea goes straight to your potential customers who in
fact will make or break the business. We believe this platform boosts innovation
and creative thinking, harnessing the Idea Economy and unleashing creativity.
"The Step Conference, remaining true to its promise and spirit, has turned into
the main platform for the startup community of the region to come together,
connect, learn, and get inspired every year. We are delighted to see the
consistency in quality and the expansion of the show in the region. As a part of
our efforts in supporting the startup community in the region, Zoho remains a
partner and ally of the Step Conference," concluded Shabdar.