Live the Dream – Dubai Start Up Advice Series by Alpha Pro Partners
When you think of Dubai you probably imagine towering skyscrapers against a backdrop of stunning beaches and mountain-like sand dunes. But looking beyond this stereotypical perception, you might be surprised to see a gritty and flourishing start-up scene.Business owners may disregard Dubai as a prime location for growth but recent investment successes prove them wrong. With Souq.com securing $500m, Careem winning $200m+, and Fetchr securing $41m, there’s a clear appetite for scalable ventures operating in the region.For businesses who offer their services to the government, good news also comes in the form of a recent agreement to expedite payment to SMEs as a way of releasing cash into organizations every 30 days - instead of the current 90 - to boost the economy.This is anticipated to release an additional $435 million dollars of liquidity to the businesses who offer their services to the state, while also creating accessibility to smaller ventures offering their service to the government through the reduction of insurance costs.But alongside these benefits, there are a whole host of other reasons that businesses should consider Dubai as a home for their exciting new venture.
A viable home for your business?
Various factors have contributed to the business environment in Dubai and entrepreneurs and startups, supported by Government and semi-Government institutions, are transforming the city into a hub of innovation, supported by high-levels of investment.With the added bonus of access to accelerator programmes, and a community of investors, the business space is booming, with no signs of stopping. It’s no wonder Dubai is attractive to entrepreneurs and high-growth startups, but what else does this wonder-city offer?
Dubai is seeing an increasing number of residents returning from innovation hubs - like Silicon Valley - bringing knowledge, experience, and capital, to invest in new businesses. In a climate where other developed countries are turning back immigrants, Dubai continues to welcome highly skilled overseas workers no matter where they are from. This will also be reinforced by the recently introduced 10 year visa for investors, entrepreneurs and highly skilled individuals.
Compared to other locations Dubai offers a haven free of the usual tax implications - personal, corporate and capital gains - making it highly appealing to businesses, investors and employees.
Traditionally, business owners were able to operate their venture without the need for a local partner using one of the many free zones based in the UAE. Recently however, the UAE government has introduced 100% foreign owned businesses without the need for a free zone which will continue to make Dubai an attractive place to set up a business.
Thanks to the minimal taxation laws, expats are able to keep and maintain their business finances in Dubai without the added cost or restriction of transferring money internationally.
Dubai’s location means easy access to various markets. With African, Asian and Western markets a short flight away, you can build collaborations across the world in minimal time. You can even reach over 200 worldwide cities from Dubai without the need to make additional stopovers.
Dubai enjoys low crime rates. It sounds silly but starting a business - or moving your family - somewhere new means thinking about safe locations to base yourself from. According to the website Safearound.com it is ranked 20 out of 113 of the safest cities around the world.
From transport links to conference venues, the city has high-quality road links, a world-famous metro system and an abundance of event hosting and conference spaces.
When you’re not working you want a great quality of life. Dubai has it. From things to do in the city to exploring the UAE, you won’t get bored with a growing list of activities to tick off.
Smartphone penetration among the Millennials in Dubai is almost 200%, making the market prime for technology start-ups and e-commerce businesses. With an increasing number of global businesses going digital from marketing to operations, Dubai will serve as an ideal testing ground for many businesses making such a change.
Successful applicants to the Dubai Future Accelerator programme benefit from free flights, accommodation, workspace and access to mentors, all designed to support rapid growth.
Capitalizing on Tourism
When you consider the number of people visiting for trade shows and events, the tourism market may not immediately seem full of opportunity. But businesses operating in the tourism and hospitality trades could find an attractive home for their venture in Dubai.A recent report on Mental Floss has Dubai in fourth place for the most visited cities in the world, welcoming nearly 16m visitors a year. Furthermore, the average spend per day in Dubai comes in significantly higher than the nine other cities on the list.Quoting an average daily spend of $537 (the next closest city being Paris at $301 a day), visitors to Dubai are willing to spend their money, presenting opportunities for businesses in the tourism industry to capitalize on growing tourist boom.
We mentioned the expat population but to give you some context: 85% of Dubai’s population are expats. This means you’ll easily build a network of friends and acquaintances and the fears or concerns of being isolated are drastically reduced.With a diverse demographic, including GCC Arabs, Non-GCC Arabs, Western Expats, Filipinos and South Asians, businesses can see how their product launches could be received by global markets. Market testing in Dubai could indicate the best use of resources when your product goes live.Dubai continues to be a growing city, at the end of the third quarter of 2018, the population grew year on year by 8% to 3.1 million residents. Given that the population was 0.5 million in 1990 and 1 million in 2000 the continued increase in population provides businesses with a growing consumer market which it can capitalize from.Include the fact that the UAE is ranked 14th in the world for being one of the happiest countries to live in and it’s no wonder more and more people are rushing to Dubai and enjoying everything that the city has to offer when it comes to starting a business.
For prospective start-up businesses, Dubai offers real opportunity supported by a range of factors that are clearly incentives worth considering when looking at the best location to launch your venture.With 5-6 trade shows taking place on a monthly basis prospective customers are regularly jetting in looking to establish trade partnerships and offer easy access to international markets for any business.Dubai is one of the quickest growing economies in the GCC. For businesses relocating here, getting in early is key otherwise you might miss the opportunities on offer. Choosing Dubai as a home for your venture could be one of the best decisions you can make.