Will Dubai become the Silicon Valley of MENA?
Will Dubai ever diversify its economy and cease being exclusively an oil-rich country with excellent hospitality? In a recent Forbes article by Vinnie Lauria, the potential of the Emirate to create a favourable startup ecosystem is widely explored. Lauria shares his own experiences as an entrepreneur and also highlights the strengths of Dubai’s ecosystem has.
Dubai, as part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), along with Abu Dhabi has a total population of about 9.2 million. However, more than two-thirds of the people in the UAE are expats. Dubai has always been known as the city of superlatives, where business moves fast and the realisation of dreams is closer than ever.
As a result, it has attracted foreign talent and international companies. According to a 2016 study, innovation is more likely to occur among foreigners since over half of the founders of billion-dollar-plus tech startups are immigrants (including Tesla, Google, Facebook, and YouTube). Ambitious individuals combined with Saudis’ love of grandeur create an exciting mix for companies to thrive in.
The adaptability of Saudis is also indicated in the eradication of the language barrier without losing their own cultural identity. As a result, the culture in Dubai hits the sweet spot with international investors.
Last but not least, startups operating in Dubai can reach over to any other MENA country and scale across the region easily due to the cultural similarities.
Dubai's startup ecosystems
Lauria finds that many of the elements of the startup ecosystem need improving but indicates that the foundation is already there. UAE is known for its business-friendly regulations, however for more startups to consider expanding in the UAE, cross-border transactions need to be simplified.
Expats may also face issues with work visas while they are on a startup working status. Nascent startups that already have a headstart could lend a hand to those who are just starting in the UAE. Every country has its own regulatory framework regarding new businesses. According to the article, Dubai might only need two more years to catch up with other startup ecosystems such as Singapore.
Dubai has made incredible progress in attracting new ventures. Expo 2020 and Dubai Silicon Oasis create an encouraging ecosystem for startups to grow. Our team here at Copperstones believes that many of the impressive goals set by the Dubai government could come to fruition with the help of startups. New companies in the area will increase the real estate investment opportunities, making the area more attractive than it already is. Only two more years to find out which companies have opened another office in the Emirate and how much the city has grown in such a small amount of time.
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