UAE Startups: A Snapshot

UAE Startups: A Snapshot

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) contribute heavily to the economy. In Dubai alone, SMEs are 95 per cent of the total business entities, contribute around 40 per cent towards emirate’s GDP. Not to forget, they are responsible for the 40 per cent of total employment.

A comprehensive analysis in the journey of Startups and SMEs in Dubai identified several challenges and pain points that entrepreneurs face at different stages of their businesses. With financial requirements being their primary concern, some of the other challenges that 99 per cent of the entrepreneurs face are listed below

Challenges and Needs

Technical Insight: Many entrepreneurs may have the idea but cannot translate it to the practical means of implementation. The knowledge of business modelling tools is relatively limited along with the ability to create an investment pitch and document a business plan or a market feasibility study.

Functional Insight: Startups do not have the knowledge or required skills to manage day-to-day functions like human resources, marketing, procurement and finance.

Mentorship & Guidance: Entrepreneurs are always in need of the opinions of industry players and/or successful startups as the most valid source of information.

Effective Networking: Entrepreneurs find it difficult to stay connected with various stakeholders, potential clients and peers.

Access to Data: Entrepreneurs do not have access to data and/or market research study to validate business ideas and understand the target market trends.

Smooth Licensing Procedure: The setup process can potentially be cumbersome and many entrepreneurs are guilty of directing energy towards business set up instead channelizing energies on developing the business.

What UAE did?

Incepted Incubators, Accelerators & Co-working Spaces: Offered incubators with official licensing and funding schemes. Some of the examples include Fintech Hive, In5, DTEC, Dubai future foundation, WoMENA, and Astrolab. They provide strong support to local entrepreneurs via Dubai SME, Dubai Chamber and Khalifah fund in Abu Dhabi.

Offered Encouragements to Expats: Long term residency (10 years) is now attainable for sustainable business owners.

Decreased Costs for Starting a Business: Several fees were reduced or cancelled as a result of the cabinet decision as of July 2019, which in turn diluted the financial burden of operating a business.

Furnished Valuable Data: Smart Dubai’s (Dubai Pulse) offered effective and updated datasets to help early-stage entrepreneurs in validating their business ideas.

Fostered Learning & Educating: Encouraged several formal and informal events to exchange knowledge, Dubai SME support startups via official programs at the Dubai entrepreneurship academy

The Result

  • Continuous increase in new business registrations. According to DED, total licenses issued in Dubai as of May 2019 increased by 50% on an annual basis.
  • The UAE is ranked 11th  on the global competitiveness index up from 21st just the year before.

Research Konnection is a market research company in Dubai that assists local and international companies to set up or expand businesses in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and UAE. At Research Konnection, we specialize in Market ResearchFeasibility Studies and Business Plan Developments. Feel free to reach out to us on

Author: Arwa Ayyash
The author is a contributing writer at Research Konnection apart from being a corporate performance and strategy planning expert based in Dubai with core emphasis on market research and business consulting.