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Wed 10 Aug 2016 10:35 AM

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Starting up in Dubai: your questions answered

Essa Al Zaabi, senior vice-president, institutional support sector, at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and general co-ordinator of Tejar Dubai, agreed to answer a few entrepreneurship-related questions sent in by our readers

Starting up in Dubai: your questions answered

Are there any initiatives for expat entrepreneurs? It seems like they are all for Emiratis only.


Some programmes are only open to Emirati entrepreneurs in order to cultivate the national start-up culture, but there are many initiatives open to applicants from all backgrounds.

In the recently-concluded Dubai Chamber Smartpreneur Competition, launched in cooperation with the Smart Dubai Office, three finalists received cash prizes for their creative business ideas. Another initiative, Dubai Startup Hub, launched in collaboration with IBM, offers comprehensive information on Dubai’s start-up scene through an online platform.

We encourage Dubai’s start-up scene to be as global and dynamic as the emirate’s vibrant business culture.

To start a company requires getting a license, renting office space which is time-consuming and expensive, especially for start-ups. How can we resolve this? What is the Dubai Chamber doing to ease funding for start-ups?


Dubai Chamber strives to convey the business community’s needs and concerns to the government. Through our business groups and business councils we hear complaints and issues, and use these to formulate the current needs of businesses of all sizes across all industries which we then communicate to the relevant government agencies.

It is part of Dubai government’s vision to incorporate and foster the growth of SMEs and local start-ups in Dubai’s business community, and we work to implement programmes and initiatives to make that happen. Tejar Dubai offers mentoring and training for young entrepreneurs, whilst the Dubai Smartpreneur Competition worked with hundreds of applicants to fine-tune their business plans and offered training to the shortlisted participants to win the competition. As mentioned earlier, the Dubai Startup Hub connects users to all sorts of resources about start-up events, investors, and all relevant news within the start-up scene.

We realise that funding is a major roadblock for start-up ventures. Dubai Chamber works to facilitate loans between banks and entrepreneurs, and has signed MoUs with Emirates NBD and Emirates Islamic to ease the funding process. Under the scheme, successful participants of Tejar Dubai can apply to credit financing at Emirates NBD and Emirates Islamic for a loan of up to AED 3 million, under favourable terms.

We also established the banking business group, where we can negotiate opportunities for businesses and banks to meet. We are ever-aware that this is a concern to Dubai’s start-up community and we are working to develop further opportunities for entrepreneurs to obtain funding.

Tech companies require developers, which is lacking in the UAE. Local universities don’t emphasise computer science in their curriculum (or even up-to-date technologies). Are there any plans to link with the education sector and form local computer science talent? The same applies to digital marketing. Business and marketing curriculum do not emphasise enough on growth hacking and the new age of marketing, they still teach old marketing methods that do not apply to today’s world.


One of Dubai Chamber’s initiatives is the University of Dubai, which offers undergraduate and graduate programmes in Information Technology, amongst other fields. These programmes are open to Emirati and international students, and students pursuing these degrees are sure to be an asset to the start-up scene with their cutting-edge knowledge and experience.

How will the Dubai Chamber promote the region for overseas companies investing in start-ups similar to other start-up and tech hubs around the world?


The World Bank ranked the UAE as the leading Arab country in its Ease of Doing Business report, and ranked the country as 31st globally. By becoming the regional business hub, we attract companies of all sizes and from across all sectors to set up operations here, which provides a favourable environment for start-ups. Investing in Dubai-based companies is straightforward and hassle-free, thus enabling overseas companies to fund our locally-based start-ups. As the start-up culture and entrepreneurship in Dubai grow, the emirate’s reputation as a start-up hub will follow.

In 2013, Dubai Chamber also launched the International Business Network, where members have access to many benefits usually available only to Dubai Chamber members such as research studies, discounted rates on conference attendance, contract drafting, and networking with local business partners. This membership is useful to companies looking into setting up in Dubai, and promotes Dubai as a global business hub and investment destination.

It is not easy to find good partners from government entities or big corporations as they are mainly looking for very mature companies to partner with. And the slow time line can be killer for start-ups.


We realise how important it is to integrate entrepreneurs into full-fledged functioning companies so that they can receive the training necessary to apply to their own ventures.

Dubai Startup Hub provides the ideal platform for SMEs to showcase their capabilities and competitive advantages and added value to influential individual and companies of all sizes from the public and private sectors.

Through our role in linking entrepreneurs with seasoned veterans, we create a platform for dialogue with government entities and support the public private sector partnership in the long run.

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