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Expanding into the UAE: startup support and how to soft launch

Following our successful collaboration with the Abu Dhabi International Boat Show in 2023, we're excited to showcase the vast array of support, government programs and incentives available for startups in the region.

The UAE is shifting gears from an oil and gas powerhouse to become a world-leading technology and innovation hub. The Abu Dhabi government is investing AED 10 billion ($2.7 billion) to increase non-oil exports by 143% by 2031.

In terms of support for founders and entrepreneurs, the UAE Government is aiming to develop more than 8,000 SMEs and startups by 2030 with the goal of creating 20 startups valued at more than $1 billion by 2031 as part of its Entrepreneurial Nation initiative.

The Falcon Economy

The UAE is equipped with the fundamentals of a “falcon economy,” a term coined to describe economic, political, and social growth cycles. The term refers to a high-growth economy that is set to transition from a predominately emerging economy to an economy, accelerating growth and opportunities driven by oil and non-oil sectors.

The UAE’s openness and eagerness to embrace creative ideas and projects across various fields have made it a land of opportunities where ambitions thrive and are realized. The UAE is now considered to be the world’s second most stable economy and one of the safest cities in the world. Other benefits include an incredibly diverse society of over 200 nationalities and ease of travel, with 80% of the world population within an 8-hour flight.

“Abu Dhabi’s thriving falcon economy is testament to the leadership’s unwavering commitment to enhance a growing, prosperous, and diversified economy, anchored by technological innovations.” - H.E. Ahmed Jasim Al Zaabi,

Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development.

The Golden Visa Program

In 2019, the Golden Visa program was launched, which further catalysed startup relocation to Abu Dhabi. The Abu Dhabi Golden Visa offers long-term residency in Abu Dhabi for investors, entrepreneurs, professionals, researchers, and creatives. It allows startup founders to live, work, and thrive in Abu Dhabi for 5 to 10 years. There is also the ability to sponsor family members, including spouses and children regardless of their ages.

Importantly, the Golden Visa offers business owners the opportunity to retain 100% ownership of their companies in the UAE and there is no longer the need to have an Emirati partner or sponsor.

Startup Support

To further entice startups, the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) has established various investment funds and programs. To cater to startups at different stages of their growth, these initiatives offer financial assistance, venture capital, and angel investments. There are also multiple accelerators and incubators in Abu Dhabi, which have contributed to the growth of the startup ecosystem.

Hub71 is an ecosystem for global startups, spearheading the mission to further position Abu Dhabi as a leading global tech ecosystem. Formed for investors and tech companies, Hub71 aims to connect innovators with the resources, capital, commercial opportunities and mentorship that they need to materialise their vision and grow their companies. They also offer generous incentive packages for living arrangements, office spaces and health care for startups that are considering relocating to the region.

Understanding the unique opportunity that the UAE market presents, startAD equips startups, SMEs and promising business talents with the tools that are necessary to 'build innovative new products that serve a global need'. In coherence with the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, their impact-driven programs are co-created with the government and corporate leaders to accelerate the UAE's transition into a knowledge-based economy.

Created 20 years ago to facilitate the diversification and acceleration of Abu Dhabi, Mubadala is a sovereign investor who manages a portfolio of diverse assets and investments to generate sustainable financial returns for the Government of Abu Dhabi. Headquartered in Abu Dhabi, Mubadala also has offices in London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, San Francisco and Beijing. Mubadala's mission is to invest and partner in innovative solutions to create opportunities for future generations in the UAE.

Yachting Ventures in the UAE

Yachting Ventures recently launched a cutting-edge and hugely successful Innovation Zone at the Abu Dhabi International Boat Show in 2023, which was dedicated to supporting CleanTech and sustainable startups within leisure marine. 

The Innovation Zone served as a dynamic centre for collaboration, education, and networking, bringing together investors, industry experts, and innovators passionate about shaping a more sustainable maritime sector. Featuring 15 CleanTech startups, the Innovation Zone was a flagship initiative, showcasing the commitment of Abu Dhabi in promoting environmental sustainability and supporting the development of groundbreaking solutions for a cleaner and greener future. 

Dubai International Boat Show 2024

Since its inception in 1992 as a modest event focused on the local maritime industry, Dubai International Boat Show (DIBS) has grown in size and popularity to become one of the world’s most prestigious boat shows. The show will this year take place from 28th February-3rd March at Dubai Harbour, and is expected to be visited by +30,000 people. This offers the perfect launchpad to explore the region and begin conversations with key stakeholders and partners.

Considering expanding into the UAE? Contact us to learn more about how we can support you:


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