When it comes to starting a business, the UAE is one of the top locations in the world.
In part, this is because the government has worked hard to create an environment that is attractive to innovation. From free zones and business matchmaking to empowering women – there is something for every budding entrepreneur.
Could one of the opportunities and initiatives outlined below be the boost your startup needs?
1. Ongoing business support
For many budding entrepreneurs this is a first time adventure.
Having come up with your big business idea, you need to know how to write business plans, how to best market your services, obtain the necessary approvals and licences, and navigate all the legal and taxation clutter to get the real picture.
Few people are experts in all these areas – and even fewer have the money to hire people for these roles when they’re just starting out – so support can be crucial.
How the UAE provides ongoing business support
There are various organisations, government agencies and initiatives that provide business counseling and mentoring, as well as technical and marketing support. This enables you to access most of the advice and assistance you need through one dedicated source.
If you establish in a free zone, your business will also naturally receive support. The right company setup specialist will be able to provide a myriad of services to help companies set up, meet regulations, recruit staff, and even brand the company. Many free zones also offer a one-stop-shop concept, where they are able to facilitate all approvals and paperwork with other governmental authorities without the need to visit the other authorities. As a business owner, this saves you a lot of time and energy.
2. Networking opportunities
Setting up is just the beginning of the adventure. Meeting and interacting with the business community is a vital part of the process for entrepreneurs looking to make a mark in the UAE. Networking ensures that innovation, contacts and partnerships keep flowing.
How the UAE provides the opportunity to network
There are various organisations that can help pair entrepreneurs and startups with strategic UAE-based partners via business matchmaking.
Entrepreneurs will find many business networking opportunities too. Online and word-of-mouth grapevines are very busy in the UAE, and not hard to find. Many networking groups have online hubs on the likes of Eventbrite, Facebook, LinkedIn, Meetup.com and Twitter’s Tweetups. These groups often meet regularly offline, too.
In addition you’ll find support centres and support groups relevant to your sector. For non-UAE nationals there are also business councils specific to the entrepreneur’s country of origin.
These exist to streamline economic co-operation between the UAE and foreign-run businesses, and there will usually be the opportunity to attend seminars, workshops and informal gatherings.
It’s all about meeting and greeting, building profitable links, making the right connections, getting the heads-up for events and awards ceremonies, and gaining the attention of both your peers and your intended audience. It’s also about gaining less tangible benefits, such as moral support and a sense of community.
3. Cost cutting
Setup fees can be astronomical and difficult to judge. There is the cost of business registration, opening a corporate bank account, establishing an office, IT, insurance, and work permits. Any help a business can get to reduce these costs can make all the difference.
How the UAE helps keep new business costs low
The UAE government frequently announces new initiatives and resolutions that slash the cost of starting a new business.
Free zones themselves often offer promotions to help businesses keep costs down. If you’re just starting out, some of the free zones offer business setup packages for SMEs, new startups, and even new graduates, allowing access to shared workstations, ongoing support, and eligibility for visas, and residency.
4. Empowering female entrepreneurs
Figures by the Unilever Foundry show that worldwide just 17% of all new startups are founded by women. The story is similar in the MENA region.
When Dubai SME and event organiser Arabnet published their report State of Digital Investments in MENA 2013-2018, the contrast between the likelihood of equity success for men and women was startling. The report analysed 1,423 regional investments in startups across the region, and found that just 14% of these deals were with companies founded by women.
How the UAE is supporting women succeed in business
The situation is evolving all the time, and in the UAE there has been a lot of change very quickly when it comes to gender equality. The UAE government has already made gender equality in the workforce one of its sustainable development goals and half of all SMEs in the UAE are now led by women.
The free zones are also taking the issue seriously, and some have developed business packages specifically for women. Look for cutting edge setup specialists who offer services dedicated exclusively to female entrepreneurs.
5. Residency stability
If you’re looking to start a business in another country, the red tape involved in securing visas and work permits is a big concern.
How the UAE keeps residency simple
Free zone one-stop-shops (OSS) streamline the process of living and working in the UAE. Visas and work permits can be obtained through a free zone authority’s OSS centres, making things much simpler.
Long-term residency in the UAE is now open to more people than ever before, following the implemented new visa system in 2019. This includes 5 and 10 year visas for entrepreneurs, investors, specialist talents such as doctors and scientists, creative people in the fields of culture and art, and outstanding students who meet the authority’s requirements.
Make your business dream a reality in the UAE
These are just five key ways the UAE is supporting innovation and new businesses. We haven’t covered everything, so be sure to do more research. You’ll be surprised just how much support is available across the entire
Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone Authority (RAKEZ)