Is Dubai The Next Big Tech Startup Hub?

Over the last three years, the decline in oil prices might have put other Middle Eastern economies at some risk but Dubai, one of the five fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the world, has instead diversified, drawing tech talent from around the world.

“It is establishing itself as the destination of choice for tech startups seeking to access emerging markets, says Muhammed Mekki, founding partner of Astrolabs, a tech hub that hosts entrepreneurs from over 40 countries. “With over 2 billion people living within a four-hour flight radius and the right infrastructure to support a thriving start-up ecosystem, Dubai is a compelling location to consider for founders from around the world.”

From Careem, a Dubai-based ride-hail start-up, to Bridg, a mobile-to-mobile payment platform that leverages the power of Bluetooth, and Souq.com, the Middle East’s first unicorn, many tech startups are scaling up their businesses from Dubai. Case in point: Founded in 2013, Careem, which raised a total of $71.7 million in funding, has expanded in 26 cities across the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) as well as Pakistan. As of January 2016, the company has seen a 30% increase in trips and has seen profitability in the UAE.

The boom is driven not just by the growth of incubators and accelerators such as Turn8, ImpactHub, Astrolabs Dubai and In5 spearheading the drive to make Dubai the next Silicon Valley of the world, but also the support from government and semi-government institutions that represent the most vital sectors in the government’s agenda, such as health, education, transportation, infrastructure and renewable energy. Also, the declining cost of technology means more entrepreneurs having the tools to build new companies.

With the recent shift witnessed globally, experts say it is an opportune time for corporate investors to look out for alternatives and diversify into entrepreneurial ventures to gain medium to long term returns.

A first in the region, Google has been collaborating with Astrolabs to enable start-ups to innovate and grow. As part of the global Google for Entrepreneurs partner network, Astrolabs share techniques and facilitate exchanges with the other leading tech hubs around the world to enhance the experience of start-up entrepreneurs.

“We collaborate with the Google office in Dubai as well as in Silicon Valley to offer local entrepreneurs mentorship and other learning opportunities to help them grow their companies,” says Astrolabs’ Mekki. “Also, our partnership with Dubai Multi Commodities Centre enables our entrepreneurs to quickly set up their companies within a free zone environment under a subsidised fee structure, an essential enabler for our young start-ups to successfully get off the ground.”

SOURCE: FORBES
BY: Suparna Dutt D'Cunha ,

http://www.forbes.com/sites/suparnadutt/2016/08/22/is-dubai-the-next-big-tech-startup-hub/#566173f73c33

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