Ecosystem Startups

UAE ranks among 50 top start-up destinations


Jordan, Lebanon and Bahrain make gains in StartupBlink’s annual listing of the 100 best destinations to start a business.

The UAE, the Arab world’s second-largest economy, was ranked among the 50 top destinations for start-ups in the world, according to a report.

The country gained the highest ranking among Arab nations at 43rd, although this was three places lower than last year, according to a list of the 100 best countries for start-ups by Zurich-based research company StartupBlink.

“As an entrepreneur, location will greatly influence the chances your start-up will succeed,” Eli David, chief executive of StartupBlink, said.

“Good start-up ecosystems are fundamental … they create jobs, boost the economy, increase tax revenue, improve quality of life and urban innovation and attract talent,” he added.

Major gainers in the Arab world included Jordan, which jumped six places to 67th, Lebanon climbed eight places to 74th and Bahrain rose 20 places to 75th. Egypt (81st), Morocco (83rd), Qatar (84th), Saudi Arabia (88th) and Kuwait (92nd) also made the top 100.

StartupBlink, which publishes start-up ecosystem rankings every year, calculates the score for each country based on various factors such as the business environment, number of start-ups and quality of products. It gathers data from more than 50,000 respondents working as venture capitalists, founders and employees.

The organisation praised the Arab nations for their consistent efforts to attract global talent and create a conducive ecosystem required for the successful scaling of businesses.

“Dubai is now the undisputed tech leader city in the Arab world, becoming a popular relocation destination among Arab entrepreneurs from all over the Middle East,” the report said.

“Considering the size of the Arabic-speaking market, the potential is high … continued reforms by the government can provide much needed legal and financial infrastructure, with laws favouring entrepreneurs and a banking system that supports innovation,” it added.

Bahrain has the potential to rank even higher, as it enjoys a “collaborative start-up community, is tax-free for most private companies and has established a framework of legal and support systems” for entrepreneurs, the report said.

“Picking a start-up location is one of the most important choices a founder can make,” said Pakiza Abdulrahman, head of start-ups at Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB).

“Start-ups coming to Bahrain join a thriving ecosystem that combines pro-enterprise regulation with competitive costs, backed by the support of government … not to mention our unrivalled access to the $1.5 trillion [Dh5.5tn] GCC market,” she added.

The island nation promotes initiatives such as StartUp Bahrain, Tamkeen and Bahrain FinTech Bay, and in 2019 attracted 134 new companies to the country. Investments amounted to $835 million, according to the EDB.

Start-ups in the Middle East and North Africa region secured Dh1 billion in funding during the first quarter of the year, up 2 per cent on the same period last year, according to data platform Magnitt.

While funding increased marginally, the number of deals in the first three months of this year fell 22 per cent to 108. Egypt accounted for 37 per cent of all deals in the region while the UAE accounted for 25 per cent and Saudi Arabia 12 per cent.