UAE aims for 20 $1 bln startups by 2031: minister
The United Arab Emirates aims to become home to 20 startups worth more than $1 billion each, known as 'unicorns', in the next decade, its Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Ahmad al-Falasi, said on Wednesday.
At the launch of the Entrepreneurial Nation project in Dubai, Falasi said the UAE aimed to do more to solidify its position as a top destination for international investment in the Gulf. It has lately seen increased competition from Saudi Arabia, which has been pushing foreign firms and startups to invest there and set up regional headquarters in Riyadh.
"When it comes to entrepreneurship specifically it’s always about competition," Falasi told Reuters when asked about competition with Saudi Arabia. "Every country is different, Saudi Arabia is a different market than UAE. Entrepreneurs view the UAE as a platform for growth into the region."
The UAE has an advantage attracting foreign capital because its population is overwhelmingly foreign workers, he said.
"So foreigners feel much more confident starting theirs business in a country, which has 90% expats as opposed to other countries," he said.
The UAE has announced visa and business reforms aimed at attracting more expatriates to live and work there, after businesses suffered last year from the coronavirus outbreak. The government plans to offer funding in several formats, including equity, direct lending and loan guarantees, to boost startups and entrepreneurship, the minister said.
A technology hub in Abu Dhabi called Hub71 has also seen a surge in interest despite the pandemic. Backed by state fund Mubadala Investment Co, the SoftBank Vision Fund, and Microsoft, Hub71 accepted 100 start-up firms since its inception in 2019 after a selection process that drew about 3,500 applications, its chief operating officer Jida Itani told Reuters last month.