With more than 15 years of work in business and investment, the DIFC district in Dubai has nothing to envy the major stock exchanges such as London or New York. Over the years, it has established itself as an ecosystem of choice for international start-ups, but also as a hub for global fintech. Zoom in on this iconic business district in MENA.
At the crossroads of the Hong Kong and Tokyo time zones to the east, and New York and London to the west, Dubai has become one of the most sought-after locations for international companies to settle down, especially the DIFC (Dubai International Finance Center) district. In just one decade, it has established itself as a global financial hub and is now the largest financial ecosystem in the region with more than 25,600 professionals working in over 2,500 registered active companies.
A paradise for start-ups
While Dubai has been relying on tourism to attract more and more foreign investment in recent years, it also seems to be a haven for innovation and technology. Indeed, young start-ups represent almost half of the companies in Dubai, which makes it an international center for entrepreneurship. And to attract young entrepreneurs from around the world, the city of sand and glass don’t hesitate to develop incubators and licenses. In the first quarter of this year, Dubai’s economic department issued more than 15,000 new licenses, 19% more than the previous year over the same period of time, and incubators such as Intelak have even been created to support the creation of start-ups in the air, travel and tourism sectors. In addition, the country has a strong appeal for start-ups looking for funding to kick-off: a rich pool of investors and the second largest proportion of fortune individuals (those with a fortune of US$30 million or more) in the MENA. In this momentum, new investment platforms have emerged, such as Beehive and Ureeca, services that allow more individuals to participate in investments by pooling their resources, thereby reducing costs.
At the heart of fintech innovation
While start-ups are flocking to Dubai, encouraged by the many incentives put in place by the government, it’s in the fintech sector that they are growing the fastest. The Middle East’s most famous business district plans to revolutionize global fintech by hosting the most innovative startups in the field, such as YAP, Sarwa, Baraka, StashAway, and other more established technology companies such as Amazon Payment Solutions, Flybits/Mastercard and Ernst & Young. An Innovation Center was recently created to facilitate the growth of this FinTech ecosystem and support the founders of fintech companies worldwide. This initiative should encourage the establishment of partnerships between young start-ups, technological unicorns and large technology companies. A dynamic which has accelerated since June 1st, with the government’s announcement of the new reform of a law that had been in force for a decade, and limiting the capital’s share that could be owned by a foreigner to 49%. From now on, investors and entrepreneurs from other countries will be able to fully own a company, without going through a local, according to a government tweet. This news should confirm the progress of Dubai on the world stage of finance and innovation in the Middle East.