The UAE start-up ecosystem has been witnessing a diverse portfolio of new firms over the past few years, diversifying away from the e-commerce sector, industry executives said on Sunday.

“Now a lot more start-ups are coming in different fields such as sustainability, agritech, AI and many others, not just in the e-commerce sector as witnessed previously. We try to support anyone who is starting a business here and we aim to bring quality start-ups into our ecosystem,” said Saeed Al Nofali, director of In5, an enabling platform for entrepreneurs and start-ups, fostering innovation and helping new ideas reach the marketplace.

Al Nofali was speaking during a panel discussion on the first day of the Expand North Star conference at Dubai Harbour where more than 1,400 start-ups from across the globe are showcasing their solutions. Expand North Star is extending the version of Gitex Global, the world’s largest gathering of technology giants with more than 6,000 companies exhibiting. Gitex Global will run from October 16 to 20 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

Sheriff El Badwi, CEO, Dubai Future District Fund, said many deep technical start-ups that there not seen in Mena before have been putting foot in the region and are moving people here.

“Since Covid-19, the UAE has become even more prominent across mass and mainstream media on the back of its solid infrastructure,” said El Badwi.

He added that there are over 200 venture capital firms investing in the region and the number of international VCs is increasing dramatically.

“VCs are coming, setting up shops here and also hiring people and relocating their teams here… There is a keen interest to invest locally, including from the sovereign wealth funds and they are even engaged more.”

Accepting failures

Saeed Al Nofali added that this region still doesn’t accept the failure of the start-ups but that mindset is changing now.

“Based on our experience, this region still doesn’t want to accept failures (of start-ups). Culturally, we don’t want to accept failure. But I think right now people understand start-ups and things are changing. We are not there 100 per cent, but we are getting there,” Saeed Al Nofali said during the “Fireside Chat: Enablers of the Entrepreneurship Sector – Enhancing the Ecosystem for Sustainable Growth.”

He pointed out that the role of In5 and other players in the sector is to educate people because that is the most important thing. “There is a need to educate VCs and the entire ecosystem. We need to work together.”


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