Dubai:Wamda, the Middle East region's leading startup ecosystem enabler, has launched 'The state of the pre-seed startups in Mena' report in collaboration with STEP Conference, the leading technology festival for emerging markets.

The report features findings based on data from 627 startup founders who applied to the Wamda X fellowship programme and includes research supplemented by STEP. The UAE remains the regional hub for entrepreneurship with 35.5% of the startups surveyed based in the country , followed by Egypt with 26.5% in sectors ranging from e-commerce, fintech, healthcare and marketplaces among others. Only 32% of startups are currently registered of which 60% are registered in either Egypt or the UAE.

Ray Dargham, CEO of STEP said: “We are delighted to be launching this report issued by Wamda at STEP Conference. For the first time in the ecosystem, we look closer at the initial state when a startup is founded. The findings generated from the report are a testimony of the great achievements the region has been undergoing in graduating business ideas and creative companies. It also shows that the UAE has become the home for startups to set up their businesses. This falls in line with the UAE’s vision to become the preferred destination for global talents and entrepreneurs, through many initiatives and projects aimed at turning Dubai into a nexus for business and an integrated investment environment that offers exceptional facilities while making it a regional startup hub for startups like Dubai Internet City and the new Dubai Future District to drive the economy from here, attracting top business ideas with unique quality and finally exporting talent from the region globally.”

Some other key findings include:

  • The entrepreneur of the Middle East is university-educated, aged 25-35 with substantial experience in the corporate world.
  • Majority of investment is from founders, who are bootstrapping their startups with help from friends and family. There is great room for growth for angel investors who make up just over 5% of investment.
  • The region still lacks a gender balance, with women accounting for just a quarter of founders.

“Working with the fellows at Wamda X, it became apparent that there is a lack of insights and data into the reality of the state of pre-seed startups in Mena. These findings will help the ecosystem better understand the wants and needs of startups in their earliest stages and can also be used to support entrepreneurship in the region,” said Triska Hamid, editorial director at Wamda. “Encouraging entrepreneurship is vital to the development of the Middle East’s economy, and so better access to such kind of data will enable all the different stakeholders to take action.”

Ammar Al Malik, Managing Director of Dubai Internet City, said: “Dubai Internet City helps its business community of more than 1,600 tech companies connect with investors, network with like-minded individuals and strengthen the emirate’s position as the leading tech and talent hub in the Middle East.

“Our ecosystem is home to promising entrepreneurs and start-up incubator in5 has helped them secure funding, unlock new opportunities and develop innovative products for a rapidly-changing world. We will continue to provide an environment with the right infrastructure and services to improve ease of doing business and enable technology start-ups to be part of Dubai’s success story.”


About STEP

STEP is a millennial generation media company for young Arabs which focuses on technology and entrepreneurship, through dynamic and modern events, content, and media. STEP is mostly known for it’s flagship Step Conference which takes place annually in Dubai and Riyadh and gathers thousands of startups, entrepreneurs, and investors. STEP was listed as a Forbes top 100 startups in the Middle East and in the top 100 startup shaping the 4th industrial revolution by the World Economic Forum. 

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