The small and medium enterprises (SME) sector of any vibrant economy is the nursery of its next generation of entrepreneurs and is usually also a substantial contributor to GDP.
According to a report issued by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, SMEs constitute about 95 per cent of all companies in Dubai, employ 42 per cent of the workforce, and generate 40 per cent of the GDP. Empowering, mentoring, and nurturing, this SME sector is not only significant for Dubai's current economic health; it is also crucial to ensuring that the emirate thrives in the emerging new global economy.
The Ministry of Economy has launched the ‘Skill-Up Academy’, to nurture business leadership; the ‘Scale-up Platform’, to support start-ups in their growth; and the ‘Grow in UAE’, platform, which provides up to date information on investment policies and opportunities.
One such initiative, which has garnered a lot of attention, is the ‘Dubai Next’ crowdfunding programme that will decentralise venture capital, the platform has already hosted 543 campaigns, which are giving start-ups and ideas initiated by both Emirati and international talent, the chance to launch their venture in Dubai.
“Dubai has always been the proverbial city of dreams, for innovators and entrepreneurs,” said Prabhu Ramachandran, CEO, and founder of Facilio Inc., the AI-based property operations platform that found a receptive market for its breakthrough technologies in the Emirate. “Identifying the ‘next-big-thing’, or even a great idea that fits the emerging economy can be tricky. The Dubai Next platform not only showcases the next generation of entrepreneurs, it puts them in touch with investors too.”
Crowdfunding has indeed served as a kind of vetting mechanism for start-up ecosystems around the globe, and the Dubai Next platform — the very first official platform of its kind in the emirate – could help entrepreneurs put their ideas to the ultimate test: their target audience.
Ram Mohan, COO and Founder of Rent-A-Towel, a service provider enabling more sustainable linen-management in the hospitality industry, believes Dubai is a particularly receptive market for innovative start-ups. “When we launched our Dr. Linen range, we were introducing an entirely new fiber, apart from a disruptive model for linen-management. The response we got tells me that Dubai is one of the markets most open to new ideas and approaches, globally. The Dubai Next platform could be the perfect way to tap into this appetite for innovation.”
Creating a financing mechanism that is more likely to break with convention, will unlock a brand new avenue for growth, in the Dubai economy. The Dubai Next platform will not only be a shot in the arm for future-ready entrepreneurship, it will add to the volume of employment generated by the SME sector. As Dubai strides boldly into the new economy, its first official crowdfunding platform could be the enabler that unlocks the next generation of unicorn startups, to emerge from the region.
Abhay Pandey, a home-grown entrepreneur who built the techno-consultancy MAST Consulting Group from scratch within the UAE, makes the case that the Dubai Next platform will encourage entrepreneurs to pursue more unique business models. “At our inception, we were a completely self-funded and bootstrapped firm, introducing a new service model, across multiple verticals. A platform like Dubai Next would have been an ideal interface with prospective investors for us, at the time. I believe its launch will enable many more entrepreneurs to take a new and unprecedented business approach and scale better and faster.”
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