According to Forbes, the top challenges facing any start-up include securing funding, hiring the right people, accessing resources and receiving guidance. In the face of these barriers, the right environment makes all the difference.

Located in the heart of Dubai, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region’s leading innovation hub, offering the broadest and deepest community of growth-stage start-ups, scale-ups and investors. The Centre is home to MEASA’s leading growth companies as well as leading regional venture capital (VC) funds including Middle East Venture Partners.

Start-ups looking to establish and scale their operations need the right support. They must be able to access funding, talent and a like-minded community that enables them to build a network of industry relationships.

DIFC is designed to empower technology and innovation companies, easing access to all the funding, talent and resources they need to succeed – and its Innovation Hub is the driving force for entrepreneurs.  The largest start-up ecosystem in the region and home to MEASA’s leading growth companies, the DIFC Innovation Hub is an integral part of the strategic road map for realising His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s vision for innovation-driven growth in Dubai.

HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed said: “The new facility is a key initiative aimed at generating new economic value by fostering the development of innovation, enterprise and talent across sectors, especially in future-oriented industries.”

Through a rich event calendar and networking opportunities, as well as physical proximity enabled by dedicated office space, DIFC fosters links between stakeholders from financial institutions to early-stage start-ups, and from angel investors to unicorns. For start-ups, funding opportunities and accelerator programmes are within arm’s reach in DIFC. DIFC also provides access to outstanding human capital. A symbol of modernity and renowned for its high quality of life, Dubai attracts and retains talent from around the world, meaning start-ups can hire the brightest and the best.

The Innovation Hub: the region’s leading start-up community

Inaugurated in May 2021, DIFC’s Innovation Hub is crucial to Dubai’s vision for the future, and part of the Dubai Future District, the UAE Innovation Strategy and Projects of the 50. It aims to generate new economic value by cultivating innovation, enterprise and talent across sectors, especially in future-oriented industries. By 2023, it plans to be one of the largest hubs for fintech and innovation companies globally.

The Hub community includes early-stage start-ups, big tech institutions, unicorns and sovereign wealth funds, including names like the Thunderbird School of Global Management, Ebury, Tarabut Gateway and Amazon. This community is brought together through a regular calendar of events, such as Blockchain Week, the AI Festival, Future Talent Week and others. These events shine a light on how creative minds are addressing emerging trends and solving global issues, serving as a source of inspiration for budding entrepreneurs to follow their dreams and create the successful businesses of the future.

This spirit of connection bridges the gap between start-ups, corporates and other members of the community and provides inspiration to those looking to scale up from Dubai.

Access to market and resources

When it comes to scaling up, DIFC’s Innovation Hub offers outstanding market access, thanks to Dubai’s location in the heart of the UAE. Businesses operating in Dubai have easy access to all the major markets of the region and beyond, and can easily do businesses with leading financial centres in both the East and West of the world.

Start-ups and investors can access unmatched opportunities and resources, as the Innovation Hub is home to the largest cluster of venture capitalists, family offices and institutional capital in the region. In 2021, the Future District Fund was launched, committing Dh1bn to increase start-up funding and attract VC funds to Dubai.

A range of accelerator programmes also operate out of the Innovation Hub, aiming to drive the next generation of ground-breaking solutions. DIFC’s FinTech Hive is the number one fintech accelerator in the MEASA region and one of the world’s best innovation labs, according to the Global Finance 2021 ranking.

All of this is facilitated by the DIFC Innovation Licence, which is designed solve many of the early pain points facing start-ups, including market access and office space. It serves as a launchpad for entrepreneurs entering the region, offering subsidised commercial licensing options and access to co-working spaces.

Empowering institutions

DIFC is home to business-friendly institutions that are committed to the common goal of enabling innovation.

The Centre operates a unique legal and regulatory framework, which has start-ups in mind and aims to ease the challenges of entering a new market. The DIFC Courts independent judicial system is the only free zone system in Dubai to operate under unique English-language common law, making it easy for international investors and entrepreneurs to operate here. The DIFC Authority oversees world-class regulatory infrastructure, including intellectual property and globally compliant data protection laws designed to protect and empower entrepreneurs.

A skilled, future-ready workforce is developed at the DIFC Academy, the region’s most successful executive learning environment, through best-in-class business, law and technological education. This makes it simple for start-ups to make the best, most qualified hires.

There is no better place in the MEASA region from which to start and scale up. Ranked in the top 20 financial centres in the world, DIFC continues to achieve new success. In 2021, the centre welcomed nearly 1,000 new companies and recorded its highest-ever annual revenue and operating profit.

Register here to be part of the DIFC Innovation Hub.