Funding and support increase for Gulf startups


Hot on the heels of Google's announcement that it is to set up a US$100m capital fund for startups in the consumer internet, software, clean technology, healthcare and biotech sectors, the climate for startups in the Middle East seems to be unaffected by the economic storm.



Dubai Internet City, the regions largest ICT cluster, has reported a 25% increase in the number of companies that have enrolled in its FirstSteps@DIC business centre. The first quarter of the year saw a further 32 businesses join the centre's existing 128 companies on the programme. FirstSteps is aimed at start-ups and small to medium sized businesses as well as multinationals seeking to use the programme to launch their regional operations. The initiative, which was established in 2002 has seen tens of businesses test the region's business waters with minimal upfront investment. Companies that have engaged in the programme include service providers, software developers and online, multimedia and IT consultants.


The good news continues in Dubai with the news that the Dubai Silicon Oasis, the region's equivalent to the Silicon Valley, is set to receive investment of Dh25 billion (US$6.8bn) in the next few years. The bulk of the DSO development will be completed by 2012 and the project has already attracted Dh1.4 billion (US$0.38bn) in foreign investment. The DSO will also invest in startups and has set aside Dh500 million (US$136m) to be spent over the next five years. Currently, 211 companies operate within the Oasis, just over half of which are from the technology sector.


Finally, another source of help for startups has been announced. The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Microsoft Gulf to become a BizSpark network partner. The BizSpark programme provides technology startups with discounted Microsoft software and support. In order to qualify, businesses must be privately held, earn less than US$1 million per year and have been operational for less than three years.



Stewart Baines
Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.