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Best Startup Accelerators in UAE in 2024

May 17, 2024

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    The United Arab Emirates pivoted from its traditional reliance on oil and gas, transforming into a dynamic hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With a vibrant ecosystem that is fueled by a rich talent pool, great funding opportunities, and supportive legislation, both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have  become global centres for startups. As highlighted by the 2023 Global Startup Ecosystem Report (GSER) by Startup Genome, UAE's capital is ranked as the sixth fastest-growing globally and the leading in the MENA region. Silicon Valley retains its leading position, with New York City and London sharing the second spot, maintaining the same ranking as in 2020 among the top three ecosystems.

    To further develop entrepreneurship in the UAE, a wide variety of incubators and accelerator programs have been launched with most of them concentrated in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Startup accelerators provide support to early-stage, growth-oriented companies by offering education, mentorship, and financing. These companies join accelerators for a fixed duration, typically as part of a cohort. The accelerator journey aims to expedite the growth of innovative startups by condensing years of learning into a few months.

    In UAE some of the free zones organise mentorship programs - a great example of that is Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) which hosts programs for tech and fintech companies. ADGM provides licences tailored for tech startups, empowering entrepreneurs to expand and accelerate their ventures within a renowned, globally acknowledged, progressive regulatory environment.

    Some of the noteworthy accelerators in UAE include:

    1. Plug and Play-ADGM (Abu Dhabi)

    Plug and Play maintains a global presence with over 50 locations spanning the U.S., UAE, China, France, South Africa, and Singapore. Over the course of 15 years, this innovation hub has united over 35,000 startups, 500 major corporations, and numerous venture capital firms, universities, and government agencies across more than 20 industries.

    Plug and Play-ADGM was launched in Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) in 2019. It offers a wide variety of programs helping startups in sectors such as fintech, healthtech, insurtech, mobility, and smart cities. Plug and Play offers startup founders mentorship, funding and networking opportunities. Additionally, it facilitates collaboration between startups and corporate partners to drive innovation and address industry-specific challenges. This accelerator runs its main programs twice a year and works with early-to-growth stage startups. 

    2. HUB71 (Abu Dhabi)

    Named in tribute to the UAE's founding year of 1971, Hub71 serves as Abu Dhabi's global tech hub, empowering founders to establish globally impactful homegrown tech ventures across diverse industries. It achieves this by granting access to international markets, cultivating a global network of partners, and fostering a vibrant community of highly skilled professionals, all guided by progressive regulations. Backed by the Government of Abu Dhabi and the Mubadala Investment Company, Hub71 is expanding its vibrant community of tech startups, investors, government entities, and corporate partners.

    Hub71 has attracted over 260 startups, which collectively raised AED 5.4 billion (USD 1.5 billion) in venture capital. This dynamic startup ecosystem has not only created more than 1,100 jobs in Abu Dhabi but also generated AED 3.5 billion (USD 1 billion) in revenue. Over the past two years, Hub71 facilitated 118 corporate deals worth AED 658 million (USD 179 million). Currently, startups at Hub71 span 22 sectors, with over 320 founders from 54 nationalities establishing their operations in Abu Dhabi to pursue further growth and international expansion.

    3. DIFC Fintech Hive (Dubai)

    The accelerator programs at DIFC FinTech Hive support startups in FinTech, InsurTech, RegTech, and Islamic FinTech, creating solutions specifically for the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia's financial and insurance sectors. These programs give startups access to the region's major financial institutions and insurance giants, offering potential partnerships, investor connections, and enhanced market visibility. 

    Currently DIFC Innovation Hub runs FinTech Accelerator Programme, AccelerateHer, Metaverse Accelerator Programme. The FinTech Accelerator Programme spans three months and links inventive startups with major banks and insurance companies in the region's financial sector. AccelerateHer supports young women in propelling their careers within financial services by pairing them with experienced executives who provide mentorship and valuable insights. Meanwhile, the Metaverse Accelerator Programme aims to draw top startups worldwide that are pioneering the next phase of blockchain technology, focusing on the Metaverse.

    4. In5 (Dubai)

    Established in 2013 by TECOM Group, In5 fosters ideas and businesses, guiding them toward their next phase of growth across four main verticals: Technology, Design, Media, and Science. It offers specialised facilities, training and mentorship programs in Dubai. It also provides startups with creative spaces, networking events and access to investors. 

    5. Microsoft for Startups Middle East - GrowthX Accelerator (Abu Dhabi) 

    The Microsoft GrowthX accelerator program links startups with the finest resources from Microsoft, empowering them to scale effectively. This online program supports startups across 4 key areas: Tech Enablement, Corporate Readiness, Financial Readiness, Investor Readiness. Last batch of Microsoft GrowthX accelerator was specifically dedicated to COP28, catering to the most pressing topics of the conference. Overall, this program bridges the gap between corporates and tech entrepreneurs via tech enablement, education and community building. 

    6. Dubai Future Accelerators (Dubai)

    Launched by the Dubai Future Foundation, Dubai Future Accelerators have a unique approach - these accelerator programs connect technology companies with leading government organisations in a nine-week program. The primary objective is to address real-world challenges and create solutions for real-world applications. The initiative aims to bridge the gap between cutting-edge technological advancements and the needs of government, thereby achieving real societal impact. 

    One of the key topics in UAE in 2023 was the theme of sustainability. Following COP 28, UAE maintains its commitment to sustainability in 2024 by creating initiatives that address environmental issues. This trend is also seen in accelerator programs run inside the UAE. One of them was SustainTech Accelerator Program launched by Emirates NBD and Microsoft: this program provided a platform for companies working on eco-friendly solutions. Another example of a sustainability focused accelerator was launched by Google: its 10-week Google for Startups Accelerator: Climate Change was created for startups tackling Climate Change with tech. 

    As of 2024, the startup ecosystem in the UAE is primed for sustained growth and innovation, with the country solidifying its status as a regional hub for startups. A key driver behind this growing ecosystem is the presence of effective accelerator and incubator programs tailored to early-to-growth stage startups.

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