Startups in Dubai: Everything You Need to Know

Startups in Dubai

Startups in Dubai could not hope to be in a better spot on Earth. The UAE prides itself on being the startup business hub of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region and is and has been doing everything in its power to encourage businesses to come and set up shop in the country. This is further proven by the fact that nearly 50 percent of all firms registered in Dubai are early-stage startups, demonstrating the Emirate’s appeal as a hub for innovation, information transfer, and entrepreneurship on a worldwide scale. 

According to the Global Innovation Index, the nation is now regarded as having the best environment for innovation in the Arab World, and it has been successful in growing both domestic SMEs and luring top talent from outside. 

Digital natives, businesses in the pre-seeding stage, and entrepreneurs have a forum to display their creative ideas, interact with investors, acquire visibility, and take part in mentorship sessions thanks to programs like the STEP Conference and GITEX Technology Week. Dubai acts as a launchpad for the most scalable, diversified, and prosperous enterprises of our day mainly due to the numerous options it offers for startups and business owners. 

The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings for 2019 show that the UAE has moved up to the 11th spot, partly due to the activities of governmental and semi-governmental organizations encouraging startups in Dubai to launch and remain in the country. The welcoming government, cutting-edge infrastructure, and networking possibilities have drawn not just talent but also businesses of all sorts, from early-stage startups to large multinational corporations and big tech giants. 

An Entrepreneurship Playground 

Dubai provides budding company owners with a complete package, including world-class infrastructure, a luxurious lifestyle, simple business establishment procedures, access to mentors, seminars, and events, and a vibrant local investment scene. The Emirate serves as a gateway to the Middle East’s developing markets and is regarded as the preferred business center for the whole area. 

Accelerators and incubators have been regularly springing up around the nation, offering startups and early-stage entrepreneurs enticing incentives, including administrative assistance for starting a firm, co-working spaces at reasonable prices, and networking chances with like-minded innovators. 

Dubai offers entrepreneurs a wide range of alternatives, from the Dubai Future Accelerators program, which connects companies with governmental agencies, to In5 Dubai, which offers infrastructure, finance, and mentorship services to its members in the tech, media, and design areas. 

There have been several major success stories, such as Careem, Anghami, Wrappup,, and many more, that watered the mouths of many aspiring businesspeople and bright-eyed entrepreneurs. The UAE overall is putting the pedal to the metal when it comes to technological advancement, continually aspiring for innovative solutions around sustainability, infrastructure, and innovation in all manner of fields.

Things to Consider When Launching Startups in Dubai  

There are a few things to keep in mind as an aspirin entrepreneur about the process of launching startups in Dubai. Let’s look at each one individually. 

Economic Zone: Offshore vs. Free Zones  

You must choose whether you want to operate in an offshore location or a free zone before you can set up shop. Both solutions offer advantages and requirements of their own, depending on your needs. 

Free Zone  

Consider applying for a license and location in one of Dubai’s free zones if you want complete ownership of your business. The Dubai government created the idea of a free zone to attract international investors to open enterprises and startups in Dubai. In essence, it’s a unique economic region where business owners may profit from several ownership advantages and 0 percent taxation. 

One of the main drawbacks of running a business in a free zone is that direct commerce with the UAE market is not permitted. Each free zone is often built around a certain sector group and grants licenses to businesses that fall within those categories. In Dubai, there are about 30 free zones in operation, such as the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC), and the Dubai Internet City (DIC). 


Offshore businesses may register in a free zone as well and have access to many of the same advantages. It’s not a replacement for a free zone firm, though.  

The business’s activities are the primary distinction between an offshore company and a free zone corporation. Offshore companies are allowed to conduct business outside the UAE but are not permitted to do it inside the Emirates. Additionally, there are no prerequisites for minimum capital deposits prior to incorporation. 

Unlike operating in free zones, however, a sponsor is necessary, preventing you from functioning as a free zone firm and limiting your foreign ownership to 49 percent. 

Business Licenses and License Application  

Business license and company registration are two separate processes in Dubai that run parallel to one another. After registering your trade name with the Department of Economic Development (DED), the business license will be processed and may be properly collected. Business licenses are often granted based on the type of business activity and the jurisdiction where the business is located.  

There are three main types of licenses in Dubai, they are: 


You need a commercial license to start a business in Dubai that engages in trade operations or the purchasing and selling of items. This license can apply to companies involved in sales, logistics, travel and tourism, general retail, and real estate. 


Businesses that participate in manufacturing operations that convert raw materials and resources from the natural world into finished goods, either manually or mechanically, are granted this sort of license. Businesses like those who produce paper, metal, or textiles are covered by this license. 


Service providers, artisans, or craftsmen are given a professional license. Medical, cosmetic, and repair services are a few examples of companies that apply for this kind of license. 

From the time you receive your first approval, it may take up to one week to obtain the trade license. The business activity and outside documents are the key determinants of the time in question. Here is a list of all the standard paperwork and certificates needed for launching startups in Dubai: 

  • License Application 
  • Tenancy contract 
  • Name reservation certificate 
  • Initial approval certificate 
  • Attested LLC agreement 
  • Governmental forms 
  • External departments approval 
  • EJARI registration certificate 
  • Passport copies partners and NOC for partners (if any) 
  • Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry Registration 
  • Endorsements from Governmental Agencies (For Gas and Oil Companies) 
  • UAE Central Bank Approval and License (For Financial Institutions) 
  • Finance and Industry Ministry Certification (For Manufacturing Companies) 
  • Economy and Commerce Ministry Certification (For Insurance Companies) 
  • Health Ministry Certification (For Medical & Pharmaceutical Firms) 

Launching Startups in Dubai – Step by Step Guide  

Free zones are popular with international entrepreneurs and budding business owners with the 0 percent personal and corporate tax, 100 percent ownership of the firm, 100 percent repatriation of capital and earnings, and no currency limitations. 

The following are the seven steps you must follow to establish your business in the free zone 

  1. Determine the nature of your business

Determining the type of your endeavor is the first step to launching your business and obtaining a license. There are more than 2,100 business activities to select from, all of which may be found in the commercial, professional, industrial, and tourism sectors. On the DED website, you may see the whole list. 

  1. Pick a Free Zone

With over 30 free zones in Dubai to choose from, you’ll need to pick one that most accommodates your business needs and the nature of your industry. In general, it typically makes sense to locate near other companies in the same industry. 

  1. Name your company

It’s critical that your company name adheres to the stringent naming regulations in the UAE. Names that contain foul language might be seen as insulting to a religion or refer to political organizations or the mafia are prohibited. You must provide evidence that the person the business is named after is an owner or partner (no initials or abbreviations allowed). 

Choosing a name for your company could be a hassle with all the details, limitations, and copyrights out there. Consult a professional to assist you in following the rules and have your name authorized to save time and effort. 

  1. Apply for initial approval

To start the process of getting your license, you must first apply for initial clearance to make sure the Dubai DED has no objections to you opening a business. This application is available online, in person, or through a third party (like through a law firm). Depending on the type of firm, you’ll need to furnish the following paperwork, but generally speaking: 

  • A copy of your passport or other government identification; 
  • A copy of your visa or resident permission; 
  • The company’s articles of association 
  • An analysis of the project’s viability 

Get in touch with a specialist for assistance with your application to make sure you’ve properly submitted and prepared all necessary papers. 

  1. Establish a business bank account

All startups in Dubai must open a corporate bank account after receiving approval and all the required documentation. There are several banks in the UAE, both domestic and foreign. HSBC, Citibank, Barclays, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Commercial Bank of Dubai, and several more financial institutions are among them. 

  1. Set up your physical address

Every company in Dubai is required to have a physical address. Fortunately, setting up in a free zone will make it simple for you to locate your new workspace. 

Any size or kind of business can rent, hire, or lease a variety of commercial real estate, office buildings, and business center accommodations from DMCC. All of our offices have access to conference spaces, wi-fi, support services, and all necessary utilities. You can discover the ideal office space because there are 68 skyscrapers nearby. 

  1. Apply for final approval

To apply for final approval, you will need to compile all of your supporting documentation, geographical addresses, and legal details. You may occasionally need to request licensing clearance from different authorities. When everything is prepared, you must submit: 

  • A receipt for the initial approval and all previously submitted papers 
  • The Real Estate Regulatory Agency’s rental agreement (RERA) 
  • A legally binding service agent agreement between the UAE and a local service agent (for civil enterprises and businesses that are 100 percent owned by non-GCC persons). 
  • Approval from other involved government bodies 
  • Pay for the license using authorized payment methods. 

Starting a company is no walk in the park, and most businesses don’t make it, but the rewards are highly worth the risk. Dubai is among the best places to get started if you’re hungry for a chance at success in the business world. 

Inside Telecom provides you with an extensive list of content covering all aspects of the tech industry. Keep an eye on our Startups sections to stay informed and up-to-date with our daily articles.