4 incubators and accelerators that can help startups set up in Dubai

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This is the third and final post in this mini-series about moving your startup to Dubai. Below, I explore the incubators and accelerators that can help startups relocate to one of the Middle East's biggest markets. I even took advantage of new accelerator In5 to move my own startup, fishfishme, to Dubai earlier this year.

The list below includes In5, Silicon Oasis, SeedStartup, and i360accelerator. Let us know if you recommend any others in the comments.

In5



In5, which is part of Dubai Internet City, has a mission to help early stage startups get on their feet with several service, although it doesn't offer funding. Admittedly, I am  biased as our startup is currently incubated here [consider that a disclosure], but we have seen a great deal of benefits during our experience so far, including:

  • Comfortable, equipped and affordable offices (1,000 AED, or US $272, per month)
  • Near-70% discounts on registration, licensing and visa fees, thanks to subsidies by In5.
  • A great network throughout Dubai, a great deal of the tech companies (large and small) are connected with the In5 team in some way.

In my opinion, the ideal applicant for In5 is a startup that has reached product-market fit, probably has some funding, a functional product, and more than a few customers. As part of the accelerator’s first group of startups, we are seeing the program evolve and become stronger over time.

“The best part is the office location and the services provided within that office for such a low price,” says Amr Erabi, the cofounder of doctor’s appointment booker Doctorized, one of our neighbors in the space. “In5 was the only incubation center that accepts foreigners and has easy simple procedures to join,” he adds. Doctorized was also selected to represent the UAE alongside Wally at the Web Summit competition.

To get a taste for how In5 looks on the inside and see a few of the startups that are currently there, check out the video tour my friend and I created below:

Silicon Oasis

Although I haven’t had the chance to visit Silicon Oasis yet, I have heard good things about them. When I reached out, their executive manager, Dana Horska, was kind enough to explain how they work and what they offer. Silicon Oasis helps early tech startups and entrepreneurs set up their business in Dubai through funding, mentorship, space and other services. Here are some of the advantages that stand out:

  • Up to US $80,000 in funding, for an amount of equity decided on a case-by-case basis.
  • Legal, marketing and accounting support for startups.
  • Pitching training and support for possible follow-up funding rounds.

As per our conversation, it seems that the best fit for Silicon Oasis is an early stage startup that has a solid team with a functional product and has just started to enter the market. Check out the SlideShare presentation at the bottom for more details.

SeedStartup

Seedstartup is part of the TechStars global network (TechStars is ranked one of the best accelerators in U.S.). SeedStartup is an accelerator, (not an incubator), which means that they have a clear program designed to grow startups from the idea stage to the phase in which they launch a product that fits the market. It’s an intense three-month program run by an experienced team. Below are some of the main aspects of the program:

  • US $20,000-$25,000 in funding for 10% equity.
  • Access to a global network of mentors.
  • One-on-one customized mentorship sessions for each startup (both from mentors and staff).

This program seems best for early stage startups that have a high-potential idea (possibly with no product yet) and a solid founding team. I connected with Natalino Mwenda, the cofounder of one of the accelerated startups, cloud-based SMS service Rasello, to hear his impressions.

“We choose Seedstartup because we wanted to get exposure to world class mentors who could help us build Rasello to what it is today and open doors to further funding,” he says. “The program was intense; it totally changed our perception and direction.”

During the three months of acceleration, Mwenda learned to “cut the fluff; less is more. This was a hard-learned lesson, but I enjoyed perfecting the product in ways that made sense and dropping unnecessary features," he says. "Seedstartup also made us look at the absolute biggest potential for how large our ideas can get.”

i360 & Turn8 accelerators 

i360 accelerator is run by i360, an organization that also runs Turn8, an accelerator focused on startups in the logistics and supply chain sector, which is also backed by DP World (Dubai Port, one of the biggest port owners and managers in the world). The Turn8 accelerator is designed to merge real corporate world with startups. Some departments from DP will work very closely with the startups for a sort of two-way learning. Based on my previous experience being part of Wayra – Barcelona (an accelerator part of Telefonica, the Spanish telecommunication company), I think this sort of hybrid model can be very effective.

Below are some of the advantages of the Turn8 program:

  • Funding (US$24,000, office and mentorship).
  • Access to offices all around the world hosted by DP World.
  • A variety of training sessions onBusiness Model Canvas, marketing, pitching and more.

I360 only accepts startups in the idea stage, and also just launched a new coworking space The Cribb, which hosts its funded startups.

Newly Launched: Afkar.me

The newest entrant into Dubai’s incubator family is Afkar.me, which means “ideas” in Arabic. The incubator, started by digital agency Intigral, has locations in Dubai and Riyadh and focuses on building up startups with a digital product and content-oriented ideas targeting the Arab world. Afkar.me also offers a formal 3-month incubation period, in either of its locations, complete with the following benefits:

  • Seed loan of US $20,000 without taking equity.
  • Office space in Dubai or Riyadh.
  • Access to expert mentors.

Afkar.me helps incubated startups scale across the Arab world and expend into Saudi Arabia in particular. Check out Wamda’s recent coverage of Afkar.me here.


Let us know in the comments section below if there are other accelerator and incubator programs in Dubai that help startups get to the UAE to build and scale their ideas. The SlideShare deck offers a few more details about each accelerator or incubator mentioned above. If you’re looking to move to Dubai soon, I wish you the best of luck!

I would like to thank Dana Horska of Silicon Oasis, Rony Al-Nashar of SeedStartup, and Sameer Sortur of i360 accelerator for contributing to this post. And a special thank you to Rekha, Faisal and Manzoor for all of the support during the last 4 months at In5.

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