Exploring new marketing opportunities has always been an objective for many Jordanian entrepreneurs. In an attempt to help those wanting to expand and start a business in the UAE, Jordan’s ZINC invited, Dr. Philip Boigner, VP of investments at the Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA), to run a session on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Dubai on June 4th, as part of the ZINC Entrepreneurship Festival happening until June 12 in Amman.
ZINC and DSOA are already longtime friends with a partnership which aims to support the startup environment, and give new entrepreneurs more exposure in the Emirati market.
“We are designing several programs to the maximum benefit of ZINC. Startups have a big market in UAE, and the DSOA focuses on attracting entrepreneurs,” said Ahmad Hanandeh, CEO of Zain. “Jordanian entrepreneurs might be willing to establish their startup in Dubai and that’s how the DSOA will benefit too.”
“Why Jordan? Because this country had done something great a couple years ago,” Boigner explained to Wamda. “They implemented an English curriculum for math at schools and that’s why they are more advanced than other countries by encouraging critical thinking that sets foundation for startup companies.”
“Most of our initiatives are profit based and we will create a tech ecosystem for companies to start off,” says Dr. Philip Boigner, VP of investments at DSOA.
Walk before you can run
One of the main topics covered during the event was the increasing of revenues and operating on a regional (Arabic) scale. The point cautioned was that over-ambitious expansion is extremely risky.
Osama Khalifa one of the attendees and CEO of the mosque locator, Mihrabi, had experienced this situation. His speedy transfer to Dubai, operating through the DSOA had caused him financial problems and had forced him to reconsider the business model he had sketched for himself.
“To be successful in Dubai, you have to choose the right time to start because it is quite costly and complicated,” he said. “In fact, I should have waited for about seven to eight months to improve the quality of my product and establish myself in the Jordanian market. I started in Dubai and Amman at the same time which was a big mistake.”
How to benefit from DSOA?
After a thorough discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of Arabic and foreign free zone markets, Dr. Boigner talked about expansion and growth within the DSOA.
For funding, DSOA is on hand to help through its incubator, with an initial fund of $500,000 and its VC of up to $2 million for Middle East-based companies. It also offers office facilities, residence visas, and company license for startups working in the technology sector. “Most of our initiatives are profit based and we will create a tech ecosystem for companies to start off,” Boigner added. In addition, it provides networking possibilities linking entrepreneurs to potential investors.
As well as solving budget problems by going to Dubai, with government tenders, Dr. Boigner talked about the importance of hiring a business development specialist in Dubai to take care of this, and establish presence in the market. However, a startup comprised of programmers and engineers should be kept in places with reasonable costs of living, like Amman, Beirut, or Cairo.
Another important advantage of working at DSOA is the location in the free zone, meaning access to 100 percent of the revenues. This contrasts on-shore companies where Emirati nationals are entitled for 51 percent of revenues.
He also pointed out that opportunities for foreign funding through ventures such as STC ventures, and MBC ventures, that come in series’ of A, B, and C are prominent in Dubai, as well as crowdfunding opportunities from Eureeca, Zoomaal and others. Furthermore, the upcoming 2020 Dubai Expo will open the door for better business, by targeting 20 million tourists. They will need additional lodging and hotel rooms, phone services, transportation and thus startups have a golden opportunity to reach global customers for their product on a global scale.
This event helped attendees formulate a comprehensive view on the possibilities and advantages of starting their company in the Emirates through the DSOA-ZINC partnership.
“I learnt a lot about free zones in the Emirates,” said Ahmad Asaad Al Deen, CEO at the SME risk management platform Riskopy. “How to work with foreign entities and the difference between onshore and offshore selling. It would be great to benefit from the opportunities offered by the DSOA after establishing myself in the Jordanian market.”