The UAE's startup industry is upbeat about the 10-year residency visa for investors and specialists and sees it as a step to ensure long-term investment and sustainability.
The sector was vibrant in 2017 and the first quarter of 2018, with venture capitalists hailing it as the most lucrative industry.
Leading local venture capitalists have already given the verdict for the current year, with deals set to close higher than 2017 (which saw $560 million invested in 260 startups across the Mena). The first quarter has already seen 62 deals closed and the amount invested is $35.54 million, according to Magnitt research.
Fawaz H. Zu'bi, founder and CEO, Silicon Badia, an active investor in Middle East startups, said: "The UAE has been working hard to promote and develop a creative and innovative ecosystem that requires the presence of highly capable professionals and entrepreneurs, as well as an engaged enterprise market that helps this development gain speed. We, however, know that the secret is not in the decision as much as it is in the execution and interpretation. A successful implementation will bring huge gains for the Emirate and instill further trust and confidence in the country. A sustainable ecosystem can develop as long as investors, entrepreneurs and foreign employees are able to feel grounded in a country they can consider to be their own."
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"This is a key structural reform that can be a major boost in attracting and retaining talent, companies and investors to the UAE, and can significantly strengthen the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and solidify the UAE as the hub of innovation in the region," said Christos Mastoras, founder and managing partner of Iliad Partners, a venture capital firm investing in early stage tech startups in the Mena.
Among the key sectors, those preferred by investors are e-commerce, fintech, food and beverage, logistics and transport. Walid Hanna, CEO of MEVP, said: "This is excellent news that will help stabilise and grow the innovators' community in the UAE. Attracting and retaining engineers, scientists and investors will transform the UAE into a true global innovation platform for the 21st century. Retaining them and their families for a decade will ensure a long-term investment horizon and enhance sustainability."
Philip Bahoshy, CEO and founder, Magnitt, said: "This is a big step in the right direction by empowering business owners and investors alike to have their skin in the game when setting up companies in the UAE. It helps create an environment for founders to cost-effectively incorporate while acknowledging the role of investors to incentivise them to deploy capital in local entities."
Nader Sabry, founder and CEO of TIMEZ5 Global Inc, said with the rise of blockchain, AI and analytics, startups are not bound to a specific location. The underlying factor is where talent can collaborate and get funding to bring their ideas to life. "The bottom line isn't a 10-year visa or 100 per cent ownership, it's, in fact, return on investment. Ideas, money and risk taking stick to where return on investment has happened before, is happening now and can happen again. This new policy is an excellent start and will pave the way to setting the UAE as one of the top innovation centres of the world."
By Sandhya D'Mello
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