Dubai is starting to emerge on the horizon of the startup world, experiencing a steady rise in tech and ecommerce startups. Various accelerators and incubators has sprung in the past 3 years, assisting entrepreneurs with taking their idea to the next level. With ambitions to become the silicon valley of the Middle East, Dubai offers a number of perks in terms of taxation and financial support to startups embarking on a journey to establish themselves on the market.
We were thrilled to get a visit at eOffice London from our partner, Shahzad Bhatti, Co-founder, The Bureau Dubai. They are not only helping companies license their business activities in Dubai in a fast and efficient way, but also offering state of the art flexible office workspace solutions and services.
Following our insightful talk with Shahzad, here is what he revealed about the startup ecosystem in Dubai and the current coworking climate.
eOffice: How is the startup entrepreneurial climate in Dubai.
Shahzad Bhatti: It’s very exciting. There are lots of startups and entrepreneurs setting up in Dubai since its a hub for the middle east and offers great connections from East to West as has been the case for the many years. What we are seeing now is a mature startup scene with more students with fresh innovative ideas targeted to the local or regional market, a surge in creative and design based firms bringing unique ideas to this growing cultural hub and more and more corporate executives taking the plunge and starting their own ventures based on gaps in the market they have experienced by living in Dubai – essentially benefiting from being first in the market.
eOffice: What are the challenges startups and small businesses face when starting a business in Dubai.
Shahzad Bhatti: Since Dubai has no corporate tax they have put into place various structures to support the economic development. Most of this is through licensing which is essentially the same cost and procedure for a multinational compared to a Startup, which is hugely unfair for small businesses. The average cost of obtaining a license (including office space and a local sponsor) usually starts from $30,000. There are also hesitations from foreign entities trying to enter the market by giving 51% ownership of the Dubai company to an Emirati person as a “Sponsor”. Even though the Sponsor is only used for the name and have no control over the day-to-day running of the business or profits it’s still a very grey area.
eOffice: What is a unique service that you offer?
Shahzad Bhatti: We notices long a go that it wasn’t easy for startups to be able to afford to pay for a license especially when Startups need to keep costs down and be as flexible as possible at the beginning of any venture. So we introduced the first truly co-working concept – The Bureau Dubai. We provide a facility for small businesses and startups to be able to start working in Dubai with the minimum costs and most flexible terms by providing workspace and alternative license structures. We provide a brand representation agreement whereby we represent established foreign entities under our license as their trading representative. This allows them to trade under our structure without having to fork out the license costs on their own. Its also really flexible since they can quit by giving just one months notice whereas otherwise they would have to pay to cancel their own license and loose any money already paid. We have been able to reduce the cost using this structure by around 75% which is incredible.
eOffice: Could you tell us more about the features that clients enjoy the most about your space?
Shahzad Bhatti: We offer all the usual benefits of being in a coworking space such as location, a trendy professional place to work from and all the usual facilities most businesses would need on a day to day basis. In addition to this our members also get to join our growing community which is an invaluable tool for networking. All members also get to leverage our social media following of over 10k followers, our internal marketing to over 5k active email subscribers and PR distribution to around 3k press and journalists on the middle east. Our motto is “You grow faster together than on your own.”
eOffice: What are your expansion plans for 2016?
Shahzad Bhatti: We have just secured funding for expanding our current facility and we hope to double our space within the first quarter of 2016. We are also launching The Design Bureau which is an initiative to provide free branding services to unique and innovative startups in Dubai. To help with funding this initiative we will sell a collection of framed prints on the new website with all profits going towards the pool of funds to purchase essentials for the free branding services. We are also launching new concepts and platforms which will help Startups not only in Dubai but across the world.