A better understanding of the geography of entrepreneurship has been increasingly recognized as an important element in explaining variations in economic development patterns in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, the Middle East and elsewhere. That said, the entrepreneurship process indeed tends to begin with individuals that possess unique personal attributes and have a penchant for risk-taking and achievement. However, these entrepreneurs are rarely lone individuals who rely primarily on their extraordinary efforts and talents to overcome the difficulties inherent in the formation of a new firm or idea. Instead, the entrepreneurial process is the result of an interaction between an individual and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Entrepreneurs are more likely to thrive and be innovative in environments that provide a healthy mix of institutions, regulatory regimes, infrastructure, venture capital, and demand for products, capable of nurturing innovation and opportunity.
These entrepreneurial ecosystems tend to be explicitly geographically bounded phenomenon in their more successful well-known manifestations, particularly in cities such as for example Stanford and Boston. In the UAE, some of the essential ingredients for building a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem are already in place. The recent announcement by the Dubai Future Foundation, in partnership with several universities, to establish economic and creative free zones to encourage innovation entrepreneurship among students is an excellent starting point for Calvin • Farel and Inventive Ventures to launch our platforms fundraiser, MembersClub and jumpstarter. Our platform approaches are well-aligned with the country’s chosen path of transitioning from oil to a more knowledge-based economy.
These initiatives bode well for the future trajectory of the UAE’s entrepreneur ecosystem. It’s crucial in our opinion that UAE universities continue to build momentum by developing more impactful partnerships with key industries while simultaneously realigning the curriculum and upskilling both educators and students to meet market demand.
The entrepreneurial ecosystem in the UAE is also flourishing because of the rapid development of a more favorable regulatory and commercial environment in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, which have become preferred destinations for start-up companies in the Middle East. Both cities are already sizeable markets with many venture capital firms headquartered in each city, thus offering many small business start-ups the opportunity to develop scalable innovations at speed. Many cities in the other Emirates started also developing important entrepreneurial initiatives.
The Future Council on Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Dubai recently set up by the Dubai Future Foundation, is essentially a ‘think tank’ focused on developing a future road map for the Dubai entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem. The council has been charged with figuring out how to empower a culture of innovation particularly, in partnership with other institutions, universities, and entrepreneurs. The initiatives being developed by the council are likely to provide a vital policy framework for further developing a preferred entrepreneurial ecosystem for start-ups and investors from around the globe.
Of course, now is not the time for complacency. One of the most difficult challenges facing emerging start-up communities in the United States has been embracing a culture of failure, where most start-ups fail within five years. So it is important to accept the likelihood that not all start-ups are guaranteed to succeed. Therefore, patience and high quality mentoring are crucial ingredients for success as the UAE moves along the path towards building an even more effective entrepreneurial ecosystem and Calvin • Farel and Inventive Ventures want to take an active role in building and developing that ecosystem.