Abu Dhabi has significantly ramped up its support for and investment in its SME and startup ecosystem in the past few years. This acceleration has brought both new and updated regulations that improve the ease of doing business and setting up, attracted new mentors and thought leaders, international players like VC giant Sequoia Capital and Y Combinator, new investors, and much more.
We have put together a brief list of some of the most involved public entities supporting SMEs and startups in Abu Dhabi. This list is by no means comprehensive, as there is no shortage of support firms and entities in the emirate that have stepped up to boost the local ecosystem. For a more expansive list, refer to our Partners page.
Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) and the Khalifa Fund
Both the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) and the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development (KFED) are public entities with a heavy influence on the SME sector in the emirate. The Abu Dhabi SME Hub itself is a platform born of their desire to grow the local ecosystem and boost entrepreneurship and innovation.
ADDED works on achieving sustainable economic development in Abu Dhabi by adopting knowledge-based economic principles and regulating the business sector and economic affairs, under the guidance of Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030. When necessary, it also partners with private sector companies to bring value to the emirate, as in the case of the ‘Setup in Abu Dhabi’ enabling platform, which was a joint effort between ADDED and private setup advisory firm Creative Zone, in addition to 23 other public and private entities.
As for the Khalifa Fund, it focuses more on deploying its efforts on the micro level, funding SMEs and startups, offering mentorship opportunities, and providing other constructive programmes.
For more info about ADDED, click here.
To learn more about KFED’s services, click here or call 600 500 506.
Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM)
Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) is Abu Dhabi’s International Financial Centre and a free zone in its own right, while also being the first jurisdiction in the region with direct application of English Common Law.
Through ADGM, tech startups and investors alike can notably benefit from robust and globally recognised legal and regulatory frameworks, with the additional benefits of full foreign ownership, capital expatriation and a 0% tax environment for all businesses across growth stages.
Since its launch in 2015, ADGM has grown a vibrant business and investment environment, including many firsts in the MENA region including the first-regional digital regulatory sandbox; first sector agnostic tech startup licence; and the first VC framework to the World's First Comprehensive Crypto-Asset Regulatory Framework, to name a few.
ADGM’s sector-agnostic tech-startup-friendly licence enables entrepreneurs to set up and rapidly scale their businesses from Abu Dhabi through access to a thriving tech community, investors and a strong network of government entities, corporates and leading industry partners supporting the growth of startups.
Today, ADGM is home to almost 3,000 companies across various sectors, ranging from tech startups to large corporations and financial institutions.
You can find more info about ADGM here.
More often than not, you will find the brightest and most promising tech startups in Abu Dhabi operating out of Hub71.
A flagship initiative of the Ghadan 21 accelerator program, Hub71 supports Abu Dhabi’s global tech ecosystem, providing tech startups with access to capital, market opportunities, and a favourable business environment, in addition to world-class talent and a vibrant tech community of founders, investors and policymakers.
Backed by the government of Abu Dhabi and Mubadala Investment Company, Hub71 works alongside strategic partners Microsoft, Abu Dhabi Global Market and SoftBank’s Vision Fund, to create the optimal environment for tech startups from around the world seeking to build outstanding tech innovations, and scale globally. Hub71 is on a mission to cement Abu Dhabi’s position as a world-leading tech hub for innovation aligned with international best practices.
Its diverse community of startups, originating from 20 countries including USA, Canada, UK, Singapore, UAE and Egypt, grew by almost 200% in 2020. Startup founders are of 43 different nationalities and 18% of startups at Hub71 are female-led.
You can find more about Hub71 and its services here.
Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO)
Another key driver of growth and innovation, the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) is the government entity responsible for attracting and facilitating investment in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. It supports companies to achieve long-term, sustainable success in the emirate and across the region, facilitating their expansion and setting them up for regional growth opportunities.
With a comprehensive range of tailored services and incentives, ADIO enables opportunities for innovative investors and entrepreneurs. It connects relevant stakeholders in Abu Dhabi’s innovation ecosystem, bringing together the right partnerships to help businesses of all sizes make the most of Abu Dhabi and identify the right opportunities.
Through its Investor Care Services, ADIO manages the end-to-end investor journey, ensuring the seamless establishment of new legal entities, the mobilisation of employees and the efficient start of companies’ journey in Abu Dhabi.
Through incentive instruments, it supports eligible businesses with innovation at the core to help ensure long-term, sustainable success in the market and across the region.
Financial incentives include rebates and grants to support investments in innovation. ADIO also works with ecosystem partners to provide equity investments and other incentives.
Non-financial incentives include:
- assistance to access land, office space and other facilities
- regulatory assistance encompassing visas, select trial licences and more
- potential exemptions from select government fees and requirements
You can find more information about ADIO here.
Named after the geographical coordinates of Abu Dhabi, twofour54 plays a central role in the sustainable development of Abu Dhabi’s media and entertainment industry, empowering a new generation of creative leaders. It enables Abu Dhabi to position itself as the region’s hub and free zone for content creation, media, entertainment, and gaming, by providing products and services to attract local, regional, and international businesses in these sectors to the Emirate.
Its community includes more than 600 media businesses and 6000+ individuals, including Sky News Arabia, Image Nation Abu Dhabi, Unity Technologies, CNN, Fox, Flash Entertainment and M&C Saatchi, and an extensive pool of freelance professionals and aspiring talent.
twofour54 has also brought major Hollywood, Bollywood and local productions to Abu Dhabi, creating opportunities for freelancers, SMEs and the next generation of media talent.
Twofour54 is based at Yas Island. Yas Creative Hub, by twofour54, will provide a home for Abu Dhabi’s media and entertainment industry. It is a purpose-built 270,000 sqm, fully-integrated and connected campus that brings the creative community together and offers world-class production facilities, talent development initiatives and business support services.
On its end, twofour54 views SMEs as the engine of creativity, job creation and innovation in media. The company provides hundreds of SME partners with the support they need to kick-start and scale up their operations. This support was particularly evident during the start of the global pandemic, with twofour54 suspending rent for up to six months for SMEs.
You can find more info about twofour54 here.