Dubai – Support of entrepreneurial enterprises

Dubai has announced plans to launch a new visa system – similar to that already operational in Singapore – that would expedite entrepreneurs’ visa applications and offer business formation advice as part of the Dubai’s efforts to encourage high value start-ups to the Emirate. A new bourse, specially for Small- and Medium-sized enterprises, has also been proposed for implementation in coming years.

As reported initially by Dubai-based paper the National, the EntrePass scheme has been established to encourage “start-ups with high commercial value to set up in Dubai and share knowledge and intellectual property rights with the emirate”.

In return, the paper reported, entrepreneurs will have their visa application expedited and be provided guidance from experts at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment (MBRE) for Small- and Medium-sized Enterprise Development to aid them in establishing Dubai operations, as well as ongoing support. In addition, in certain cases, entrepreneurs may be eligible to financing through the UAE’s first Sharia-compliant venture capital fund, the paper reported.

According to the National’s report, the EntrePass scheme will be implemented on a small scale in the final quarter of 2010 with ten entrepreneurs offered a placement. The scheme would then be expanded thereafter, the Department for Economic Development said. It is anticipated that the scheme will run until 2012 or 2013.

In comments on the scheme to the National, Alexandar Wilians, the Director of Strategy and Policy Division at MBRE, said, “We want Dubai to be the centre for innovative small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The future of Dubai will rest on nurturing selective foreign entrepreneurs with good ideas to use Dubai as a test bed for development and to build business around it.

We are looking at any company with new business models and existing technology that can be adapted to the UAE and that could benefit Dubai through the sharing of intellectual property and knowledge transfer.

Entrepreneurial activity is a major driving force in Dubai; SMEs account for 98% of companies registered as operating from the Emirate. The MBRE is looking to support the sector’s growth, including through plans to establish a specialized stock exchange for Dubai SMEs – the Dubai SME 100 – which would allow smaller companies with lower capitalizations to gain access to extra funds through public offerings, removing capitalization-based barriers to entry. According to the National, the Dubai SME 100 ranking system would be established in March 2011, allowing for the creation of the new secondary bourse in 2012-13.

In the meantime, support for SME development is to be provided through the Emirate’s first Sharia-compliant venture capital fund, which is to provide Dubai SMEs with additional equity through repayable loans.