Abu Dhabi Named Fastest-growing Emerging Startup Ecosystem in MENA Region

Abu Dhabi Named Fastest-growing Emerging Startup Ecosystem in MENA Region

Abu Dhabi is facilitating the soft-landing of startups from around the world, enabling access to capital and commercial opportunities

Abu Dhabi has ranked as the fastest-growing emerging ecosystem in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, marking a 28% growth in ecosystem value in the 2024 Global Startup Ecosystem Report (GSER) by Startup Genome and the Global Entrepreneurship Network, launched during London Tech Week.

GSER, which uses the world’s most quality-controlled dataset on startup ecosystems, analyses data from more than 4.5 million companies across more than 300 entrepreneurial innovation ecosystems. It provides compelling new insights and deep knowledge about startup trends around the world and ranks the Top 40 global ecosystems, emerging ecosystems, and an expanded regional ranking.

As part of Startup Genome’s analysis of the UAE’s capital city, including the growing startup activity at Hub71, Abu Dhabi’s global technology ecosystem, GSER 2024 found that Abu Dhabi continues to be the fastest-growing emerging ecosystem in the MENA region.

The ecosystem created $4.2 billion in Ecosystem Value from 1 July 2021 to 31 December 2023, representing 28 per cent compound annual growth compared to 1 July 2019 to 31 December 2021 period. Ecosystem Value is a measure of economic impact, calculated as the value of exits and startup valuations.

Abu Dhabi’s ranking jumped 15 spots compared to the previous year, landing in the 61-70 group and Total Early-Stage Funding between 1 July 2021 and 31 December 2023 is $284 million and total VC Funding for 2019-2023 is $1.06 billion.

In addition, Abu Dhabi was ranked #2 in the MENA Ecosystem in Performance, which measures the size and performance of an ecosystem based on the accumulated tech startup value created from exits and funding, #5 in the MENA Ecosystem in Funding, which measures innovation through early-stage funding and investor’s activity, and #5 in the MENA Ecosystem in Talent & Experience, which measures long-term trends over the most significant performance factors.

Other ranks attained by the emirate include posting within the Top 10 MENA Ecosystem in Knowledge, which measures innovation through research and patent activity, within the Top 15 MENA Ecosystem in Bang for Buck, which measures the amount of runway tech startups acquire, on average, from a VC round, within the Top 15 MENA Ecosystem in Affordable Talent, which measures the ability to hire tech talent, as well as being highlighted in the FinTech, AgTech and New Food, and ClimateTech sectors for their density of talent, support resources, and startup activity. Also spotlighted were the Golden Visa and Abu Dhabi’s strategic location, which were cited as reasons a startup should move to the ecosystem.

Ahmad Ali Alwan, CEO of Hub71, said: “Abu Dhabi’s rise as a leading startup ecosystem in the region is a testament to the opportunities it offers entrepreneurs worldwide. Its favorable environment creates the funding and commercial prospects and establishes the foundation for startups to scale. This is exemplified through Hub71 which has seen its startup community grow over the past five years as more startups identify Abu Dhabi as a launchpad for their global expansion. As the Startup Genome report shows, Hub71 is fulfilling the vision of our leadership to maximize the potential of disruptive ventures that are transforming society with impact.”

The report highlights Abu Dhabi’s key ecosystem players including Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), Mubadala Investment Company, ADQ, the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO), startAD, and Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED), which are contributing to a favorable operating and regulatory environment and offering unique incentives, such as 100 per cent foreign ownership to attract foreign investment and startups into the economy.

Leveraging collaborations among these key ecosystem players, Abu Dhabi is facilitating the soft-landing of startups from around the world, enabling access to capital and commercial opportunities.

Numerous companies are relocating their global headquarters to ADGM, among them US-based digital asset security firm Andalusia Labs and South Korean blockchain company Neoply. Hub71 hosts a community of more than 315 startups that have collectively raised $1.5 billion.

Marc Penzel, Founder and President of Startup Genome, said: "Thanks to the excellent work of Hub71, Abu Dhabi is one of the rare places where everyone comes together to create a world-class startup ecosystem at an incredible pace. Whether it's digital assets, CleanTech, or other fast-growing opportunities, Abu Dhabi should be on the radar of any entrepreneur with outsized global ambitions."

GSER is driven by a consortium of representatives from more than 40 countries and looks at the current state of startup activity and related investment, providing insights and guidance to public and private leaders on how to foster thriving startup communities, the number one driver of job creation and economic growth.

Contributions from expert thought leaders and local key players further enrich the report's extensive, evidence-based findings, which are the product of more than a decade of Startup Genome's independent research and policy work.

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