The market for entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North African (MENA) is booming. Cities across the region have been developing their own entrepreneurial hubs in recent years and have experienced great success. While it may seem as though the likes of Cairo and Dubai have claimed the top spots on MENA’s startup scene, many smaller nations have thriving ecosystems that rival the biggest players on the market.
Bahrain is one such country with a booming startup scene that shows no sign of stopping any time soon. According to the Startup Genome 2019 Global Startup Ecosystem Report, Bahrain is an ideal location for entrepreneurs looking to set up a business. The startup ecosystem as a whole is valued at just under $600 million, with the average early-stage startup receiving more than $150,000 in funding. Bahrain is also improving economically each year, rising 19 places to become the 43rd best business climate in the world between 2019 and 2020 alone.
What’s more, Bahrain has cultivated an attractive startup market that is drawing entrepreneurs from around the globe. Read on to explore the multitude of reasons why you should look to Bahrain and its budding startup haven when launching your startup.
A thriving startup ecosystem
Bahrain’s startup scene is anything but small. There are already a number of thriving businesses that call this ecosystem home. Just look at PayTabs, the innovative B2B payment platform that took in over $20 million in funding in 2017 alone. Since then, startups such as Eat, Skiplino, and Hayatech have all made impressive strides of their own.
The startup ecosystem in Bahrain boasts more than just impressive businesses. The scene is rife with investment activity from big-name entities such as Tenmou and Tamkeen. These entities have contributed to the impressive growth of Bahrain’s tech sector, which is the most popular arena for startups today. Bahrain also regularly hosts startup events for local entrepreneurs looking to connect with others and get their ideas off the ground.
Plenty of support
The burgeoning startup scene in Bahrain has much to offer local startups to help them get on the path to success. The country is working hard to bolster its hosting community with numerous entities focused on helping startups to grow. Bahrain is home to no less than nine different accelerators with options ranging from Brilliant Lab to Bahrain FinTech Bay. With such a diverse range of acceleration programs on offer, startups can easily find a program designed to meet their needs.
Bahrain has also seen a number of coworking spaces pop up in recent years that provide affordable office space to entrepreneurs and their teams. Through these additional resources that are designed to help Bahrain’s entrepreneurs find community with other likeminded innovators and obtain access to funding for their work, the local ecosystem has countless pillars of support for its startups.
Ability to scale
Bahrain is uniquely positioned within the Gulf region to have access to both regional and international markets. Startups seeking to scale locally can easily reach the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait in as little as an hour. With access to nearby markets by land, air, and sea, Bahrain’s startups have ample opportunities to grow and thrive. Bahrain also has strong ties to the Indian market, a partnership that has given rise to the Bahrain-India Business Corridor and even more opportunities for startups to scale internationally.
Bahrain promotes business growth within its own borders, as well. With a small population of 1.5 million, the country allows budding entrepreneurs to test their products and services early on. Due to the ability to validate their offerings within this market, startups are poised for significant growth and expansion down the line.
Favorable regulations and laws
Bahrain has one of the most liberal business climates in the MENA region, which is good news for entrepreneurs seeking to set up shop there. The government has taken steps to make Bahrain an ideal place for budding startups by introducing rules and regulations designed to benefit these businesses. Unlike most other MENA nations, Bahrain allows foreigners to fully own and operate their startups, so no local partners are required. When setting up their businesses, entrepreneurs have much smaller capital requirements. This makes it easier to launch a startup without the need for capital spending on government fees.
Startups in Bahrain can also avoid the exorbitant taxes that they would find elsewhere in MENA. The Kingdom does not require entrepreneurs to pay a corporate tax. Moreover, the value added tax (VAT) is 5 percent for all businesses, whether or not their founders are Bahraini nationals. Bahrain keeps the costs of running a startup low through other government initiatives, most notably its cloud-first policy. The first policy of its kind in MENA, it enables the government to deliver key services to startups for much less than it previously could.
In recent years, Bahrain has also pioneered regulatory reform with local startups in mind. The adoption of the Personal Data Protection Law ensures that all businesses can handle their customer data with certainty. Additional regulations serve to uphold shareholders’ rights, allowing entrepreneurs to start businesses without the need to have a physical address, and to connect to government procurement services. Bahrain even has a bankruptcy law in place designed to protect entrepreneurs whose startups fail and help them to get back on their feet.