3 Things You Need to Know About Startup Sponsorship in the UAE


A major hub of entrepreneurship in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become a home for startups of all kinds. In 2016, the country took the 19th spot on the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index (GEDI) report of the best entrepreneurial ecosystems. It is no wonder, then, that budding entrepreneurs from across the globe have been flocking to the UAE to establish their startups.

However, becoming a business owner in the UAE can be quite a feat, particularly if you are a foreigner. As per the laws of the country, you can establish your company in only one of two ways. The first option is to set up your business in one of the UAE’s many Free Zones, which include the International Media Production Zone, the Jebel Ali Free Zone, and Dubai Internet City.



Aside from this option, you may elect to establish your startup on the UAE mainland. This requires you to undertake a more lengthy process of registration through the country’s Department of Economic Development. Among the numerous steps that you must complete to open your business on the mainland, you are required to find a sponsor. The person must be either a native of the UAE or a UAE national who will work for your startup as a type of service agent. Moreover, your sponsor will assist with paperwork by representing your business during relations with government or ministry entities.

If you plan on enlisting the help of a sponsor when establishing your startup in the UAE, then you will need to know exactly how the process works and how to navigate the challenges that may arise. Here are a few of the most important things that you need to know about working with a sponsor for your UAE startup.


  1. Your sponsor must be a majority stakeholder in your startup.

As per Emirati law, the local sponsor whom you choose to work with must be a 51 percent partner in your startup and receive an annual fee from you. While not having majority ownership of your own startup may not appear to be ideal, this is not always a negative aspect of business ownership. Working with a sponsor does not always mean that you cannot be your own boss or run your startup in the way that you want.

It is uncommon for UAE sponsors to engage with the businesses that they support. While you should always keep an open mind if your sponsor wishes to share business ideas, you should not expect them to be closely involved. It is far more likely that your sponsor will be a “sleeping partner” in your startup.

As such, you should also not worry that your sponsor will fire you from your startup. Similar to the attitude that they have toward active contributions, UAE sponsors typically do not become so closely involved as to remove their partners from their businesses. You should not completely rule this out as a possibility, however. If you are worried that your sponsor will unexpectedly try to take control of your startup, you should make sure to come to an agreement in writing to protect yourself.


  1. There are several different types of sponsorship.

When you are searching for a sponsor, you will typically find candidates who fall under one of three major categories. The first, individual sponsorship, entails partnership with an Emirati national who is normally either a government employee or another type of professional. This sponsor does not need to be a business owner in the same domain as your startup. This type of partnership is most beneficial if you are looking to open a limited liability company or trading business.

Moreover, local service agent sponsorship is the right choice for your startup if you are looking to share professional expertise with clients in any capacity. Whether you are an artisan or an engineer, you will need a local service agent to represent your startup during meetings with government entities. Although this sponsor will not be a 51 percent shareholder of your startup, he or she must still receive an annual fee. You can determine this based on such factors as their role within the business and their social standing in the UAE.

Corporate sponsorship is the third major type of business partnership in the UAE. Unlike with an individual sponsorship, your startup will receive support from a UAE national company. In return, the company will own 51 percent of your business’ shares. This form of partnership can be just as beneficial as individual sponsorship, if not more. Corporate sponsors will be less likely than their individual counterparts to want an active role in your startup. Moreover, these sponsors are typically well established in the region, making them a more reliable choice for your business.


  1. You will need to draw up a contract.

For those initiating sponsorships in the UAE, it is common for their contracts to entail a verbal agreement with accompanying minor documentation. However, this is not always the most reliable option if you are looking to enter into a trusting partnership with your sponsor. Verbal agreements are not always capable of holding up in court should anything go awry during your sponsorship. If you are hard-pressed to develop one of these contracts, then you will need ample evidence to verify its legitimacy.

Otherwise, you should always draft a thorough contract with your sponsor. This will not only protect you during professional disagreements, but it will also establish safeguards against suspicious additions such as hidden fees.


You Need to Know about the MENA Startups Empowering People with Disabilities

wheel chair

Those who are living with disabilities often encounter numerous roadblocks as they go about daily life. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, however, a number of entrepreneurs are seeking to make life more accessible for those with disabilities. Whether someone with visual impairments wants to surf the web or a person with cognitive challenges is looking to maintain his or her own finances, there are a number of startups that are helping revolutionize the lives of these individuals.

Here are five startups that are serving the needs of those with disabilities in the MENA region:


  1. Paratrek

paratrekEntrepreneur and certified tour guide Omer Zur formulated the idea for his startup, Paratrek, after his father experienced an injury that paralyzed him. Seeing that his father’s injuries left him unable to pursue his hobby of hiking, Zur set out to develop a company that would make it easier for those living in wheelchairs to participate in hiking excursions.

In 2014, Zur and cofounder Ziv Demeter established Paratrek and debuted its line of unique wheelchair accessories. Those who are looking to embark on outdoor activities can purchase mountain bike-inspired tires that will allow their wheelchairs to go off road. Paratrek also offers a harness that makes it easy for companions to pull the wheelchairs over rough terrain. The startup is looking to develop additional products that will make it possible for those with disabilities to climb mountains.

Through Paratrek, Zur and Demeter also regularly assist individuals who want to go on hikes. After asking about a client’s hiking destinations and physical challenges, the cofounders then develop a hiking plan that will best suit that person’s individual needs. The entrepreneurs also regularly plan hikes for their customers and even participate in these excursions.


  1. VocalEyes

vocaleyes logoWith offices in Egypt and the United States, VocalEyes is helping those with visual impairments engage more fully with their surroundings. Looking to empower these individuals like never before, the startup has developed a free mobile application that leverages proprietary machine-learning software to identify the objects around them. Users need only take a picture of the objects they come across, and the application immediately describes what the camera has detected. Aside from objects, the VocalEyes app can identify company logos, detect human faces, and recognize denominations of currency.

While in attendance at an MIT Launch event in 2016, high school students Marwan Refaat, Mahmood Alfayoumi, and Neil Deshmukh developed the VocalEyes technology in just under a month. The team has since worked on an additional piece of hardware called The Eye, which is designed to both identify objects from images and relay information about the user’s surroundings in real time.


  1. ReAble

ReAbleAfter growing up alongside a sibling with special needs, entrepreneur Emile Sawaya saw how many roadblocks prevented those with disabilities from fully integrating into society. Working with his cofounder, Sawaya developed his startup, ReAble, to help people with cognitive disabilities become financially independent.

Delivered as a mobile application, ReAble makes it easy for its users to access and manage their finances. This application simplifies the payment process by allowing individuals to view their available balance, determine which bills they need to use as payment, and confirm that they have received the right change. The ReAble app also monitors users’ finances and sends notifications to their guardians each time they make a purchase.


  1. Mind Rockets Inc.

mindrockets incHeadquartered in Jordan, Mind Rockets is developing groundbreaking technology for people with hearing impairments. Since its founding in 2016, the startup has developed a number of technological services that assist those in this community and provide them with a means of independence. Mind Rockets has created its products in collaboration with local strategic partners such as the Assistive Technology Center and the National Call Center for Deaf Services.

For desktop devices, Mind Rockets offers interpretive software that enables those who are hard of hearing to engage with content on websites. One such product, the Sign Language Web Interpreter, helps these individuals access the web more easily by allowing website owners to display content in sign language. Mind Rockets has developed a similar solution for Facebook. The startup is also known for its video interpretation solution, which enables customers with hearing impairments to contact businesses via video message.

Outside of its desktop solutions, Mind Rockets offers a number of free mobile applications that help people who are hard of hearing communicate better. Using innovative 3D avatars, these apps automatically translate Arabic and English speech and text into sign language. Mind Rockets is looking to expand its services to include other languages.


  1. Helm

helmA revolutionary social startup in Egypt, Helm has facilitated public awareness about individuals living with disabilities since its inception in 2011. With a name that translates to “dream,” the organization supports the development of a society in which people with disabilities can fully participate in various aspects of daily life. From improving accessibility to promoting employment, Helm has undertaken a number of crucial projects that aim to change the public perception of those living with disabilities.

In the past, Helm has worked with numerous corporations to help them address pressing social challenges. The startup is also well known for organizing the first-ever mobility conference in Egypt, which took place in 2016.

Most recently, Helm collaborated with fellow social startup Bassita to develop a campaign that highlighted accessibility issues among those with disabilities. Entitled “One Click to Move,” this initiative focused on improving accessibility in and around Cairo University. As part of this campaign, Helm and Bassita developed a video that garnered more than 5 million views within its first week online. This video helped the organizations earn funding for their cause through likes, views, and shares.

7 of the Best Delivery Startups in the Middle East

delivery truck

Whether businesses want to send products to their customers or individual consumers wish to purchase items online, the process of transporting items from one place to another can present its fair share of inconveniences. High shipping costs and lengthy delivery times are only some of the issues that have consumers of all kinds searching for better solutions.

Over the last several years, the Middle East has become home to a number of startups that have revolutionized the delivery process for local consumers. From food-delivery platforms to courier-booking services, here are seven of the best delivery startups in the Middle East today:


  1. souKare

souKare logoThe Dubai-based souKare is making it easier for customers across the globe to access the health-related items that they need most. In collaboration with trusted distributors, the startup has built a diverse stock of products from global manufacturers. Those looking for wellness items can browse through souKare’s array of fitness supplements and healthy snacks. The company is also known for its wide array of contact lenses, including both colored and corrective lenses.

Recognizing how hectic daily life can be, souKare has implemented a shipping policy that eliminates the hassle of ordering items and waiting days for them to arrive. For those living in Dubai, the startup offers a 90-minute delivery option on its contact products. International customers can also enjoy fast delivery times with souKare’s express shipping option.


  1. Gourmet Foods Express

gourmeyfoodslogoPartners Mohammed Abdulaal and Hana Dawood established Gourmet Foods Express to supply restaurants in Bahrain with fresh vegetables, fruits, and more. The startup, which has earned the coveted Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) certification, sources its products from select growers across the globe to ensure that the food is of the very best quality.

Gourmet Foods Express allows its clients to create their own delivery schedules, and there is even a three-hour delivery option, which guarantees that customers will receive their products in a timely manner. Most recently, the startup expanded its delivery services to include individuals outside of the food industry. Through a separate online portal, these people can purchase fresh products and have them delivered right to their doors.


  1. Bosta

bosta logoLooking to become a major player in Egypt’s logistics sector, Bosta offers on-demand delivery services to local businesses. The startup is making the delivery process simpler than ever by allowing companies to request couriers with just a few clicks. Using the Bosta platform, business clients just input a pickup and drop-off location for any delivery that they need to make. The startup will then send one of its couriers to complete the delivery, during which time the client can sit back and relax while following the driver on a live map. Bosta even enables businesses to send notifications to their customers when their deliveries are on-route to their location. Further, the startup’s drivers accept cash on delivery, which simplifies payments for businesses as well as their clients.


  1. OrderMe

orderme logoSince its founding in 2014, OrderMe has simplified the food-delivery process for restaurants in Saudi Arabia. To this end, the startup has developed an interface that allows businesses to manage all of their deliveries on an order-by-order basis. OrderMe provides its users with custom maps that they can use to create more efficient delivery routes and track orders while they are in transit. Aside from its delivery services, the startup allows restaurants to build online profiles, create digital menus, accept orders through social media, and more.


  1. Wing

wing logoFounded in 2016, Wing facilitates fast and easy deliveries for clients in the UAE. Through the startup’s mobile application or its web interface, clients can book and manage delivery services. Wing handles all facets of the delivery process, from picking up orders to handling any customer issues that may arise.

For business merchants, Wing has developed a unique Merchant Dashboard that gives them complete oversight of their orders. Through this platform, they can create multiple orders at once, track all deliveries, and view their cash on delivery balance. Wing also provides delivery services to individual clients in the UAE who are looking to ship packages internationally.


  1. Jybly

jybly logoAn innovative online shipping solution, Jybly graduated from startup accelerator Flat6Labs Jeddah in 2016. Since then, the company has created a faster and more convenient shopping experience for customers. Instead of paying for high shipping prices on international e-commerce sites, consumers can save money by purchasing their items directly through Jybly. When browsing for products, users need only copy the links to the items that they wish to purchase and paste them on the startup’s website. Jybly will then manage the entire order and delivery process on the customer’s behalf. The startup offers these services at highly competitive rates, which enables consumers to save money on all their deliveries.


  1. Carry

Headquartered in Dubai, Carry provides point-to-point delivery services to individual and business clients in three Emirates. Through the startup’s mobile application, users can arrange deliveries almost instantaneously. With as little information as pickup and drop-off locations, Carry dispatches one of its drivers to retrieve deliveries within 60 minutes. Leveraging a fleet of vans and motorbikes, the startup can transport packages of any size to any destination. Carry users can even track their deliveries to ensure that they arrive safely.

With the needs of consumers in mind, Carry developed a system that eliminates the hassle of arranging deliveries via phone call and waiting for drivers. The startup offers all of these services at no extra cost to its clients, which helps them to enjoy a more convenient and affordable delivery experience.

Is Cairo Poised to Become a New Silicon Valley? What You Need to Know


California’s Silicon Valley has long been considered one of the world’s most important hubs of innovation and technology. Many cities across the globe have begun to follow in the footsteps of Silicon Valley, developing entrepreneurial climates of their own.

Over the last several years, Cairo, Egypt, has experienced a startup revolution that has seen the rise of a thriving technology sector. This ecosystem is growing ever stronger thanks to a number of key contributing factors. In time, these ingredients could propel Cairo towards a future as a new Silicon Valley.

Here are a few reasons why Cairo could very well become the Silicon Valley of the Middle East:


Cairo boasts a progressive business culture filled with young people.

Image by UN Women | Flickr

Entrepreneurs looking to establish startups in Cairo will find a city filled with dedicated young professionals. The city boasts a population of nearly 100 million people, more than a third of whom are youths. Since the political revolution of 2011, Cairo’s youth population has turned its gaze towards a more progressive future filled with innovative ideas.

More importantly, these young professionals are among some of the most well-educated in the Middle Eastern region. They have been able to hone their forward-thinking attitudes and professional skills while studying at some of the top-ranked institutions of higher learning in the world. Schools such as the American University in Cairo and the Modern Sciences and Arts University are based right in the city.

Over the years, Cairo’s young people have also become increasingly more technologically inclined. As technology business monopolies of the past have fallen away, these skilled young professionals have seen more opportunities to create tech businesses of their own. This growing culture is one that can easily welcome other like-minded entrepreneurs.

With such a young, intelligent professional network calling it home, Cairo is well-equipped for future innovation and entrepreneurial success.


Cairo presents numerous opportunities for success.

In Cairo, a number of disparate elements have come together to facilitate success for the city’s entrepreneurs. Since it is located in a developing country, the city is home to countless opportunities for entrepreneurs to tackle issues that will allow the nation to progress.

For example, though Cairo is known as an incredibly tech-savvy city, the rest of the country has been much slower to adopt emerging innovations. This has presented local entrepreneurs with the unique chance to engage in business pursuits that will help bring internet access to the rural communities of Egypt. As a result of this work, consumers in cities across the nation are able to join in on the trend of digital consumerism.

In addition to this, Cairo is one of the most linguistically diverse cities in the region. Arabic, English, German, and Chinese are only a few of the languages that entrepreneurs can expect to hear in the city. With such an array of languages and cultures represented in Cairo, local entrepreneurs have the opportunity to interact with a diverse set of business professionals.


Cairo regularly hosts important startup events.

riseup summit logoIn 2017 alone, Cairo played host to just under 40 different startup events. Such an active entrepreneurial scene as this creates a strong foundation for the future success of both individual businesses and the startup ecosystem as a whole.

The RiseUp Summit was one of the first major startup events to take place in Cairo. During the inaugural 2014 event, attendees from 17 nations gathered to talk about what the future would hold for the Egyptian startup scene. Since then, the annual RiseUp Summit has become an internationally-recognized startup event that features pitch competitions, networking events, and educational seminars.

StartupWeekend is another startup event that frequently comes to Cairo. This event serves as an arena in which entrepreneurs can share their startup ideas with their peers and develop their business models in teams over a period of 54 hours.


Cairo provides a geographical advantage to entrepreneurs.

Cairo is situated in one of the most optimal locations in the Middle Eastern region. Positioned right on the threshold of the Arab world, Africa, and Mediterranean Europe, the city is a prime location for any entrepreneur who is looking to ultimately achieve global expansion with his or her startup.

Cairo’s location also offers entrepreneurs a unique advantage when it comes to market penetration. Not only will startups based in this city have direct access to three major local markets, but they will also be able to work with a diverse customer base from within each of these different geographical locations.


It does not take much capital investment to establish a startup in Cairo.

Funding is one of the most significant roadblocks hindering entrepreneurs from starting new businesses. In Cairo, however, the cost of establishing a startup is lower than in many other growing entrepreneurial climates around the globe. When looking to open a company in Cairo, entrepreneurs can expect to pay around $1,500 in total. This fee covers all the standard requirements of startup registration, including Notification of Incorporation paperwork and Name Clearance Certificates.

Low cost of living is another financial benefit to establishing a startup in Cairo. Entrepreneurs who choose to live and work in this location can expect to pay far less than they would in other major international cities.

7 of the Top Digital Health Startups in the Middle East


For years, healthcare industry observers have recognized the Middle East’s potential for leadership in the realm of digital health. As lifestyles change and diseases such as diabetes become more prevalent across the region, the Middle East’s healthcare sector must be able to accommodate patients’ shifting needs and demands.

To best meet these needs, healthcare organizations throughout the region have turned their gaze toward innovation. This trend has given rise to a number of groundbreaking startups that are making it easier for patients to seek care and to manage their health.

Here are a few of the digital startups that are helping patients stay healthy in the Middle East:


  1. Ver2 Digital Medicine

ver2medicineIn 2017, Ver2 Digital Medicine became one of three UAE-based startups to receive a grant as part of the Expo 2020 Dubai. The e-health startup first made an impact on the MENA healthcare industry after debuting its business-to-business medical connectivity services.

Unlike traditional telemedicine firms, Ver2 does not offer medical devices or software. Instead, the startup delivers “digital experiences” that connect healthcare workers, caregivers, and patients. One of Ver2’s most groundbreaking services is Tele Diagnostics, which connects diagnostics workers via a digital platform. Other services include Tele Medical Education, which provides students with educational content and a way to connect with teachers; and Tele Monitoring, which allows physicians to monitor their patients’ condition remotely, through biosensors.


  1. Health at Hand

healthathandA Dubai-based telemedicine startup, Health at Hand is creating new avenues through which patients can seek medical care. Since 2015, the startup has operated a platform that facilitates live video appointments between patients and qualified physicians. By making these services available on mobile devices, Health at Hand helps patients avoid waits for an appointment and allows them to access the care they need from any location.

Health at Hand’s qualified physicians can provide treatment solutions for patients with non-emergency medical problems. During consultations, physicians work with each patient to develop the most effective treatment for their condition, so that they can feel better more quickly.


  1. Medisafe

medisafeThe team at Medisafe is revolutionizing the world of medication for patients across the Middle East and beyond. Founders Omri and Rotem Shor formulated the idea for the startup after their father took a double dose of insulin by error. To help patients like him adhere to their medication regimens, the brothers created a digital platform that acts as a pharmaceutical manager. The platform allows users to review their medications, dosages, and schedules and sends reminders, so that they never miss a dose and never take more than they should. For healthcare providers, the platform can provide invaluable data about patients’ adherence to medication schedules, comorbidities, and other critical information.


  1. MedsConnect

medsconnectHeadquartered in the Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Centre, MedsConnect is making it easier for patients to manage their medical conditions. With its mobile application, the startup allows users to record information about their health and securely review it at any time. By accessing these records on their mobile devices, patients can easily share their medical history with healthcare providers.

Prescription management is another key feature that MedsConnect provides to its users. Medical practitioners can use the app to inform their patients of critical prescription details, such as how long they must take the medication, what dosage they should take, and if they should eat a meal with their dose. MedsConnect can even provide reminders so that patients don’t forget to take their prescriptions.


  1. Shezlong

shezlongThe Cairo-based Shezlong has created an online platform through which people can seek treatment for mental health conditions. In affiliation with the International Society for Mental Health Online, the startup connects individuals to licensed therapists in only a few steps. First, patients choose a therapist using Shezlong’s online search feature. After inputting search parameters such as medical specialty, location, and cost of treatment, users receive a list of therapists that could meet their needs. Next, patients reserve a therapy session based on the availability of their chosen therapist. After that, they can meet privately and securely with the therapist via videoconference or messaging on the Shezlong mobile app.


  1. CureLines

curelineEntrepreneur and general surgeon Fahad Alqrallah established CureLines to provide better medical information online, and to connect patients and physicians. For general health information, users can browse through the CureLines medical library or read one of its many articles on health and wellness topics. In addition, they can post specific questions and receive answers from experienced physicians from across the globe.

CureLines also serves as a forum through which doctors can expand their own medical knowledge and connect with peers. Moreover, the site allows physicians to publish their own research, articles, and resumes for the online community to see.


  1. Vezeeta

vezeetaServing users in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, Vezeeta is making it easier for patients to find healthcare providers and book appointments. Instead of looking for physician recommendations from friends and family, patients can use Vezeeta to reach doctors in their area with little hassle.

Using the site’s search feature, users can input their location, type of insurance, and the type of medical specialist they wish to see. Vezeeta then provides a list of available doctors and patient reviews. Upon choosing a doctor, users can instantaneously book an appointment with him or her. This not only eliminates the need for patients to waste time waiting for available appointments, but it also reduces the time they spend in the waiting room.