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The Entrepreneurial Journey

Start-up, scale up and grow. No matter what stage of the entrepreneurial journey you’re at, in Abu Dhabi you’ll be able to access support and find opportunities to help turn an entrepreneurial idea into a successful business

Walid Adende Resized

Find support

When it comes to startups, speed matters. As a growing hub for global entrepreneurs, Abu Dhabi is streamlining business setup procedures and centralising access to the important information you’ll need to hit the ground running.

Starting a business in Abu Dhabi

Setting Up A Business In Abu Dhabi

With a stable and fast-growing economy, Abu Dhabi is the perfect launch pad for your business.

There are five business free zones in Abu Dhabi, which allow 100 per cent foreign ownership, including Abu Dhabi Global Market, Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi, Masdar City Free Zone, Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone and twofour54.

Applying for a trade licence

Businesses setting up in one of Abu Dhabi’s five free zones can take advantage of their hassle-free setup process. Businesses outside of these can apply online for an Instant Licence, which will have your business ready to launch in just a few clicks.

Paying tax or VAT on your business

Abu Dhabi-based companies pay 0% corporation tax, making it an incredibly business-friendly environment.

A five per cent VAT levy is payable on almost all consumer goods and services. However, this is significantly lower than in many other countries.

Registration for VAT is required for businesses with supplies or services valued at more than AED 375,000 over a period of 12 months, or who expect to produce taxable products exceeding that amount in the next 30 days.

Setting up a tech business

Abu Dhabi Global Market is Abu Dhabi's award-winning financial centre, which offers a Tech Licence via its digital application process to tech entrepreneurs working in any field. 

Working at the forefront of innovation, AGDM recently unveiled its Digital Sandbox, a platform that enables financial institutions and startups to connect and share data and ideas. It is also the first IFC in the region to apply Common Law, which is practised through ADGM’s unique, fully digital courts.

Hub71 is a tech ecosystem that brings together VC providers, business enablers and strategic partners to help tech startups succeed. It has already welcomed 51 companies to its Incentive Programme, which offers free and subsidised housing, office space and healthcare to seed-stage and emergent startups.

Incentives for R&D

Abu Dhabi is focused on creating a world-class R&D ecosystem — which is why, over the next five years, Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) will allocate up to AED 4 billion in rebates through its Corporate R&D fund to distinguished firms that wish to expand their R&D operations or commit to new projects in Abu Dhabi.

Find growth

To scale a startup into a sustainable business, you’ll need information about R&D incentives, venture capital opportunities and investment, as well as mentors and best business practice. While you’re busy building the next big thing, here are some things to consider.

Accessing venture capital

There are a growing number of VC firms in Abu Dhabi, many of which operate out of Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). Among those is Hub71, a tech ecosystem that brings together VC providers, business enablers and strategic partners to help tech startups succeed.  

Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) supports startups through Series B financing and beyond, and is working to increase access to capital through fund matching, and by partnering with global accelerators. Its Investor Care service helps to guide businesses through the set-up and financing process.

Startup Incentives

Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) helps domestic and international investors and businesses of all sizes, across all sectors, to establish and grow in Abu Dhabi. Through its Ventures Fund, it supports the growth of startups in Abu Dhabi by increasing access to capital.

Hub71 is a global tech ecosystem that brings together key enablers for startups to succeed.

Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) is Abu Dhabi's award-winning financial centre, which offers a Tech Licence to tech entrepreneurs working in any field in a supportive regulatory environment with access to venture capital.

The Catalyst is the region’s first sustainability-focused accelerator. Supported by Masdar and BP (British Petroleum), it supports early-stage startups working in clean technology through the funding, training and mentorship phases.

Support for R&D and innovation

Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) provides packages designed to accelerate innovation in sectors with high growth potential.

Agtech incentives

Among those are agtech (agriculture technology), for which ADIO has introduced a three-year programme with up to AED 1bn in cash and non-cash incentives for innovators working within the sector to find food and water solutions in desert environments, and who are looking to expand their operations in Abu Dhabi.

Finding mentoring: accelerators and incubators

Abu Dhabi has plenty of support on offer, with several accelerators and incubators helping to guide startups from seed-stage to launch.

Plug and Play ADGM’s three accelerator programmes support startups in fintech, travel & hospitality, and health; while those innovating in sustainability and cleantech can find support from The Catalyst. Krypto Labs is an innovation lab that nurtures entrepreneurs with impactful ideas. Entrepreneurs can also take a range of training programmes through StartAD, based at New York University – Abu Dhabi (NYUAD).