The road less travelled - why the Middle East is wooing western tech startups

Looking beyond the oil economy, Middle East governments are investing in tech startups. Many are local, but European and UK innovators are also accessing money and non-financial support.


It's a well-trodden route. A UK software startup develops a product for the global marketplace and before too long it has upped sticks and set up either an office or a full-blown HQ in San Francisco or the surrounding Bay Area - often picking up a wadge of US venture capital cash along the way. The United States is, after all, a huge single market for software so it makes sense to relocate to where customers are waiting and investors aren't shy of writing big cheques.   

Of course, not all startups choose to go west as they seek to scale up internationally. In the post-Brexit era, we can expect to see more businesses opening European offices in order to access the single market. But that's not the only option. Increasingly, governments and investors from much further afield are seeking to attract technology businesses with the offer of both capital and market access. 

Abu Dhabi is a case in point. Capital of the United Arab Emirates, the city is actively seeking to position itself as a "home" for British and European startups and is backing that ambition with cash and a number of founder-friendly initiatives, including an accelerator programme open to both domestic and foreign businesses. 

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