UAE aims to become Home of 20 Unicorns by 2031

UAE aims to become Home of 20 Unicorns by 2031

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has an ambitious vision to host 20 unicorn startups, valued over $1 billion each, by the year 2031. This bold target intends to position the UAE as a leading global hub for technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.

But how realistic is this goal and what steps need to happen to create 20 unicorns in the next decade? This comprehensive guide examines UAE’s current ecosystem, government initiatives, challenges ahead, and the 4 key steps required for UAE to achieve its 2031 objective.

Boost Early-Stage Funding & Retain Entrepreneurial Talent

The most crucial element for any startup ecosystem is access to funding and talent. UAE already hosts over 1,600 startups across high-potential sectors like financial technology, transport, e-commerce, clean energy and education. However, early-stage startups struggle to raise capital beyond seed funding given conservative local investors. And global entrepreneurs are hindered by UAE’s lack of permanent residency and tax incentives.

For 20 unicorns to bloom, UAE needs to:

  • Set up government-backed Venture Capital funds for Series A/B funding: Most unicorns need $100-300 million capital to scale up with sound unit economics. UAE must catalyze access to such growth-stage funding.
  • Launch a Global Entrepreneur Visa: Allow 5-10 year visas with a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship to retain international talent.
  • Introduce favorable tax incentives: Low personal and corporate income tax rates compared to other hubs will help attract and retain global talent.

Promote Innovation Mindset Through Academia & Corporate Culture

Beyond capital and skills, an innovation mindset throughout society creates the best fertile ground for unicorns. However, UAE’s academic model focuses more on academics rather than creative thinking. And government/corporate bureaucracy often hinders new ideas. To drive cultural shifts:

  • Introduce entrepreneurship courses and design thinking methodology starting in high schools and universities to shape young minds.
  • Train government employees on embracing failure as learning and incentivize internal innovation programs.
  • Celebrate startup/innovation success stories nationally through media campaigns.
  • Appoint Chief Innovation Officers in federal government bodies to transform outdated thinking.

Provide Integrated Support Through Specialized Innovation Zones

While UAE has 12 free economic zones, it lacks integrated incubation support covering funding, talent, technology and regulatory ease. Global best practice points to dedicated innovation zones focused on priority sectors. UAE must:

  • Set up specialized zones for key industries like Dubai Internet City (DIC) but expanded nationwide. Zones focused explicitly on fintech, agritech, healthtech, edtech.
  • Zones to provide seed funding, subsidized housing, streamlined license/visa systems to reduce time to market.
  • Zones governed by independent entities with mandate to enable innovation including regulatory sandboxes.

This focused approach in zones with integrated support has driven growth in other unicorn hubs worldwide.

Aggressively Market Ecosystem Globally to Attract Investors & Talent

Finally, UAE must market its startup ecosystem more aggressively on the global stage to attract foreign capital and talent – the lifeblood of unicorns. Specifically:

  • Launch marketing campaigns in target markets across USA, Europe, Africa, Asia highlighting UAE ecosystem’s incentives, success stories and global ambitions.
  • Sponsor international startup events and conferences to connect local startups with global investors and partners.
  • Set up International Offices similar to Invest in Israel offices in all major cities to promote the ecosystem.
  • Leverage UAE’s diplomatic strength by tying trade/investment agreements with partner countries to their startup support for UAE.

By combining domestic policy reforms with global promotion, the path to 20 unicorns by 2031 can be realistically achieved.


UAE’s vision to emerge as a top hub for unicorns reflects its future economic priorities. This requires boosting funding, retaining talent, transforming culture and targeted global promotion.

The current 4 unicorns are a starting point but face external risks like regional instability and global competition. Sustained public-private partnership and government commitment behind a coordinated 4 step strategy can enable UAE’s ambitious 2031 goal.

When the critical ingredients of capital, skills, cultural shifts and integrated promotion come together, UAE can become a leading global home for technology, innovation and 20 unicorns emerging in the next decade.


How many unicorns does UAE currently have?

UAE is currently home to 4 unicorn companies – Careem, Pure Harvest Smart Farms, Emerging Markets Property Group and Kitopi.

What are the critical steps required by UAE Government?

The 4 critical steps highlighted are:
Boost funding and talent retention
Promote innovation mindset culturally
Provide integrated support through specialized zones
Market the ecosystem globally.

Which sectors show most unicorn promise?

Fintech, agritech, property technology, e-commerce and transport startups demonstrate high potential to achieve billion dollar valuations.

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