8 steps to launching your own start up company in Dubai

It’s time to take that genius business idea you have, and turn it into money…

Neil Churchill January 20, 2015

We have a saying here at EDGAR, “If you don’t start a business in Dubai, you never will.”

The UAE is a breeding ground for start-up companies. The young age of the country, the lack of services already developed in other countries and the large pool of private investment all contribute to new businesses popping up more often than the sun rises.

But how do you go about starting up your own company? Well, much like registering for your driving license or a new visa, the road can be long and complicated. So we’ve written this step-by-step guide to help you on your way:

Mind your business
Simple really – select what business activity your idea will cover from over 2,000 options available as per the Department for Economic Development (DED). If your idea doesn’t cover one of those 2,000 choices, well then you probably shouldn’t be launching whatever crackpot, crazed idea it is that you have. 

launchingabusiness1-2.jpg Paul Kenny launched Cobone in 2010 and sold it just three years later for an estimated price of $40 million. Make him your role model.

To free zone or not to free zone
We’ve all heard of Dubai’s free zones, but what are they? Inside a free zone, your company can be 100 per cent owned by yourself, and can operate under slightly different regulations as to a ‘mainland’ business. If you opt to start up outside of a zone, then you will need to procure the signature of a UAE National who will own 51 per cent of your business. But, don’t fear, that doesn’t mean they’ll also own 51 per cent of your profits. How the money is divided can be decided between yourselves. At this point you’ll also need to sign an MOA.

Pick your legal structure 
Your next decision is to pick your initials, LLC or PSC – that’s Limited Liability Company or Private Shareholding Company. What type of business you are starting up will pretty much determine this for you. 

What’s in a name
You’ve probably already decided on the name of your business. In fact, it was probably one of the first things you thought of when you were sat there, kicking up this idea you now hope to turn into a business. But before you get too attached to it, you need to apply for it to be recognised as a trade name. Go to DED’s website to continue.

Does anyone object
Next, you need to obtain an Initial Approval Certificate, which basically says that the Dubai government has no objection to your business idea (it’s much more than an idea now – if you’ve got this far, it’s actually happening!) Just Falafel Dubai. Fadi Malas and Mohamad Bitar launched Just Falafel in 2007. It now has dozens of chains across 20 countries.

GPS coordinates 
The next step can take a while, we warn you. You need to register your business’s physical address. But to do that, the Dubai Municipality Planning section must give the location the green light regarding its health and safety requirements and other red tape including public health and sustainability. We suggest registering your case with DMP as early as possible. However, if you choose a location inside an authorised business centre, you don’t need any location approvals – boom. 

Get your license
Kind of like driving a car or operating machinery, to run a business you need a license. This part shouldn’t be too taxing, and the license approval required differs depending on the type of start up you’re launching.

The paperwork
If you’ve got this far, congratulations but you’re not quite finished yet. It’s time to submit a tonne of paperwork to the DED. Gather the following: trade name certificate, initial approval certificate, stamped initial approval form, ejari tenancy contract, approvals on selected business activity, attested MOA and local service agent agreement - the last one only if you’re not in a free zone. Then, just sit and fingers crossed your business license should be confirmed within seven days.

Now get out there and make your millions.