Has Dubai become the top regional startup hub?

On Monday young entrepreneurs met in Dubai to share future business dreams at the launch event of tech incubator AstroLabs

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The booming app market continues to create applications that cater to our every need. It seems these days there is an app for almost anything you can imagine.

And on Monday young entrepreneurs met in Dubai to share future business dreams at the launch event of tech incubator AstroLabs.

AstroLabs Dubai is a co-working space for digital technology startups to produce and work in an environment that feels like their own home.

They launched on April 1, 2015, and have many startup entrepreneurs who have joined since.

The company works in partnership wityh web giant Google.

Those attending included the founders of AstroLabs, Mohammed Mekki, Louis Lebbos, alongside David Grunwald, who runs Google's entrepreneurship outreach program in Europe, Middle East & Africa. Guest speaker Mohammad Al Gergawi, the Minister of Cabinet Affairs in the Federal Government of the United Arab Emirates was also present.

Speaking at the event, Gergawi recalled a conversation he had with Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashed as they stood on a site in the desert that later became Jumeirah Lake Towers.

He said: “In 1999, this place was part of the desert. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashed took me in his car and he drove me to an area close by, across the street actually. I remember he looked at the place and told me, Mohammed we’re going to build an internet city here and Dubai’s media city on the other side. He had one year to deliver.

“October 28, 2000, his Highness did the opening and we had almost 120 companies registered. It was a very difficult task. I thought ‘why in the desert?’ and now I understand why when I see all of you here,” he added, referring to the people at the launch event. “We had a feel that technology and media will merge, content and technology will merge.”

“Together, we are moving ahead.”

According to HSBC’s Expat Explorer 2015 survey, Dubai is ranked as the second best city in the world after Singapore, for expats looking to start a business.

"Despite the volatility in the global economy and insecurity in job markets, the UAE's diverse business landscape and its position as a hub in the Middle East means that it continues to be an attractive destination for expats from across the world," the report stated.

Referring to Dubai’s government, Al Gergawi said: “People ask us what we do in the government, I say we are in the business of creating hope for people. We are in the business of unleashing human potential.”

Excited innovators promoted their startups at the event, including apps for nutrition and children’s books.

Muhammed Yildirim from Turkey, the Key Account Director of the Mena Region for a company ‘Insider,’ told Al Arabiya that using a co working space feels like your own office.

"The main reason we’re here at AstroLabs, is we like this environment. They genuinely care to see all the startups grow. They don’t just provide us with space, they also provide us with value. I really appreciate what these guys have done.”

Avin Shahani, Founder CEO of‘ClassDive’, a fitness mobile application startup that caters to people who like to book various fitness classes through one platform.

Shahani said their startup had caught on all around the world, so he decided to bring it to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

“We chose AstroLab purely for the community they have, the team behind AstroLab, the location, the cost is obviously always an issue, but the cost with them is much more bearable than any other co-working space or incubator that I’ve seen.

At the same time, I like the business motto that they work around, it makes it very simple for us startups to try and concentrate our energy on the more important stuff, like scaling the business instead of ‘ how can I pay this, and how can I pay that.’ They make it simpler for us,” he told Al Arabiya News.

Mohammed Mekki said: “There are 42 startups from 27 countries that have all chosen to come here to AstroLabs, to be able to set up their businesses and to be able to expand and reach globally. “

Many expats from all over the world come to Dubai aspiring to open up small startups and grow in the business world.

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