With over 400 fintech companies, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a major hub for fintech innovation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Fast growth of the industry has been fueled by a number of fintech initiatives spearheaded by the government as part of the country’s ambition to become one of the world’s top fintech hubs by 2023.
As MENA’s largest and most developed fintech ecosystems, it comes with little surprise that some of the region’s most renowned fintech accelerator programs are now based in the country. Today, we look at top ten fintech accelerators to know in the UAE.
Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) Accelerator
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) is a federal initiative conceived and launched by the UAE Ministry of Finance. The initiative seeks to identify and nurture high potential innovations both within the UAE and abroad. It aims to enhance growth potential of innovative businesses and shape the future of the UAEs economy. Currently, the MBRIF consists of two programs: the Guarantee Scheme and the Innovation Accelerator.
The MBRIF Accelerator focuses on identifying, equipping and providing bespoke services to the highest potential innovators to thrive. The program differentiates itself from others in the market by offering a personalized journey aligned to entrepreneurs’ most pressing needs.
It’s dedicated to UAE-based businesses or companies interested in building a presence in the country, focusing on the seven sectors of the UAE National Innovation Strategy: space, transport, education, technology, water, clean energy and health.
Selected businesses are provided with tailored services rooted in collaboration to help them grow and learn, world-class mentorship that focuses on their needs, access to a global team of experts, and a zero-fee policy and no dilution of their equity.
DIFC Fintech Hive Accelerator Program
The DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre) Fintech Hive Accelerator Program offers the most innovative of startups in the fields of fintech, insurtech, regtech and Islamic fintech access to the region’s largest financial industry banks and insurance companies for partnership opportunities, exposure to investors and marketing exposure.
The program matches startups with partners in two separate sprints throughout the year. Each sprint has a separate selection process where the team evaluates the suitability of the selected startups’ technologies to partners’ strategic priorities for the year. Following, these startups get the chance to pitch their business to senior stakeholders of the leading financial partners in the Middle East.
Both sprints conclude with an Investor Day where entrepreneurs get the chance to present to a larger audience of investors, industry leaders, media, and other members of the fintech Community.
The program’s benefits include fast-track access to investor network including DIFC’s US$100 million Fintech Fund, access to workshops and support services from 55+ ecosystem partners, co-working space in DIFC, marketing and PR exposure, events and networking opportunities with the fintech community, access to the regulatory sandbox, connection with 17+ global fintech hubs, and the ability to build proof-of-concepts (PoCs) for the region’s financial institution and insurance companies. Additionally, the DIFC Fintech Hive does not take an equity stake from startups who participate in our accelerator program.
Eligibility criteria include having a minimum viable product (MVP), being able to demonstrate that access to financial services executives will have a meaningful impact on their growth prospects, and providing a demo to partners and the ability to illustrate excellent pitch presentations.
DIFC Fintech Hive Scale Up Program
The DIFC Fintech Hive Scale Up Program is a funding accelerator for Series A+ and fundraising startups that is powered by venture capital (VC) firms, family offices, corporate and government funds, private equity firms, and investment banks.
This program is designed to scale these startups in the MENA region through strategic partnerships and investment resources of the DIFC Fintech Hive ecosystem. Throughout the program, startups get exposed to interviews with a VC panel and direct introductions to investment committees of interested VCs.
Benefits of joining the DIFC Fintech Hive Scale Up Program include the ability to accelerate funding rounds, gain access to the region’s leading investor network and tap into partners’ resources.
Eligibility criteria include having raised a Series A funding round and looking to raise Series B onwards, being able to demonstrate that the fintech solution is highly scalable, and targeting the MENA market in the next stage of growth.
AccelerateHer, by the DIFC Fintech Hive, is a female-focused career mentorship accelerator that aims to equip young aspiring executives with the necessary tools and experience to broaden their knowledge and reach in the industry and play a more active role in shaping the future of the financial landscape.
The program is open to young women from different organizations within the financial services sector who are at an early stage of their career and are seeking mentorship and advise from seasoned professionals in the industry.
Selected women get exposed to a diverse range of experiences and are able to build their network, skills and knowledge through gaining access to the different activities at the DIFC Fintech Hive such as mentorship, workshops, networking opportunities and more.
Benefits of joining the AccelerateHer program include gaining access to one-on-one mentorship from industry executives, exposure to DIFC Fintech Hive events and activities, networking opportunities, and access to fintech ecosystem and leading financial institutions.
Eligibility criteria include having between six months to three years of career experience, being ambitious, and having a career within the field of financial services.
Startupbootcamp Fintech Dubai
Startupbootcamp Fintech Dubai was launched in 2018 in partnership with the DIFC, Visa, Mashreq bank and HSBC to support the city in its bid to become a world leader in financial services innovation and technology.
The three-month program focuses on supporting entrepreneurs to scale their industry-changing technology businesses. It’s open to startups from the MENA region as well as from around the world who operate in the areas of payments, mobile and cybersecurity, data modeling, distributed ledger technology (DLT) and artificial intelligence (AI), identity, anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC), and fraud prevention.
Selected startups get access to expert-led sessions covering all scaling fundamentals, get to collaborate with leading corporates in their industry to secure customers, pilot projects, and partnerships, gain access to a global network of mentors, corporate partners, industry experts, and alumni across 40+ countries, hands-on support and tailored mentorship, free coworking space, investor access, perks and discounts, as well as EUR 15,000 in cash per company to cover living expenses.
Plug and Play Abu Dhabi Fintech
Plug and Play Abu Dhabi, powered by Abu Dhabi Investment Office, is an innovation platform in the Middle East uniting startups across the financial, healthcare and industry 4.0 sectors with the tech expertise of Silicon Valley and major corporations for a changing world. The program’s mission is to attract high quality entrepreneurial talent to Abu Dhabi who can work proactively with both public and private institutions in the Middle East.
The Plug and Play Abu Dhabi Fintech program was launched in 2018 and connects financial institutions across the region with the most disruptive fintech companies sourced from across the globe. Some key focus areas of the program include security, payments, wealth management, data analytics, and customer engagement.
Benefits of joining the Plug and Play Abu Dhabi Fintech program include gaining access to Plug and Play’s corporate network, the ability to collaborate with leading financial institutions on PoCs and pilots, and access to a network of regional investors and mentors.
FasterCapital Grow Your Startup
FasterCapital is an online incubator, accelerator, and service provider that helps startups and small businesses worldwide and invest in them in a work-per-equity model. It provides either technical development per equity or business development per equity. It also helps startups and SMEs that are raising capital from angel investors, VCs, micro VCs and other funding sources.
FasterCapital invests in startups from different industries, including fintech, edutech, healthtech, entertainment, media, software, e-commerce, blockchain and more, and from different stages. Though FasterCapital is based in Dubai, it is country agnostic.
FasterCapital’s Grow Your Startup program helps startups by opening new markets for them, get their product internationalized, find the right pricing in each market, and provide them with marketing strategy consulting.
This program targets startups that have a product and are looking to expand their reach to new markets and users, increase their sales and revenues, find new sales funnels, find a marketing/sales team, find a business development manager. The program offers other business development services, outsourcing content creation, market strategy consulting, and outsourcing sales management.
In addition to the Grow Your Startup program, FasterCapital also offers the Raise Capital program, which focuses on helping startup raise the money they need to grow and expand their venture; the Idea to Product program, which helps entrepreneurs move their idea to the “investable idea” stage; and the Technical Co-founder program, which provides selected startups with the technical skills needed to build their tech product.
Sandbox is a founder-focused startup program helping early-stage technology entrepreneurs grow their ventures. The 12-month program is hosted by the Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus (DTEC), a purpose-built technology hub, wholly owned by Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA).
The program is highly execution based, emphasizing KPIs, sprints and tangible deliverables. It sources the best mentors and practitioners not only to share advice, but to help selected startups tangibly execute on their business. It is uniquely structured around six pillars: product development, traction, scaling, financial diagnostics, legal support, and notably, “wellness+” and mental health.
Selected startups get 200+ hours of practical workshops, 100+ hours of 1:1 mentoring with expert practitioners, 12 months of coworking space, financial diagnostics, tailored legal diagnostics and support, regular pitch deck reviews and workshops, access to renowned guest speakers, and local exposure at startup events.
The program is open to MVP-stage and seed stage tech companies. It is sector agnostic.
The program is located in DTEC in Dubai. The workshops, networking and community events, VC meetings are all happening onsite. The 1-1s can be arranged at startups’ convenience with the experts, either online or in DTEC.
Arab Bank Fintech Bootcamp
The Arab Bank Fintech Bootcamp program for UAE startups provides entrepreneurs access to mentors, and key decision makers within the Arab Bank to fine-tune their solution to become enterprise ready. The bootcamp features interactive workshops by experienced industry experts delivering their know-how and insights, and provides selected startups with investment opportunities.
On the final day, participants get the chance to present their solution on stage in front of key decision makers in the Arab Bank. The top winning ideas get a chance to conduct a PoC with Arab Bank.
The Arab Bank Fintech Bootcamp program is particularly looking for solutions that add value to the financial services industry in areas including financial access and financial literacy, lending and credit scoring for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), payments and remittances, AML, KYC and cybersecurity, the API financial economy, and mobile services to the unbanked.
startAD Corporate Sprint Accelerator
startAD is an Abu Dhabi-based global accelerator steering seed stage technology startups to launch, develop and scale their ventures. The accelerator enables startups to pilot solutions with industry leaders, while enabling corporates to innovate with startups disrupting their core businesses.
Anchored at NYU Abu Dhabi and powered by Tamkeen, an Abu Dhabi government-owned company, startAD provides access to a global network of investors, mentors and experts, and manages a seed fund for UAE-based startups. Since startAD’s launch in 2016, participating startups have raised US$8 million in investment, secured numerous pilot projects, and have been recognized with global design and product awards.
The startAD Corporate Sprint Accelerator program immerses startups in robust local customer discovery and validation activities through a combination of training, mentorship, 1-1 meetings with corporate partners, and investor pitches. Within four weeks, the startups are equipped to pilot solutions with industry leaders, while corporates are enabled to innovate with startups disrupting their core businesses.
The program culminates in a high-caliber market access day and an investor demo day in which the participating startups have the opportunity to pitch to regional industry leaders and investors for business and investment opportunities.