Investing in MENA Startups

The Middle East is quickly becoming a hub for entrepreneurs, with many successful businesses finding their roots in this region. This boom brings with it an influx of investors looking to grow new ventures. In 2018, over 155 institutions invested in MENA based startups, with 30% of these investors coming from outside the region. UAE and Egypt accounted for the bulk of startup investment into the region, accounting for a combined 52% of deals, according to the 2018 MENA Venture Investment report by Magnitt.


Business incubators and accelerator programs are rapidly growing, and there are several government funded grants and private sector funded prizes to be claimed by driven entrepreneurs and innovative ideas. For investors looking to become a part of this boom, here are a few tips on how to make sure you get the most out of your money:


Diversify your investments
Most angel investors tend to have a diverse portfolio of businesses they invest in, with the full knowledge that most of these will fail in the short term. Failure rates tend to be high among startups, and it is key to remember this as you plan your investment. There is a high possibility that you could lose all your money. For this main reason, it is key to start small and work your way toward bigger ventures. Build a portfolio with a very diverse range of companies, and study your investments well enough to know which ones are doing well and which ones are in need of further guidance and support in order to do well.


Choose people not ideas
Many entrepreneurs may have the same idea, however only the ones who are able to execute their idea best, reap any rewards. When you’re investing in a business, you’re investing into the team and leadership behind that idea, rather than the product or the USP itself. Our advice is to understand and get to know the people driving this business, as they will be the lynchpin that either makes or breaks the business. A poorly formed team, or the wrong entrepreneur has the ability to sink your investment before you can gain any returns.


Expand your network
If you’re wondering where to find your new venture, you won’t have to look too far. The key is to constantly be working on building a network, whether you’re actively looking to invest or not. Startup networking events are a great place to start, as they can get you in touch with aspiring entrepreneurs as well as other investors who could recommend or guide you through the process. Building a professional network is often like watching plants grow. It takes time and might feel like you’re not really doing anything, but you can be sure to reap its rewards in the longer term.


Another option is to join an angel network, however these are very selective and exclusive groups that require you to have a certain net worth or annual income to be a “certified” investor. If that isn’t you, crowdfunding might be your best bet! There are various platforms (increasing each year) that can connect you with your next investment, and with transaction costs at a minimum, you can put in as much money as you’re comfortable with!


Do your due diligence
Let’s say hypothetically, that all of the above tips work. You find a couple of incredible startups with a USP that you believe in, driven by a great team and you’re ready to invest. This would be a good time to slow down. While this is a given, what you really need to do is take a step back and do some thorough due diligence on the business you’re about to give your money to. Who are the core drivers behind this idea? Do they have a history of entrepreneurship or is this the first time? What do they plan to do with your money and how are they going to repay you? Do they have any pending debts or shareholders that need to be bought out? What does the shareholders agreement look like? What are their goals and plans for the short, medium and long term, and what resources do they need besides money to achieve these goals? These are only a few of the questions you should be asking.


Overall, as an investor you must always be prepared for the reality that things change. Business ideas may pivot, teams can change and unfortunately, they might fail. The best way to protect yourself is to prepare for such contingencies by building a strong portfolio of investments, where the few hits can make up for the many losses, and only invest the money you can afford to write off. If at this point you’re wondering why anyone invests in startups, remember that the greater the risk, the greater the rewards tend to be as well.

9 Steps to Prevent your Startup from Failing

In entrepreneurship, failure is statistically more common than success. In fact, according to Forbes around 90% of all startups will see failure in the short to medium term. This figure is in no way meant to be a deterrent to new entrepreneurs, but rather a lesson, and a way to learn from the failures of all those who came before. Small Business Trends report that the top 10 reasons startups fail include ‘no market need’ (42%), ‘ran out of cash’ (29%), ‘not the right team’ (23%), ‘get outcompeted’ (19%), and ‘pricing issues’ (18%).

These statistics serve as a timely warning for those chasing the startup dream purely for personal glory or vanity. Starting your own business can be a turbulent, but rewarding journey and it is important to ensure you stay on the right path, and kickoff your business the right way.


1. Understand the Difference Between a Pain Point & Motivation

A pain point is a problem that a user or customer is actively looking to solve. Motivation is the desire to reach an end goal. The difference between the two is that a pain point can be described as a customer ‘need’, while motivation can be described as customer ‘want’. It’s crucial to differentiate between the two when deciding upon a product or service offering. Building a business model around solving a problem will dramatically improve a business’s chances of success. This is because a customer’s desire to fulfill a ‘need’ is greater than their desire to fulfill a ‘want’, hence customers are more likely to go out of their way to actively attain your offerings. It’s vital to understand the difference so you can properly assess how strong the demand for your product or service will be.


2. Deliver the Simplest Solution to a Problem

Despite your greatest efforts to make the first iteration of your product perfect, it’s likely that it won’t be. It’s imperative that you avoid having the mindset that ‘one more feature’ will make the product perfect, as this is a never-ending slippery slope. Ensure that the elements that provide the most value are included in your MVP, and keep it simple, focusing on making your core offering a great standalone product/service. Having this mentality is key to solidifying the foundation on which your product is built, as additional features are meant to add value beyond your core offering, not be part of the core itself. Product/service development is an ongoing process, one that will be made easier once you have more feedback, experience and funding on your side.


3. Act Fast

Entrepreneurs often face anxiety when going about starting their business. Whether it’s creating their business plan, selling to prospects, or settling on one core service. Procrastinating or delaying key business decisions won’t get you far. The best advice would be to act fast and learn from your mistakes. Seek out constructive criticism from peers and mentors and use it as a means to develop your business further. Change is normal, and there may be times when you need to move into a different business model, or change your idea altogether. Take this not as a sign of failure, but rather as an opportunity to further develop your niche. Seize opportunities to grow or develop, and do not hesitate to explore avenues that seem different or unfamiliar, as they may lead to success instead.


4. Develop Your Marketing Plan as You Build Your Product/Service

A marketing plan is supposed to link your offering with your target audience. Businesses that do not understand or cater to their target audience are guaranteed to fail. Build your marketing strategy in line with your product or service by researching and testing various ‘go-to-market’ models, as it may impact your product development itself. Working on these two interconnected streams at once will save you valuable time and money, and get you to a beta testing stage possibly sooner, and with a greater understanding of your demographic. Once established, a brand image tends to be difficult to change, so it’s more beneficial to know what the feedback and overall demand for your offering is before you go to market. This way, when you do decide to launch your product, you can be confident of the general market response, and plan the long-term strategy accordingly.


5. Hire Smartly

An entrepreneur needs to ensure that they build the right team for their startups. You need to find an appropriate balance between expertise and experience, rather than wasting someone’s abilities in the wrong role. Build an HR strategy, keeping in mind what stage of development your product is in, what your immediate goals are, and what skills or functions are crucial to achieving that goal. If the objective is to form a core team of executives, you need to prioritize filling roles that are focused on solving for and delivering your core product. Additionally, you need to ensure that people within your core team share your values and dedication to the business, to avoid any conflict of interest. Minimize costs by making your teams as lean as possible, hiring individuals who are already motivated and sold on the product or service you offer. There is a fine line between over-hiring and preparing for a probable forecasted increase
Your talent strategy should ideally be as specific as possible, even including the hours of work that would be required for a specific goal, to determine how many employees would be needed tp achieve it.

If you already have an existing group of employees, you need to set clear timelines and assess the work that they’ve completed in order to gauge their performance. This applies to all levels, from interns to C-suite executives. Regularly reviewing performance is the key to ensuring personal growth and being able to identify your teams’ strengths and weaknesses. If an individual is underperforming, understand why, and provide them with the resources necessary to improve. High turnover doesn’t work in a contemporary business landscape as recruitment a is time and cost heavy process, and finding replacements can be a very tedious and challenging endeavor, particularly when you are answerable to various investors and deadlines. Your brand is a product of your employees, and a negative brand reputation can spread very quickly, so it is crucial to be mindful of your talent decisions.


6. Keep Building Traction

As an entrepreneur, it’s important that you start building awareness of your business as soon as possible to every potential customer you come across. Promote your product through word of mouth prior to it’s development in order to gain traction and interest with your target audience. One suggestion is to implement a ‘soft launch’ to build a foundation for word-of-mouth and referral marketing, as this is a great and relatively low cost promotional tool for early stage businesses which can eventually lead to a higher rate of conversion. Building this traction plays an important role in the fundraising process and can prove to potential investors that you already have a demand for your offering. Showing this forecasted upward trajectory in sales builds confidence among investors and can support in creating a fair valuation for your business and securing investment.


7. Be Aware of Your Bias

Entrepreneur and author, Ina Catrinescu once said that “Confirmation bias is our most treasured enemy. Our opinions, our acumen – all of it, are the result of years of selectively choosing to pay attention to that information only which confirms what our limited minds already accept as truth.” Entrepreneurs should avoid framing data to suit their own views or agenda as this creates a conflict of interest. You might find yourself having a tendency to look at facts through a skewed lens. Misusing facts to support your own narrative is problematic because it then becomes impossible to objectively evaluate how successful your business can be. What we think is right is often based on everything we’ve learned from prior experiences, and not necessarily right for the current venture. It’s important to have checks and balances in place to maintain objectivity and this can come in the form of mentors, advisors to your business, partners or colleagues, who encourage you to question if your decisions are right for the business or just right for you.


8. Have the Right Advisors

Having someone you can trust, an advisor or consultant, be your objective voice of reason will be extremely helpful in securing the interest of your business. In ancient Rome, servants would stand behind their triumphant General during his victory parade and whisper “Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento!” Which translates to “Look behind you, you are a man!”, which served to ground their generals and remind them they were human. Maintain strong relationships with advisors who can act as your objective voice of reason, as this could be the key to remaining grounded. As an entrepreneur, the success of your business will rely on your ability to learn new skills relatively quickly, and be able to delegate crucial tasks to those that have more expertise than you. Therefore, it’s important to surround yourself with individuals who not only bring those specialized skills, but are also honest and straightforward in providing constructive criticism and advice when needed. Keep in mind the confirmation bias and do not seek out advice or opinions that solely confirm your beliefs. Pick your investors and your board carefully, as they play a crucial role in directing the growth of the business.


9. Understand What Investors Want

When preparing to fundraise, an entrepreneur must do their homework, research potential investors prior to engaging them, understand their mandate, startup portfolio, affinities and selection criteria. Investors are result oriented and want to see that you’re confident in what you’re talking about. Understand your product, industry and target market thoroughly and keep your pitch deck ready to go at all times. A good tip to keep in mind when pitching your idea is to maintain a balance between being professional and creating a light atmosphere. Investors have to listen to hundreds of pitches, and the best way to stand out is to showcase your product as well as your personality as an individual.

Be prepared to answer any questions that could be posed from the information on your slides. If possible, create a detailed plan that outlines your short and medium term goals, and make them attainable. Highlight the resources you will need to achieve each goal and the cost associated with this resource. Investors are more likely to buy in to your 18 month plan than your 5 year plan, as they would rather invest that unused capital elsewhere in the short term. As an entrepreneur you need to successfully prove that an investor will benefit from their investment. Lastly, do not panic if you are pressed on a specific topic or even antagonized. Investors may sometimes push you to find our more about your true character.

Creating a successful business from the ground up isn’t an easy task, but it’s always possible so long as you’re dedicated to seeing your vision through. The above steps are meant to be a guide that would help reduce your chances of failure. Even if you do fail along the way, learn from your mistakes and grow. Remember, there’s no such thing as “luck” when it comes to being an Entrepreneur, it all comes down to working hard and being prepared. When you work hard to be prepared for every foreseeable scenario, you’ll find yourself feeling a lot luckier. This is all down to you, because at the end of the day – behind every great business is a greater individual.

The Difference Between Limited & Unlimited Contracts

Under UAE Labour Law No. 8 of 1980 (as amended) [the “UAE Labour Law”), which is applicable to all employers in the UAE (excluding those under the jurisdiction of the Dubai International Financial Centre (“DIFC”)], there are two types of employment contracts which employers can issue to employees; limited term or unlimited term contracts.
Below we have outlined the various differences between the two types of contract including statutory end of service gratuity entitlement and consequences of termination.


1. What are Limited Term Contracts?
A limited term contract is a fixed term contract which is usually linked to the duration of the employee’s UAE residency visa (i.e. two or three years, depending on the location of the employer). It will automatically terminate at the end of the term, unless it is renewed by either party, or conversely, terminated earlier.


2. When is it suitable to use a Limited Term Contract?
Limited term contracts are useful for project-based employees when the lengths of said projects are known in advance.


3. How could a limited term contract be terminated?
Limited term contracts normally have no provisions for notice and simply expire at the specified date for the end of the term (unless terminated earlier by either party).
Summary dismissal by the employer is allowed on the basis of one of the 11 exhaustive grounds under Articles 88 and 120 of the UAE Labour Law. An employee may validly resign prior to the expiry of the contract under the provisions of Article 121 of the law.


4. How can a Limited Term Contract be renewed?
A limited term contract may be renewed with the consent of both parties. Alternatively, both parties could agree to convert the agreement to an unlimited term contract at the end of the current contract,


5. What if an Employer wants to terminate the contract early?
As per UAE Labour Laws an employee is entitled to “early termination compensation” of a minimum of three months’ remuneration, including salary and allowances, (or the remainder of the term of the contract if the period remaining is less than three months), should an employer seeks to terminate the contract prior to the end of the limited term.


6. What if an Employee wants to terminate the contract early?
Unless the employment contract states otherwise, if an employee desires to terminate the limited term contract before the expiry of the term, they will be liable under the UAE Labour Law to pay their employer “early termination compensation” of 50% of three months’ remuneration, including salary and allowances, or 50% of the remuneration for the residual period if the contract has fewer than three months remaining.


7. What happens if the Limited Term Contract contains a Notice Period?
Should the contract contain provisions regarding a notice period, this provision will have to be provided to the other party in addition to any early termination compensation due.


8. How is ‘End of Service Gratuity’ calculated under a limited term contract, in the situation where an employer terminates the contract?
An employee who has completed one year or more of continuous service is entitled to end of service gratuity calculated as follows:
21 calendar days’ basic pay for each year of the first five years of service.
30 calendar days’ basic pay for each additional year.
Provided that the entire total remuneration does not exceed two years’ pay.
An employee is not entitled to end of service gratuity if they have been terminated summarily for gross misconduct pursuant to the provisions of UAE Labour Laws.


9. How is ‘End of Service Gratuity’ calculated under a Limited Term Contract, where the employee resigns?
An employee is not entitled to an end of service gratuity if they resign with less than 5 years of service. If they have over 5 years of service, they are entitled to the same end of service gratuity as they would if they resigned on an unlimited contract.


10. Specifications for a Limited Term Contract.
Under UAE Labour Laws, a Limited Term Employment Contract must, as a minimum, specify:
the date of its conclusion;
the date on which work begins;
the nature of the work;
the workplace;
the amount of the remuneration; and
the duration.

Unlimited Term Contracts



1. What are Unlimited Term Contracts?
An unlimited term contract is an open-ended contract with no end term, and may be terminated for various reasons under UAE Labour Laws.


2. When is it appropriate to use an Unlimited Term Contract?
Unlimited term contracts are usually viewed to be more flexible than limited term contracts. For this reason, an unlimited term contract is more commonly used in the UAE than a limited term contract. It should be used for employees who are intended to be permanent, not project based.


3. How may an Unlimited Term Contract be terminated by an employer?
Under the UAE Labour Law, there are two main ways for an employer to legitimately terminate an unlimited term contract:
For a ‘valid’ (i.e. performance related) reason on notice (the UAE Labour Law provides for a minimum notice period of 30 calendar days. However, the parties are entitled to agree on longer notice periods in the contract); or
Summarily (without notice and end of service gratuity) for one of the 11 exhaustive gross misconduct reasons set out in Articles 88 and 120 of the UAE Labour Law.


4. How may an Unlimited Term Contract be terminated by an employee?
An employee may resign by providing the employer with the contractual notice period (which must be a minimum of 30 calendar days, or longer, as per the contract of employment).
Alternatively, the employee may resign without notice as set under Article 121 of the law.


5. How is ‘End of Service Gratuity’ calculated under an Unlimited Term Contract, where the employer terminates the contract?
An employee who has completed one year or more of continuous service is entitled to end of service gratuity to be calculated as follows:
21 calendar days’ basic pay for each year of the first five years of service.
30 calendar days’ basic pay for each additional year.
Provided that the entire total remuneration does not exceed two years pay.
Similarly to Limited Contracts, note that an employee is not entitled to end of service gratuity where they have been terminated summarily for gross misconduct pursuant to the provisions of UAE Labour Laws.


6. How is ‘End of Service Gratuity’ calculated under an Unlimited Term Contract, where the employee resigns?
Where an employee resigns from an unlimited term contract, they will be entitled to an end of service gratuity on the following sliding scale:
Period of service of between one to three years: 2/3 reduction;
Period of service of between three to five years: 1/3 reduction If the period of service if over five years there is no reduction.


7. Checklist of items to include in an Unlimited Term Contract.
Under the UAE Labour Law, an unlimited term employment contract must, as a minimum specify:
the date of its conclusion;
the date on which work begins;
the nature of the work;
the workplace;
the amount of the remuneration.

5 Web-Development Elements Startups Shouldn’t Overlook

5 Web-Development Elements Startups Shouldn't Overlook

A website is a company’s digital hub for information, as well as a point of contact between them and their audience. A strong website filters in quality leads for conversions and optimises a viewer’s journey for actions. It may sound simple, but startups often overlook the subtleties that make Web Development an art. An Entrepreneur may be content with a sleek landing page, but is that landing page specifically accomplishing what their website objectives entail?

Effective Web Development & Web Design encompasses each element of the design and coding process to create a coherent user experience. Here’s 6 Web-Development elements that startups and entrepreneurs shouldn’t overlook when creating and maintaining their websites.

  1. 1. Website Speed
    In terms of user frustrations and pain points, website speed ranks as the most important variable in determining how a viewer reacts to a webpage. Windows for attention, especially on digital platforms, are becoming shorter and shorter due to the sheer volume of activities being digitised. As a startup, you want to ensure that you leave a positive first impression in terms of efficiency. If a viewer feels as if a website is taking too much of their time then they may become frustrated. That impulse reaction could negatively effect their perception of that brand and associate it with tardiness. Startups should regularly do speed and health checks on their websites to ensure the pages are operating smoothly, and optimise the website elements for a faster speed if the performance is inadequate.
  1. 2. User-Friendly Website Design
    Web design is more than just the look of a webpage. Intelligent web design takes into account a user’s viewing journey alongside the objectives and purpose of the website. If a website intends on generating leads, it should be designed and optimized for conversions. Conversely, if the aim of a website or landing page is to increase sign-ups, the viewer’s journey should be modified in a way to engage them into finding out more information. Whilst a website should most definitely look appealing, the key for entrepreneurs is to understand how to creatively turn their desired viewer’s journey into an efficient and aesthetically pleasing process. The content of a website can be informative and effective but if a website’s design isn’t suitable, it renders the content null and void as viewers may not consider the content credible if it isn’t presented well. Effective design elements always have a purpose. As a web designer, you should be able to answer why you’ve included specific design elements and their specific purpose, rather than “it’s there because I think it looks nice”.
  1. 3. Great Content
    The adage is “Content is King”, and this is profoundly true. Regardless of the objective of a website, it can never have too much content. The more relevant content a website has, the better it is for both the viewer, and Google, to understand what the business does and what their values are. Conversely, a website shouldn’t have too much varied content. For example, if a website for a business about organic clothing includes content about organic clothing, environmental benefits, and style guides, such content is relevant and will boost a website’s credibility. However, if the same website were to include a large portion of content for organic food, this may confuse both the viewer, and Google, about the purpose of the business and the website. Startups have to find the right balance for relevant content to ensure their main message is still heard louder than their supporting messages. The aforementioned example of an organic clothing startup could still mention thought leadership and opinions on environmentally sustainable efforts as it aligns with their mission. Nevertheless, this should not overshadow their core content, organic clothing, which should be at the forefront of their messaging.
  2. Sometimes entrepreneurs are enamoured by the prospect of having a mysterious website to tease their viewers into finding out more. This strategy does not work for new businesses as they don’t have an established brand, hence the viewer wouldn’t have a clue as to what the information, or lack thereof, would relate to. When starting a new business, an entrepreneur should always clearly state the aims, objectives, and offerings of the business to make clear to the viewer how and why they may benefit from the product or service.
  1. 4. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
    Content can make or break a website; content that’s optimised for search engines can make or break an audience. Google ranks websites on their search results based on how relevant the website’s content is compared to the user’s search terms. This is why it’s important to be descriptive rather than vague or mysterious when it comes to a website’s approach to content. Startups can prepare for SEO by brainstorming and listing relevant search-related keywords, and building their website content around these keywords. Google also ranks websites based on the volume of relevant content they include. The more a website includes these keywords and phrases, the higher the chance of it being displayed higher on Google’s search results. Writing thought leadership content to post on a website blog is also a great way to build a website’s volume of content and improve SEO, as well as engage viewers with informative written pieces. Having a torrent of content that’s optimised for search engines makes it more likely that a website will attract its target personas as it improves their digital visibility and credibility.
  2. Content isn’t the only factor that boosts SEO, elements such as heading tags, as well as alt-tags, greatly benefit how Google reads webpages. The H1 header should contain targeted keywords, ones that closely relate to the page title and are relevant to the page’s content. Think of heading tags as a hierarchy based on importance. Alt tags are HTML attributes that determine how Google reads an image, since Google can’t physically view an image, it relies on alt-tags as a description of the image to then place it in Google Images. Using alt-tags effectively, especially for startups focusing on e-commerce, helps startups gain exposure through relevant image searches. It is also beneficial to use meta descriptions to summarise web pages for Google’s reference. Meta descriptions should give Google an idea of the content on a specific webpage, otherwise Google would have to translate and interpret a page’s content itself. Search Engine Optimisation isn’t difficult, however it is time consuming and a continuous process. Using effective SEO is the only way to be found organically through Google, and is a cost effective method to yield results.
  1. 5. Staying Up-to-Date
    It’s important for a website to keep evolving with the times. A website that may have been appropriate and achieved its objectives a couple of years ago may not have the same effect today. Likewise, a website designed today might not have the same effect in the future. Updating the design of a website, along with its content, will preserve a business’s online perception in the eyes of it’s users. Additionally, content should also be regularly updated if there are changes within the organisation. Startups should regularly update their websites with new projects they have worked on, blog posts on new ideas, and even potentially news updates. Updating a website to adapt to a contemporary landscape conveys a perception of proactivity and forward-thinking to your target audience.



  1. As an entrepreneur, you may have had an idea or concept of some or maybe all of the above elements and how to use them to your website’s advantage. However, it is imperative to use these web development elements in unison with each other to create a coherent experience. Having a plan and strategy for how to address the aforementioned elements will ensure that a website sustains its relevance and fulfills its objectives, which will in turn lead to user satisfaction as well as add intrinsic value to your brand. If a startup can’t afford to address these aspects of web development themselves, they should consider outsourcing to a digital agency, because as mentioned earlier, an ineffective website could do as much harm to your business as having no website at all.


6 Key Steps a Startup Can’t Afford to Get Wrong

The beginning and early-middle stages of developing a startup can be an exciting, albeit unpredictable period. During these times, it’s vital that entrepreneurs secure their long-term interest in their venture by ensuring they have prepared for every stage of their development; from their business plan, to recruitment, and growth. Fortifying the backbone of a startup by drafting unerring legal documentation, preparing diligent financial planning, and using effective marketing strategies is a long-term investment – not a cost.


Startups in Dubai are a dime-a-dozen, and most ventures often fail due to a mixture of poor preparation and execution. Even the word ‘entrepreneur’ is used so liberally that mentioning the phrase without that certain spark in your eyes often results in skepticism.  With the market being saturated beyond imagination, how can a startup avoid pitfalls, grow as a business, and not become just another statistic?


  1. Writing a Strong Business Plan, and Continuously Re-evaluating it


It’s essential for Business Plans to be well thought out and actionable. Successful entrepreneurs understand their objectives and have a vision of where they aim to be, however, they also have a realistic roadmap of how to get there. A good business plan fits the business need. Business Plans created for investment can differ drastically from business plans intended for inter-organisational reference. The former may be heavy on have sales objectives, selling an idea, team, and a market, to investors. Conversely a business plan intended to manage the company doesn’t have to polish and present the company to outsiders, and instead focus on operational information. These Business Plans clearly define responsibilities for implementation, to identify people who will be responsible for every significant task and function.


Entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid of seeking help and advice on their business plans – especially if this is their first venture. It’s important to gain knowledge and perspectives from individuals with more expertise, or with experiences in different business areas. Hiring a management consulting firm or a trusted individual consultant will benefit you greatly should you feel like you need assistance in setting up your startup.


Lastly, an entrepreneur should always re-evaluate their business plan. This is important because business plans are based on assumptions, and assumptions can often be wrong. Business plans are live documents and should be reassessed and evaluated continuously. The benefit of this is being able to document any knowledge or experience gained that can affect your business, such constructive feedback, if any obstacles are met along the way, or if startups decide they may need to pivot.


  1. Drafting Airtight Corporate and Commercial Agreements


An imperative element of ensuring a smooth and successful business process is through infallible legal documentation and agreements. This is essential throughout every step a business takes as every stage can require additional agreements and contracts. When forming a company, an entrepreneur needs to ensure that investor agreements and partnership agreements are all-encompassing to avoid internal disputes. Additionally, during the operational stages, a business should implement secure supplier and vendor agreements to safeguard their interests.


Startups must consider Labour Law in the UAE when hiring individuals to avoid overpaying for an employee in the future. This is vital as employers need to fully understand and explain what their employees are entitled to, both in terms of national laws and their contracts. Furthermore, businesses need to also understand the rules and procedures for hiring and firing employees so they can’t be liable for wrongful onboarding or termination. With regards to limitations on spread of information, confidentiality and intellectual property are especially important for startups in technology industries or services dependent on a unique selling point. Entrepreneurs need shield their offerings from intellectual property theft, especially considering the lack of shielding for intellectual property locally in the UAE. Confidential information should be protected both internally and externally through the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements and Intellectual Property agreements where applicable.


It is crucial that a business ensures their documentation is in compliance with UAE laws. Many startups in the UAE are run by expats who may not fully understand the intricacies of UAE laws. Investing in the correct legal advice and documentation from day one may save time and resources down the line by being able to foresee and plan for avoidable issues and disputes.


  1. Realistic Financial Planning


During the initial stages of a startup, allocating your funds effectively is a determining factor for success, or early liquidation. When businesses track their income and expenditure, they’ll be able to monitor how they’re using their capital and resources and determine if their processes can be optimised.


One of the most important aspects of financial planning is setting up emergency funding in case anything goes wrong. More often than not, startups tend to spend too much cash when they start earning, which ruins the already set financial plan and leads to additional funding being spent on keeping the business afloat. An effective financial plan takes this kinds of situations into consideration and helps business owners save for real emergencies.


With effective bookkeeping, either in-house or outsourced, an entrepreneur can focus on what they’re best at and let a professional handle their books and file their tax returns (VAT). Efficacious accounting and financial planning will save a business money in the long term and also allow for realistic financial projections, feasibility studies, and evaluating a startup’s valuation at multiple stages.

  1. Investing in the right Marketing Channels


There are a variety of ways startups can choose to market their products or services. Each marketing channel can be effective depending on the nature of the startup, as well as the marketing budget. If a business anticipates that their marketing budget will be relatively low. One of the best ways to market is to avoid marketing altogether; instead, create a system that lets your customers do the marketing for you. Consider the fact that people are four times more likely to buy a product when it’s referred to them by a friend. Whilst more traditional marketing channels such as sales, outdoor promotion, print and television ads are still beneficial depending on the type of good or service, digital marketing presents a more cost effective avenue towards getting a target personas to engage with a startup.


With each passing second, digital marketing becomes slightly more important. Getting found online is crucial in today’s business landscape. An expensive, yet highly effective method to generate leads online is by using pay-per-click advertising (PPC). PPC Advertising is expensive when targeting high-traffic keywords, however if a startup startup fits into a niche, the cost could be significantly lower. With PPC ads, success depends largely on how much is spent on a given ad campaign, along with effective audience targeting. Another key element of a startup’s digital arsenal is social media marketing. Whilst not something that can be done casually, social media offers businesses an avenue to be personable and engage with their audience. The more you engage with your audience, the more brand value and loyalty you build.


Consumers also regularly search for their needs online, and being amongst the top Google search results by utilising effective Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is an excellent way to get exposure at a minimal cost. This can be done by optimising your website with the relevant keywords your target personas are likely to search for. Another cost effective method for gaining sales online is Email marketing, with some sources claiming a return on investment (ROI) of 400 percent or more. As long as a business has a good mailing list (organically curated, rather than bought), and a steady but non-invasive stream of outgoing email blasts, startups should see a significant return on any investment into their email marketing.


  1. Knowing the Value of Interns


An internship is a two-way process. While the business will benefit from the skills and working hours put in by the intern, they also need to provide knowledge, training, and guidance to someone on a full-time basis. If an intern requires specific training, this can take time away from staff members as the intern learns their responsibilities. To get around this, it can be a good idea to make use of a shift planner to ensure that the intern doesn’t take away too much time from one specific staff member.


The benefits of having an intern in a business are the fresh perspective that they bring, and their work ethic. If you manage to find the right fit, one of the most valuable assets that an intern can bring to any business is their enthusiasm; someone who is working as an intern should be doing everything in their power to earn themselves a full-time position by the end.


When deciding whether or not to hire an intern, a startup should ask themselves what the purpose of an intern would be. If the objective is to build an employee’s understanding of your business from the ground up, and have them grow with the business in the long-term, then hiring an intern would be a great option. However, if the focus is on getting immediate results with a short-term requirement, then onboarding a service provider may be a better option. This is so a startup can receive professional quality services while saving time on training a new employee.


  1. Outsourcing Intelligently


Whilst some startups have the luxury to be given carte blanche with their budgets, many others are often incredibly price conscious. Depending on a startup’s budget, an agency or consultancy firm of any size might seem like a costly option. The way some businesses circumvent this issue is by outsourcing internationally to countries where services are generally offered at a cheaper rate.


This may be more beneficial in terms of cost, but it may not be entirely cost effective.. There are questions to be raised in terms of the quality of the service that would be received, along with the return on investment. Whilst price isn’t always indicative of a service’s quality, there is likely a reason as to why some organisations offer services at such a low price. It’s up to an entrepreneur to analyse whether or not they understand the value of what they’re receiving at that price as opposed to solely looking at price as a defining metric. Outsourcing internationally can also be time-consuming as offshoring business functions can lead to barriers in communication, a lack of understanding, and culture clashes. Scheduling a one-on-one with an offshore partner could become a nightmare depending on factors such as time zones and their response times. It’s also much harder to be on the same page and develop an understanding on both sides because of these communication barriers.


Outsourcing locally could be a costlier option, but startups must consider the value of having onboarding within close proximity. If you can partner with a firm who understand your values, culture, and goals, it makes the operation process much easier and saves time. This would also make communication more frequent and thus reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings.


In summation, there are a plethora of steps that entrepreneurs need to look at getting right during the vital early-stages of a startup. Mistakes can and will be made along that timeline, however it is in their benefit to plan as carefully as possible, and also be proactive in their approach towards adapting to change. You can never be too prepared, and by paying attention to the six elements outlined above, a startup can set the foundation for sustained growth and smooth operations in the long-term.


This post is a part of a series of informational blog posts on our V7 Group blog. Watch this space for more posts by our experienced and enthusiastic team members as we aim to assist you on your journey towards succeeding with your venture.



7 Essential FAQs About Annual Leave: UAE Labour Law

7 Essential FAQs About Annual Leave: UAE Labour Law

Annual leave rights, rules and provisions can be found in Articles 74 to 81 of Federal Law 8 (1980) of the UAE Labour Law.


Questions relating to annual leave in the UAE are commonly asked and rightly so. It’s important that employees keep well informed about UAE labour laws and how they can comply with the rules and regulations correctly when taking their leave.


Here’s what you need to know:


  1. As an Employee, What are your Leave Entitlements?

As an employee, If your period of employment is greater than six months but less than a year you are permitted to a minimum of two days paid leave for each month you’re employed. Should the employment period be greater than one year, an employee is entitled to 30 days of paid leave annually as per UAE Labour Laws. This annual leave may include public holidays and/or weekends that fall within the aforementioned 30 days, however this policy is at a company’s discretion. It is also dependent on an employer’s policy as to if additional leave days are given to employees.


  1. Which Official Holidays are UAE Employees Entitled to?

As an employee in the UAE, you are entitled to an official holiday, with full wages, for the following public holidays:


New Year: (1 January 2020)


Eid Al Fitr: (29 Ramadan-3 Shawwal)


Arafat Day: (9 Dhu al Hijjah)


Eid Al Adha: (10-12 Dhu al Hijjah)


Hijri New Year: (23 August)


Commemoration Day: (1 December)


National Day: (2-3 December)


  1. Are Public Holidays Included in the Calculation of Annual Leave Days?

Yes. A period of annual leave will include official holidays or “sick days” specified by employee contracts, agreements, and laws, that fall within the period of the annual leave.


  1. What is Payable to an Employee during their Annual Leave?

At the very least, employees should be paid their basic wage plus housing allowance, if applicable.


  1. Who Determines the Duration and Start-date for the Annual Leave?

An employer maintains the right to decide when an annual leave begins and also reserves the right to divide the annual leave into two sections at their discretion. Additionally, based on working requirements, they can also keep an employee from getting whole or part of the annual leave. However, under these circumstances if the annual leave has not been carried over for the following year, then an employer must pay the employee their wages in addition to a leave allowance for the days they worked – which is equal to their basic wage.


Nevertheless, an employer can only defer annual leave once in two consecutive years and must still pay the employee the annual leave wages. Therefore, no employee is required to work during their annual leave for more than one instance in a two year period.


  1. When Should Annual Leave Wages be Paid?

Employees should be paid their full wage before they have taken their annual leave, along with the wage of the leave days they are entitled to, as in accordance to the provisions in UAE Labour Laws.


  1. Is an Employee’s Services are Terminated are they still Entitled to Payment in Lieu of Leave?

An employee is entitled to receive their wages for annual leave if their employment is terminated, or if they stopped working after the notice period determined by law. The employee will be entitled to receive any remaining wages for annual leaves that they have not received. This will be calculated on the basis of the wages they received at the time when the leave was due.

It must be noted that many of these answers can depend on an individual company’s policy. The points mentioned above are in accordance to the UAE Labour Laws as a bare minimum for Employee Rights that every company must comply with, however, many organisations have more specific rules and agreements. We encourage you to enquire about what your employer’s policies are regarding annual leave.

We hope this post has answered any queries you may have had concerning Annual Leave in accordance to UAE Labour Laws. If you have any other questions regarding Employee Legal Services, please feel free to contact V7 Legal using the forms on our website!