Starting a Business in UAE – Part 1

According to, it takes 6 procedures, spanning across 8 days, to start up a business in the UAE. When all the required documents are available, and all shareholders/signatories are within close proximity, 8 days is truly what it takes to setup a functional business out here. Unfamiliarity with the local business terrain delays this procedure, and hence the major reason why most new businesses go with an agent for guidance. But if you fancy the intimacy of birthing your business with your own hands, sit back, grab some Arabic dates, and enjoy the ride through our most recent office set up adventure for the Nordic Innovation Hub. In part 1 we will cover some of the procedures and documents required for your business setup:

  1. Location: The aim for a location should be one that optimizes business objectives, convenience and costs. As the concept behind the Nordic Innovation Hub is to create a soft landing zone for Nordic clean tech companies in the region, we went with Masdar City Free Zone; a pioneering carbon neutral city, with a cluster of clean tech companies located within the premises. Typical Free Zones in the UAE offer a package, which includes trade licenses, an office space and utilities. So it is more like a one-stop–shop where you get all you need at the same location. Note that the Free Zone route is just one out of multiple options available to setup in the UAE. Details about the other available options can be found here. If the Hub were not being registered in a Free Zone, we would have had to source for a suitable location and get in a lease agreement with the landlord of the property. The Department of Economic Development (DED) would inspect this property during the license approval process so it is of your interest to ensure your inspect it in accordance with the DED’s requirement prior.
  1. Name Reservation: Most entrepreneurs already have a name before reaching a decision to incorporate, so this step is usually a pretty straightforward one. However, be prepared to present an alternate name incase your first choice is already taken. Also, be aware that the UAE is a reserved country so do not to include offensive or controversial words in your business name, as these would be immediately rejected. Country names, word repetitions and names of already established brands would also not be approved. We originally went for Nordic Innovation Incubator but this was rejected as the Masdar City Free Zone is internally called the Masdar City Incubator; having incubator in the business name would have been a classic case of word repetition in the address.
  1. Trade License Application: The application process for the license basically entails the identification of license categories required by the business. Be careful to select the exact number and classes of categories required so you don’t end up with a license, which your business can’t operate under or pay too much for licenses your business does not require. The main business activity the hub was designed for is to give business assistance to incubatees in the clean tech industry. This falls under the Business Consultation license category, which is the license the Nordic Innovation Hub is currently running under.
  1. Business Plan: It only makes good business sense to have a plan that outlines what your business does, who its main customers are and projections for the future. It’s also handy to have it in place as you will need it while applying for your license.
  1. Board Resolution: The Board Resolution is a one page document that states the decision to establish the company, its name and location, who the shareholders are and the percentage of shares. It also states the names of the Directors and who is appointed as the General Manager of the company.

Part 2 of Starting a Business in the UAE can be found here!