Unprecedented number of startups apply for DIFC FinTech Hive’s latest accelerator programme

Unprecedented number of startups apply for DIFC FinTech Hive’s latest accelerator programme
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▸ 620 global, regional and local applications received for the fourth cohort of the annual accelerator programme
▸ Concepts and solutions presented include FinTech, InsurTech, RegTech and Islamic FinTech


DIFC FinTech Hive, the first and largest financial technology accelerator in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, has attracted an unprecedented 620 global, regional and local applications for the signature programme.

The 620 applications for the intake, exceeds the previous record of 425 applications, received in 2019. The applications represent an exceptionally broad range of concepts, submitted by an impressive pool of talent which reflects DIFC’s reputation for nurturing financial innovation.

Specialisms include FinTech, InsurTech, RegTech and Islamic FinTech. Key technologies within the submissions include contactless payments, digital identification, corporate solutions including treasury management, credit-underwriting automation, data management and analytics.

30 per cent of applications were from UAE based firms, demonstrating a strong pipeline of financial technology talent within the Emirates. 46 per cent came from the MENA region and 24 per cent were received from global firms.

Indian FinTech firms were well represented, accounting for 17 per cent of applications. India has become a leading market for FinTech development by value and investment.

Almost two thirds of applications were from start-ups in the pre-seed stage, whilst almost one third (29%) were seed stage. This indicates sustained interest in Dubai and DIFC from new entrepreneurs and early stage start-ups, supporting the Centre’s vision to drive a strong innovation pipeline.

Across the applications, 45 per cent were start-ups in the Minimum Viable Product stage. These start-ups are attracted by the DIFC FinTech Hive’s framework which will help them validate their growth potential and enable them to prove value hypotheses early on in the product development lifecycle. Validation will also help them explore potential sources of funding. Prior to joining the programme, options for funding are often limited for some start-ups, with many relying on their own investments, friends, family and a small number of investors.

Since the launch of DIFC FinTech Hive in January 2017, the hub has grown to become a leading centre of innovation globally, supporting the Centre’s efforts to transform the future of finance. More than 50 per cent of all FinTech businesses in the Middle East and North Africa now operate from DIFC. The first half of 2020 saw DIFC FinTech Hive triple in size with the opening of a larger space in Gate Avenue supporting start-ups, scale-ups and entrepreneurs.

The DIFC FinTech Hive programme is managed in partnership with Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB), First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), HSBC, Emirates NBD, Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC), Visa, Wall Street Exchange, Standard Chartered Bank, Mashreq Bank and Emirates Islamic Bank (EIB).

Selected participants will benefit from support, business guidance and mentorship from more than 30 ecosystem partners, comprising of data firms, funding partners, technology companies and strategic advisors, business associates and community partners such as Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP), Wamda, Global Ventures, IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates LLP, Clifford Chance, Grant Thornton, PwC and more.

Commenting on the announcement, Raja Al Mazrouei, Executive Vice President of DIFC FinTech Hive, said,

“The record number of applications for the fourth cohort of DIFC FinTech Hive demonstrates the depth of talent, quality of concepts and the business maturity that is present in the UAE and regionally. Our enabling infrastructure, fit-for-purpose-regulation, subsidised licensing and access to some of the world’s pioneering financial institutions are amongst the reasons why start ups look to DIFC for growth.”

The DIFC FinTech Hive accelerator programme includes an intensive, competitive application process. Selected businesses participate in a 14-week curriculum, providing a springboard for seed and pre-seed start-ups to expand in the MEASA region.

During the programme, successful start-ups will unlock opportunities to develop, test and modify their innovations in collaboration with top executives and world-leading financial institutions from DIFC’s dynamic and robust ecosystem.


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