Establishing a tech start-up in ADGM

Establishing a tech start-up in ADGM

- Jessica Ashford

Establishing a tech start-up in ADGM

As the capital of the UAE, a major centre of commerce, politics and industry and a gateway to other markets in Europe, Asia and Africa, Abu Dhabi is an attractive place for entrepreneurs to set up a business. In particular, Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), located in Al Maryah Island in the heart of the city.

ADGM is an award winning, international financial centre, which has rapidly gained global acknowledgment for its cutting edge, progressive business ecosystem. It is quickly fulfilling its ambition to become one of the leading financial centres in the world and is an integral part of both Abu Dhabi’s and the UAE’s economic growth strategy.

ADGM offers a tech start-up business licence with numerous benefits and incentive packages for new, technology driven businesses with innovative commercial concepts.

It is open to entrepreneurs of any nationality, operating in any business sector that have a business model that utilises technology as the principal means to serve their customers needs and meet market demands.

The start-up must have the possibility of scaling regionally and/or globally and meet ADGM’s requirements and regulation remit.

The ADGM Tech Start-up Licence is not available for technology service providers and does not include consumer retail, manufacturing or other activities outside of ADGM’s jurisdiction, unless the company being set up meets the licensing requirements of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development’s (DED).

What are the requirements to obtain the tech start-up licence?

  • A technology-centred start-up that embraces innovation.
  • It should fulfil the ADGM start-up requirements.
  • It should have the potential to scale.
  • It should have current momentum or be at the prototype stage with tangible evidence of the company vision.
  • It can be launched in the UAE and promote growth of the local economy.
  • The company owner should have a detailed business model with clearly specified goals to enable progress to be assessed.
  • The company should comply with ADGM’s regulation remit and business structures.
  • ADGM tech start-up licence does not cover consumer retail, manufacturing or other activities outside of ADGM’s jurisdiction (Al Maryah Island), unless the start-up meets the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development’s (DED) dual licensing requirements.
  • The start-up must have at least one dedicated desk or office space and evidence of this should be provided by presenting an executed Lease Agreement or Membership Agreement.

What are the licence fees for the ADGM Tech Start-up Licence?

The business licence is divided into two categories. These are referred to as ‘seed’ and ‘emergent’. These classifications refer to the maturity stage of the start-up and the incentives are distinct for both.

Seed classification

  • Number of FTEs is between 1 and 10.
  • Time since first registration of the company in the UAE should not exceed 3 years.

Emergent Classification

  • Number of FTEs is between 11 and 50.
  • Time since first registration of the company in the UAE should not exceed 5 years.

The incentivised licence fee for start-ups at the seed stage is USD 700 pa and for start-ups at the emergent stage, the fee is USD 4,000 pa.

If a start-up is accepted into the seed category it will automatically transfer into the emergent stage in its third year of operation.

Benefits of the ADGM Tech Start-up Licence

  • Competitive licence fees for the initial 5 years of operation
  • 1.5 visas can be obtained for each desk space that the company has
  • The company will have eligibility to apply for a dual licence through the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development
  • The company will have the possibility of acquiring funding and equity-free subsidies through Hub71 (a tech ecosystem and community based in ADGM)
  • The company will have access to the Hub71 community and its accelerator programmes
  • ADGM is an independent jurisdiction with a globally recognised English common law framework

How do I apply for a Tech Start-up Licence?

You can apply via the ADGM Online Registry Solution website, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It provides services for business application, company name reservation, registration of a branch of a foreign company and incorporation of a private company limited by shares.

As well as helping you through the application procedure, it can offer you guidance and assistance on business plan requirements and preparation of the incorporation documents.

Additional costs and timeframes for approval of the business licence

Other expenses which must be considered are the costs of renting office space, visa costs, establishment card and other annual obligations such as data protection renewal, return filing and accounts filing.

The timeframe to obtain the licence is dependent on a number of elements such as the quality of the application, the comprehensiveness of the information provided, initial approval from the immigration authorities and the speed in which the applicant replies to any queries that may arise. As a general point of reference, 5 days is the average processing time.

How can PRO Partner Group help?

PRO Partner Group can advise you on whether the ADGM Tech Start-up licence is right for you and can guide you through the application process. We can also assist with all the procedures required to obtain a visa as the company owner or staff UAE resident visas for employees. If you need assistance on this or any other related company setup, restructuring, local partner or PRO support matter in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, the wider UAE, Oman or Qatar, then please do get in touch with us on +971 (0)4 456 1761 for Dubai, or +971 (0)2 448 5120 for Abu Dhabi, email us at info@ppg.ae or complete the contact form below and we will be delighted to assist you.

Get in touch with Jessica Ashford

Share this article

Expert Advice

Book a call with one of our company formation specialists.


Please enter a message


Meet the Pro Partner Group team,
a vastly skilled and experienced UAE team