New startup incubator Goodforce Labs launched today in Dubai with a focus on pushing Islamic startups and SMEs towards earning $50 million in annual revenues.
The incubator was launched by Dubai Airport Freezone Authority, Dubai Islamic Economy Development Center and Technolera. Its focus on making Islamic startups successful on a global scale places it in a lucrative market—A 2016 report by Thomson Reuters found that food and lifestyle expenditure within the global Islamic economy was $1.9 trillion in 2015 and is expected to grow to $3 trillion by 2021. Islamic banking and finance assets hit $3.45 trillion in 2015, with projected growth to $6.2 trillion in 2021.
Yet Islamic SMEs are facing down a lofty challenge—a 2014 IFC study found a potential Islamic SME financing gap of up to $13.2 billion in nine countries across the region.
“We believe SMEs play a pivotal role in stimulating the economy in general, and their growth is an indicator of Dubai’s and the wider UAE’s socio-economic development in the post-oil era,” said Abdulla Mohammed Al Aawar, CEO of Dubai Islamic Ecenomy Development Center, in a press release announcing the incubator launch.
But the incubator also has a focus on social impact—Director of Goodforce Labs Rafi-uddin Shikoh noted that he believes “that the Islamic economy’s vision and ultimate purpose aligns with the growing global trend on social impact investment.”
“The success of Islamic economy stems from its capacity to attract emerging companies and entrepreneurs that specialize in responsible production, knowledge, science and modern technologies,” Shikoh added.
Startups that have joined Goodforce Labs include Growmada, an e-platform for handicrafts from developing countries, Waqf 2,0, a cloud-based platform to manage Awqaf, and Smart Halal, a learning platform for Halal food industry professionals.