The Dubai Islamic Economy Development Center (DIEDC), Dubai Airport Freezone Authority (DAFZA) and Technolera, have launched an incubator to nurture start-ups and SMEs with an Islamic economy and Halal proposition.
Known as Goodforce Labs, the incubator intends to support these entities toward a US$50 million annual revenue target while achieving measurable social impact.
“We at Goodforce Labs believe that the Islamic economy’s vision and ultimate purpose aligns with the growing global trend on social impact investment,” shared Rafi-uddin Shikoh, the director of Goodforce Labs and managing director of DinarStandard. “According to Global Impact Investing Network, there were US$22 billion invested in impact investing assets, including early-stage startups growing 20% in 2017. Very little of such investments has occurred in the MENA region.”
At least 400 Islamic economy-focused start-ups have been established over the last five years, estimates Goodforce Labs.
The incubator is adopting a foundry model: channeling resources to assist start-ups to start, manage and develop their business through a host of services including design, marketing, operations management and provision of technologies. In exchange, Goodforce Labs would be taking an equity position in the companies in addition to a fee for its services.
Main criteria for admission to the program is to be involved in the Islamic economy and to demonstrate positive social impact. The emirate has identified seven pillars of the Islamic economy: Islamic finance, Halal industries, Halal tourism, the Islamic digital economy, Islamic art and design, Islamic economy standards and certification, and Islamic information and education. Finance, food, education and the lifestyle sectors are a priority for the incubator.
The first cohort include: Waqf 2.0, a cloud-based platform managing Islamic endowments; iWealth, a digital tool for financial literacy for the youth; e-platform Growmada; Zileej, a company specializing in disciplined entertainment products; Smart Halal, an e-learning platform for Halal and ethical food industry professionals; and Rabia Z, which designs modest women fashion.
The incubator is advised by Abdulla Al Awar, CEO of DIEDC; Amna Lootah, the assistant director general of finance, commercial and customer relations of DAFZA Innovation & Future Unit; Rafi-uddin; Amir Nicholas Lodge, an investment specialist; Aamir Rehman, the founder and former director of Fajr Capital; and Sayd Farook, an advisor to the prime minister of the UAE.