UAE: DAFZA launches Goodforce Labs, the first Islamic and global social impact themed startup incubator

| 27/02/2018 | Reply

Dubai Airport Freezone Authority (DAFZA) announced the launch of Goodforce Labs, an innovative startup incubator focused on transforming ethical startups in the fields of Islamic economy and Halal industries into global success stories. The incubator will work to revitalize the Islamic ethical economy utilizing a deep venture building platform. This will be achieved by selecting a group of startups and small and medium enterprises and support them towards a USD 50 million in annual revenues and measurable social impact.

The new incubator was launched with support from DAFZA, one of the leading free zones in the world; Dubai Islamic Economy Development Center, which is responsible for bolstering Dubai’s position as a world capital of Islamic economy; and Technolera, a leader in building partnerships and drawing capitals for startups, a global organization dedicated to enhancing ethical practice in business.

The Goodforce Labs was launched in a special event attended by Nasser Al Madani, DAFZA’s Assistant Director General; Amna Lootah, Assistant Director General – Finance, Commercial & Customer relations Division Foster of DAFZA Innovation & Future Unit; Saeed Kharbash, Deputy CEO, Dubai Islamic Economy Development Center; and Rafi-uddin Shikoh, Director of Goodforce Labs and CEO and Managing Director of DinarStandard, along with a group of entrepreneurs, Islamic economy experts, and investors. This launch is in conjunction with UAE Innovation Month.

The incubator seeks to help startups and corporate intrapreneurs in starting, managing, and developing their businesses into global social impact driven companies.  Goodforce Labs also provides services for companies seeking to start and develop their businesses, including design, marketing, operations management, and providing the latest technologies, all in order to achieve the goals of financial growth and social impact.

More than 400 startups have focused on the ethical Islamic Lifestyle Economy proposition that was launched five years ago. Since then, an ecosystem of more than 2,500 companies has been established within this field.  Most Islamic economy startups, which are part of this wider ethical market, face many problems and struggle to grow and survive, with the absence of growth in income being chief among the difficulties and challenges facing them.

Commenting on the event, Nasser Al Madani, Assistant Director General of DAFZA, said: “Hosting Goodforce Labs confirms our pivotal role as an essential and active partner in bolstering Dubai’s position as a capital of Islamic economy and enhancing its position as a global hub and a reference point for best criteria and innovations in all its sectors.  This incubator will be pivotal in supporting Islamic industries, developing the Halal sector, and spreading the Islamic lifestyle which encompasses culture, arts, and family tourism around the world.”

Meanwhile, Amna Lootah, Assistant Director General – Finance, Commercial & Customer relations Division Foster of DAFZA Innovation & Future Unit, added:  “This initiative enhances the goals of DAFZA’s strategy for Islamic economy, which is in line with the ‘Dubai, Capital of Islamic Economy’ strategy, as it seeks to develop the various sectors of its economy to achieve its potentials and support the economic diversification policy of the UAE, in addition to creating an environment that encourages innovation, sustainable investment, and true development, in order to support the economic principles in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah which govern Islamic economy.”

For his part, Rafi-uddin Shikoh, Director of Goodforce Labs and CEO and Managing Director of DinarStandard, said: “We at Goodforce Labs believe that the Islamic economy’s vision and ultimate purpose aligns with the growing global trend on social impact investment.  According to Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), 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. With this context we are introducing a first of its kind incubator with a foundry model that takes a hands on sustained partnership with select startups while focused on global social impact.  We have to thank our strategic partners, mainly DAFZA and Dubai Islamic Economy Development Center, which provide full support and the necessary expertise in the domain of investment and in developing Islamic economy in the region in the world, which boost our confidence and enables us to achieve our goals.”

Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre, said: “The Goodforce Labs initiative complements our strategic efforts in supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and emerging companies with a view to leveraging the growth potential of investments in the Islamic economy. 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.”

He added: “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. Their prosperity reflects positively on the Islamic lifestyle sector, drives sustainable development and helps accelerate Dubai’s journey to become the capital of Islamic economy.”

The work of Goodforce Labs covers an assortment of active global ethical economy sectors, mainly from food, finance, education and lifestyle sectors. The incubator, which is the first of its kind in the region and the world, will work to overcome obstacles facing startups, allowing them to grow and expand in international markets, transforming Islamic ethical economy sectors into global sectors that reach ethical and Islamic markets and are governed by justice, transparency, and credibility of products and services. The higher goal of this initiative is enhancing Islamic ethical economy startups to become globally competitive, in addition to transforming local products into international products with significant social impact and influence.

A number of start-ups have already joined the incubator. They include: Growmada, an electronic platform for selling handicrafts from developing countries; Waqf 2.0, a cloud-based platform for managing Awqaf; Zileej, a company specialising in disciplined entertainment products; Rabia Z, which designs modest women’s clothing; iWealth, a digital tool for financial literacy for the youth; and Goodfood Institute, an e-learning platform for Halal and ethical food industry professionals.

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