What are the top startup ideas emerging in the Middle East?

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The Middle East and North African region have witnessed drastic paradigm shift in the recent years, leaning more towards favorizing and supporting small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs. The region holds great potential as the number of entrepreneurs is growing due to the promising startup ecosystem. Governments have also played a role in attracting funds and encouraging investments.

For those of you looking to start their own business, we’ve put together five popular ideas with real life examples to show you what’s worked, hoping you can draw inspiration from the success stories.

Is it the ideal time to start?

You may have asked yourself this question before: Is now the right time to start my own business in the region? To help you decide, here are some recent facts and statistics related to the startup ecosystem:

  • Recent research by MAGNiTT revealed that the region now has over 3,000 startups.
  • 404 investment deals took place in the Arab world in 2018, which marked a new record, up 13% from 2017. Total funding was also up 31% from 2017, highlighting continued growth.
  • The first quarter in 2019 saw $156M total investment in 93 deals, as well as the first unicorn exit in MENA region.

Today, there are world class opportunities as governments across the region continue to focus on and support entrepreneurship. The world has noticed the rapid growth in the startup ecosystem from accelerators to incubators and startup programs that emerged throughout the region. This has led to a number of serious investments in the Middle East’s startup ecosystem across various industries including e-commerce, fintech, digital media, transportation and even cryptocurrency.

Trendy and popular startup ideas

Are you ready to explore some startup ideas for inspiration? We’ve compiled examples of successful startups for you.

Food & Beverage

The Middle East is a region of 22 countries, and each country proudly presents its cuisine. Whether it is the street food in Egypt, fine dining experiences in the UAE or innovative food carts that you’ll find scattered all over the region, people indulge in food.

Since Dubai is a melting pot for different cultures, it offers great opportunities for new businesses in the food and beverage industry. This isn’t only Dubai, either — countries all over the region have seen a wave of startups that specialize in home cooked meals and food delivery, for example. As people work from nine to five, the time available to prepare a home cooked meal from scratch becomes challenging for families.

breadfast startup website homepage

Breadfast from Egypt provides a platform to order breakfast and fresh products and have it delivered to your home or office every day. In addition to serving delicious home cooked meals, they have collaborated with a delivery company to distribute the dishes for them, right to their customers’ doorsteps.


According to a report titled “E-commerce in MENA: Opportunity beyond the hype”, the e-commerce market today stands at $8.3 billion and could grow by 3.5 times to reach a total market size of $28.5 billion by 2022.

 The wave of e-commerce has spread around the world and has not spared the MENA region. According to the report, electronics, beauty and personal care have the penetration level close to what’s seen in developed e-commerce markets, whereas fashion and grocery still lag behind.

E-commerce is a growing sector worldwide, but currently almost 90% of online goods bought in the Middle East are still shipped from abroad. This shows that there is even more potential for profit in the MENA region.

namshi ecommerce website

The e-commerce business is lucrative — take the example of Souq that was acquired in 2017 by Amazon and is now amazon.ae. This deal has paved the way for different e-commerce platforms to launch in the region like Noon, SHEIN and Namshi. Selling products from over 800 brands and positioning itself as “Your no.1 online fashion destination,” Namshi also has a rewards program that offers several benefits including promotions tailored to the shoppers and discounts on every purchase.

Cleaning services

just mop cleaning service dubai

Gone are the days of trying to find the phone number of a trustworthy person that provides cleaning services. Nowadays, in a few minutes and with a couple of clicks you can book a cleaning service. Justmop from Dubai offers cleaning services as well as laundry services in addition to full-time maids and furniture cleaning.

Health and fitness

Leading a healthy lifestyle and working out regularly is an ongoing trend in the region that – we hope – won’t end anytime soon. We’ve witnessed the emergence of several personal trainers, CrossFit arenas and nutritionists in the region due to the increase in demand for fitness related businesses. There are several successful health and fitness startups like BeFit 360 that started off as a six-week transformation challenge and is now a leading fitness entity.

be fit 360 startup fitness

Health and fitness businesses take different shapes and forms like online coaching, training either in groups or one to one session or creating customized fitness and nutrition programs. Some of them also prepare precooked healthy meals and sell them online for fitness enthusiasts or sell fitness gear and supplements to the professionals. The industry offers many opportunities, you can choose the business model and idea that suits you.

Related: Personal trainer in Dubai: Nicky fitness helps you achieve your goals 

Shipping and courier business

How many times have you needed someone to pick something up for you? Probably more than once! The need for courier and shipping companies is very high especially in the fast-technological world that we live in. There are businesses in the region who have seen and answered to that demand, and the startup HitchHiker is an example that took shipping to the next level.

hitchhiker startup shipping courier

HitchHiker provides a platform that connects shoppers with travelers. So, you can buy all you need from anywhere and ship it with a traveler already heading that way. This way shoppers save money shipping and travelers make money traveling. Brilliant, right?

Launching an online identity for your startup

I hope these examples will inspire you while you’re trying to come up with your own business idea. In addition to a brilliant, ground-breaking idea, you’ll notice that all examples have one thing in common: an up-to-date website and a strong online presence, which are essential for success at this digital age.

Small businesses and startups may think that launching an online identity is costly and requires technical knowledge. This might have been the case in the past, but there are currently easy-to-use options like GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing . With this tool, you can create your digital identity in less than an hour without prior technical knowledge. Of course, naming your brilliant idea will be your starting point, so you can purchase the domain name and start building your brand. And in order for you stay on brand, your designs have to all follow a few certain patterns and what sets those patterns is your logo, it might sound scary and costly to either get a designer to do it for you or try and learn on your own but that is not the case, GoDaddy offers you a logo creator free of charge with hundrads of customizable templates to help you stay on brand.

It’s certain that starting your own business is no walk in the park; it takes preparation, thought and the courage to face challenges. GoDaddy has the tools to help you launch the online identity of your business to help you reach more customers and turn your idea to reality. You can also view GoDaddy customers’ stories for inspiration.


Image by: Kaleidico via Unsplash

Selina Bieber
Based in Dubai, Selina heads up commercial strategy for international markets at GoDaddy and is currently an Advisor at Blatform.io, a business as a software company operating in the crypto-economy. Before joining GoDaddy, Selina headed up media relations across Europe for a large-scale energy project headquartered in the Netherlands and was on the agency-side leading marcomms activities for the likes of Facebook, Verisign Inc and Euler Hermes. Selina grew up in Australia, studying international studies and media at the University of Adelaide, before moving to Istanbul and completing a Master’s Degree in Political Science. She is now doing a Doctorate in Business Administration at ISM and also holds a CIM Level 6 Diploma in Professional Marketing. With English as her mother tongue, Selina additionally speaks Turkish and German.