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How to set up a mobile app company in the UAE

Jul 12, 2018 | UAE Company Setup

It’s incredible to think that it is nearly ten years since Apple coined the now much-quoted phrase – There’s an app for that – in its marketing for the iPhone 3g. At the time it was already hard to argue against the company’s claim that there was an app for every occasion. It is now impossible.

The mobile app market has boomed in the last decade with the App Store and Google Play Store now boasting millions of downloadable apps to help you hail a cab or track a flight; monitor your sleep, diet and exercise regime; or read books or listen to music – and practically everything in between.

The broad plethora of apps represents big business. Global app downloads reached 175bn in 2017, thanks in no small part to huge growth in emerging markets such as China, India and South America. In the same year, consumer spending on apps reached USD 86bn. Revenue figures are higher still; expected to reach USD 189bn by 2020.

Here in the UAE, the app market is even more inviting. Why? Because the Emirates boasts the highest rate of smartphone penetration anywhere in the world. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the country’s tech- and business-savvy population, some 82% of the nation’s estimated 9.5m residents owns a smartphone. The UAE also leads the way in app downloads in the MENA region with over 50% of smartphone users having downloaded more than five apps.

The huge popularity of smartphones, and their accompanying apps, has not gone unnoticed in the region. August sees the arrival of the HostApp Summit in the UAE. The summit – the region’s largest mobile application exhibition and conference – will showcase the latest developments and opportunities in the world of mobile applications.

The huge popularity of smartphones, and their accompanying apps, has not gone unnoticed in the region.

Setting up a mobile app business in the UAE

Another reason why the UAE presents a great opportunity for those wishing to tap into the mobile app market is the ease with which it is possible to set up an app building company here. If you’re intrigued by the app market, are planning to attend HostApp, or better yet, are ready to start your app business here in the Emirates, here’s everything you need to know.


Free zone or mainland? As mobile app businesses are usually seen as “virtual” – i.e. the app can be built and then traded from anywhere in the world – there is no UAE mainland licence on offer for this type of company. Therefore, mobile app businesses must always be registered in free zones.

Choosing a free zone: Setting up in a UAE free zone brings with it many benefits: 0% corporate and personal tax, 100% company ownership, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, and 100% import and export tax exemption, to name just a few. However, while all free zones offer these advantages, some are a better fit for mobile app companies than others. Due to the nature of the free zone, Dubai Internet City (DIC) is the most suitable. However, set up costs here can be quite high. For those looking to save on upfront costs, Fujairah Creative City Free Zone is a more affordable option.

Getting set up: Whether you choose to set up in Fujairah Creative City or DIC, the process is incredibly straightforward. However, DIC does require additional paperwork – this includes a detailed business plan and a certificate of incorporation, along with the passport copies and application form that is required by both. Fujairah Creative City on the other hand is generally light on paperwork and bureaucracy and does not require any share capital, an annual audit or any formal bookkeeping.

Flexible office options: Both DIC and Fujairah offer flexi-desk packages. These allow business owners to make use of office facilities such as desk space, meeting rooms, reception cover and call screening on an ad-hoc basis without the need to commit to physical office space. Fujairah Creative City also offers freelancer and single owner packages, which provide entrepreneurs with a fast and easy way to get their businesses up and running, with little commitment, no office space requirement and minimal startup and overhead costs.

Set up with multiple shareholders: Dubai Internet City and Fujairah Creative City are both popular with businesses both large and small, thanks in part to their flexible shareholder criteria. Both free zones allow for company formation with more than one shareholder – these can be both individuals and corporates.

Apply for multiple visas: Both free zones allow you to apply for multiple visas under their respective flexi-desk packages – up to six in the case of Fujairah Creative City. For those looking to take on physical premises as well as obtaining visas for employees, DIC offers the opportunity to apply for one visa per eight square metres of office space.

For those looking to take on physical premises as well as obtaining visas for employees, DIC offers the opportunity to apply for one visa per eight square metres of office space.

Sponsor dependants with ease: As well as offering a straightforward process for applying for your own visa, both Fujairah Creative City and DIC make it easy to obtain visas for your dependants as well. Whether you require a visa for a spouse, child, maid or driver, the process is four straightforward stages: entry permit, status adjustment, a medical fitness test, then Emirates ID registration and visa stamping. As this is such an important process, it’s a good idea to get advice from an expert in setting up UAE free zone businesses – to ensure that before starting an application, both you and those you are hoping to sponsor meet the entry criteria.


The road to happiness

The UAE’s incredible business environment coupled with an abundance of smartphone owners makes the opportunity on offer here much more enticing than anywhere else in the world. And the best part is, it’s open to all with the requisite skills.

All you need is some mobile app knowhow and the drive to start a business, and the rest is easy. The entire company formation process is so straightforward that it can often be completed in a matter of weeks, requiring no more than a few hours of your time and some basic documents. In some cases, it may even be possible to register your business without visiting the UAE.

Setting up your own business has never been easier. Virtuzone takes care of it all so you can focus on what matters – building your business. For more information about company formation in the UAE mainland or free zones, please call us on +971 4 457 8200, send an email to info@virtuzone.com, or click here.

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