Monday 26, February 2018 by Jessica Combes

DAFZA launches first Islamic and global social impact themed start-up incubator


Dubai Airport Freezone Authority (DAFZA) announced the launch of Goodforce Labs, an incubator focused on transforming ethical start-ups in the fields of Islamic economy and Halal industries into global success stories.

The incubator will work to revitalise the Islamic ethical economy utilising a deep venture building platform. This will be achieved by selecting a group of start-ups and small and medium enterprises and support them towards a $50 million in annual revenues and measurable social impact, as well as providing services for companies seeking to start and develop their businesses, including design, marketing, operations management, and providing the latest technologies.

The new incubator was launched with support from DAFZA, one of the leading free zones in the world; Dubai Islamic Economy Development centre, 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 start-ups, a global organisation 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 centre; 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.

“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,” said Al Madani.

More than 400 start-ups 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 start-ups, 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. 

“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 start-ups growing 20 per cent 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 start-ups while focused on global social impact,” said Shikoh.

Goodforce Labs covers an assortment of active global ethical economy sectors, mainly from food, finance, education and lifestyle sectors. The incubator will work to overcome obstacles facing start-ups, 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 start-ups to become globally competitive, in addition to transforming local products into international products with significant social impact and influence.

“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,” said Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre.



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