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

12 min read
Selina Bieber

The Middle East and North African region have witnessed a drastic paradigm shift in recent years, leaning more towards favoring 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 your 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.

What does being a startup mean?

A startup is like a newborn baby with an entrepreneurial twist. It's a newly established company formed by one or more startup founders, who are ambitious and passionate about bringing a new product or service to life. These founders embark on a rollercoaster journey filled with early-stage challenges, venture capital hunts, and the ultimate quest for product-market fit. Think of it as the "Goldilocks" of business: finding the perfect sweet spot between pricing, product, and market demand.

While the path of a startup founder can be thrilling, it's not for the faint-hearted. It requires dedication, courage, and creativity. Imagine being an artist who not only creates a masterpiece but also manages to sell it to a global audience! That's what startup founders do: they design, develop, and deliver a viable product or service that can scale up and revolutionize industries.

The secret sauce to a startup's success often comes from various ingredients: angel investors and venture capitalists adding a dash of financial support; mentors sprinkling in wisdom and guidance; and partnerships providing the perfect blend of resources and expertise. But, don't forget the cherry on top: GoDaddy's exceptional suite of products and services, which can help startups set up a powerful online presence and secure a memorable domain name.


However, not every newborn startup will grow up to be a unicorn. In fact, many startups fail due to a lack of funding, poor business planning, or simply not finding the right product-market fit. This is why it's crucial to have a solid business plan, a healthy bank account, and a supportive network of mentors and investors.

Now, if you're an aspiring entrepreneur, you might be wondering: where can I find the top startup ideas emerging in the Middle East? Well, look no further than this article where we'll delve into some exciting startup ideas and highlight how GoDaddy can support your entrepreneurial journey from MVP to global success. So, strap on your seatbelt, grab your co-founder, and get ready for a wild ride through the Middle East's thriving tech startup scene. And remember, when it comes to launching your startup, GoDaddy is the trusty sidekick that's always ready to help you take your business to new heights!

What does a startup do? step by step

Let me guide you through the exhilarating startup journey. Think of it as a thrilling board game, with each step bringing you closer to the ultimate prize: a successful and thriving business.

  1. The Idea: It all begins with a "Eureka!" moment. Co-founders join forces and hatch an ingenious plan for a new product or service. It could be the next big thing in machine learning or a podcast that'll take the world by storm.
  2. The MVP: Armed with their brilliant idea, startup founders develop a minimum viable product (MVP). This early-stage prototype is like a sneak preview of a blockbuster movie: it offers just enough to intrigue investors but leaves them wanting more.
  3. The Business Plan: Like a treasure map, the business plan charts the startup's path to success. It outlines the market, pricing strategy, and partnerships while identifying potential pitfalls, like Captain Hook lurking around the corner.
  4. The Funding Hunt: Bootstrapping? Crowdfunding? Venture capital? Founders weigh their options and set sail in search of financial support. With a healthy bank account, startups can weather the storm and keep moving forward.
  5. Metrics & Feedback: Founders turn to the compass of metrics to stay on course. By analyzing data and gathering feedback, they can fine-tune their product and inch closer to the coveted product-market fit.
    Related: Top 20 crowdfunding platforms of 2019
  6. Scale Up: Success! The startup is ready to expand, opening up new markets and reaching more customers. But growing can be a tightrope walk, and it's important to strike the right balance between scaling up and maintaining quality.
  7. Partnerships & Alliances: As the startup grows, it forms strategic partnerships, like a band of pirates joining forces to rule the high seas. These alliances help startups tap into new markets, share resources, and enhance their product offerings.
  8. Continuous Improvement: A startup never stops evolving. Founders are always seeking ways to improve, whether it's adopting the latest tech trends, like blockchain, or adapting to changing market conditions.

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 startup companies.
  • 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 of 2019 saw a $156M total investment in 93 deals, as well as the first unicorn exit in the 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.

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

(1) 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 them 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 customer’s doorsteps.

(2) E-commerce

According to a report titled “E-commerce in MENA: Opportunity beyond the hype”, the e-commerce market today stands at .3 billion and could grow by 3.5 times to reach a total market size of .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 a 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 which 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.

Related: How to start selling products online? A selling online guide

(3) 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, you can book cleaning service in a few minutes and with a couple of clicks. Justmop from Dubai offers cleaning services as well as laundry services in addition to full-time maids and furniture cleaning.

(4) 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 are now leading fitness entities.

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 sessions, or creating customized fitness and nutrition programs. Some of them also prepare pre-cooked healthy meals and sell them online for fitness enthusiasts or sell fitness gear and supplements to 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 

(5) 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 that 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 in 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 to 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 hundreds 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 into reality. You can also view GoDaddy customers’ stories for inspiration.


What are the 4 types of Startups?

Let’s discover the top 4 types of startups in 2023. Picture yourself as an explorer, venturing through a bustling bazaar, where each industry represents a vibrant and unique stall.

  1. E-commerce Emporium: In this digital age, e-commerce startups are flourishing like a virtual oasis. With GoDaddy’s online store and website builder, even the most novice entrepreneurs can set up shop and showcase their wares in the global digital marketplace.
  2. Food Service Fiesta: Craving success? Foodservice startups, ranging from quirky cafes to gourmet catering companies, are dishing up delicious profits. GoDaddy’s appetizing domain names help these culinary wizards cook up a memorable online presence that leaves customers hungry for more.
  3. Professional Services Pavilion: In the bustling bazaar of business, professional service startups, such as legal, accounting, and marketing firms, act as invaluable guides. These medium-sized enterprises support private sector growth and SME development, with top consulting firms like Deloitte cheering them on from the sidelines.
  4. IT and Software Development Den: Enter the realm of tech-savvy startups, where innovative solutions are coded and crafted to revolutionize various industries. GoDaddy's website builder and support services empower these digital pioneers, ensuring their cutting-edge creations shine brightly in the digital universe.

As you explore the diverse landscape of startups in 2023, remember that GoDaddy is your trusty sidekick, providing the tools and resources to help your business thrive. Whether you're an e-commerce mogul, a food service aficionado, a professional services guru, or an IT whiz, GoDaddy is here to support your entrepreneurial journey every step of the way. So, pack your bags, fasten your seatbelt, and join us as we embark on this exhilarating adventure through the world of startups!

Remember, GoDaddy‘s got your back when it comes to creating and growing your SME online. So why wait? Skip to content and start building your dream business today!

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