In March-April 2022 many Russian IT specialists left their home country. According to some estimates about 170,000 programmers have relocated to neigbouring Armenia, Georgia and Turkey while some have preferred to go further and have choses Dubai as their new base.
Some specialists say business uncertainty in Russia accelerated their plans to relocate to the UAE. There they could establish new entities and secure funding from local funds and entrepreneurs. Others chose to join Russian companies that had previously opened their offices in Dubai, such as cyber security firm Kaspersky.
"We always had Russian tech talent coming here, but now they are just pouring in, and it's going to be a positive for the ecosystem," says Abdul Wahab al-Halabi, an Emirati entrepreneur and long-time Gulf investor.
In March many news outlets reported that these were wealthy Russians, including some oligarchs, who flocked to Dubai. However, Russian tech specialists are expected to influence the Emirati tech ecosystem much more than rich investors.
Among those who have choses Dubai as their new home are many crypto professionals. Ralf Glabischnig, founder of Crypto Oasis, a Dubai-based group assisting blockchain and crypto startups establishing in the UAE, says out of the 39 companies he signed up in March, about 10 came from Russia.
This comes at a time when the UAE tries to become a new global crypto hub. This year many crypto exchanges have established their new offices in either Dubai or Abu-Dhabi including Binance, Bybit, Crypto.com and, just a couple of days ago, Kraken.
“Lots of really good Russian developers in blockchain and crypto are coming to Dubai and its helping the industry”, says Glabischnig.
The influx of Russian IT specialists can hugely change Dubai tech scene and accelerate its drive towards becoming the next Silicon Valley.