Robbie Maltby

October 2, 2023

Dubai Diaries: A Lens on Entrepreneurship

Arriving in Dubai a few days ago to visit my sisters and their families, I was once again struck by how convenient the city is.

Everything is orderable by app.

Almost everywhere is about 30 minutes drive from everywhere else. (Although, if you miss a junction, it can easily double your journey time, turning a quick errand across town into an extended road trip!)


- Photo by David Rodrigo.

Outside is hot, but inside is perfectly air conditioned.

People at home in Scotland often look at me strangely when I say I’m going to Dubai. They hear stories of workers being taken advantage of. They perceive cruelty, inhumanity, and a lack of sustainability — but that’s not a clear picture.

A good friend of mine started Enviroserve many moons ago, and they are now trailblazing in the region’s sustainability movement - one of only 6 plants like this in the world.

New financial well-being companies like FinFlx and Pyypl are popping up, helping the less advantaged get ahead.

Everyone I speak to (including delivery and taxi drivers) earn around 3-4X their wage compared to what they would earn in their home country - often supporting large families and feeling very proud of their work.

It’s a different picture than what’s often painted, right?

Sure, issues with migrant workers being treated unfairly exist.

But does the government want this? Absolutely not. It’s terrible for business.

Dubai’s only been around for 50 years but they’re arguably progressing faster than anywhere else - with the pace of life being a mixture of fast ‘and’ slow

You’ve got the city buzz and the classic business dealings feel, coupled with the suburbs and family life — marked by busy weeks and long, relaxing weekends, which now officially start at lunchtime on Friday.

The vibe here is one of looking forward, of what could be, and what’s to come. People are excited. Anything is possible.


And this perspective always gets me thinking about my own entrepreneurial journey, and those of others I know.

Whether it’s startups, freelancers, or mentors, there’s a unique energy they all have. Always on the look out for ways to catalyse change.

I do worry I might be a bit like the pied piper though, so one piece of advice I keep going back to is: don’t jump into freelancing or entre/solopreneurship on a whim!

It’s much better to transition to a company that’s more flexible, whether with working hours, holidays, remote work, or just a more relaxed culture in general than going solo without a predictable income stream and a plan.

In fact, making a move to a better FT position often alleviates the pull towards freelancing (at least for a while) as people reclaim some of their life back.

I’ve been helping people with that recently.

But the pull towards a more balanced, flexible work life is real. And sometimes, a slight shift in our current situation is all we need to ignite or reignite that entrepreneurial spirit

I’m only in Dubai for a few weeks this time, celebrating my sisters’ newborn twins, and soaking up some sun for the Scottish winter.

But I’ll make the most of it while I’m here, collecting fresh perspectives, enjoying family time, and gearing up for more entrepreneurial ventures that lay ahead.

About Robbie Maltby

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