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Qatar’s Startup Scene | Part 1

Qatar's startups scene has evolved since 2011 bolstered by consistent government support in terms of financing, amending legislation and incentives. Currently the ecosystem includes an accelerator at QSTP, two government-funded incubators, entrepreneurship centers at local universities, training and certification programs, televised competitions, generous awards, meet-ups community, regular high-level seminars and speakers series.

Unprecedented support dedicated to an area very critical for economies with depleted national resources seeking to diversify and transform into knowledge-based. Few industries have even taken the initiative to set sector-specific clusters at existing incubators as in telecom and tourism. The government has announced 3 billion QAR fund to support SMBs and startups (to support Qatari-owned enterprises). If you look at the technology startups scene since 2011, we notice a lot of companies established focusing on building apps and solutions in e-commerce, games, content, media, health services, design, fashion, education, crowd-sourcing and social media. Noticeably, some SMEs has opted to experiment with e-commerce platforms. There is a growing cluster of SMEs in digital marketing - but mostly conventional service providers for government and big enterprises. No doubt, it is a healthy competitive environment in spite of the absence of funding vehicles following the seed phase particularly for non-Qataris who obviously must have full-time jobs to secure monthly incomes beside working at their startups as side ventures. Many have asked me on whether they should establish a startup in Qatar or Dubai. Well, Dubai is appealing to most young Arabs aspiring to achieve their dream. And clearly there are concerted efforts undertaken to set the right ecosystem for startups, SMBs and hosting new ventures from all over the world. However, in my view, Qatar has a key advantage for startups. Its small market-size presents an advantage for home-grown startups to test and know if the product is market fit - a litmus test to be passed by startups. Once the startup scales into a grown business, will automatically be looking for expansion cross-border to the neighboring markets like the UAE or Saudi Arabia. Regional investors and venture capitals have become reachable through networks like Wamda, Magnitt and others. The Ministry of Economy and Trade has also taken measurable steps to amend some of the laws and regulations towards ease of business to help small companies and home-owned businesses to get established and hopefully continue and grow. At least the automation of application to open a new business have been streamlined which made the process more transparent and familiar. Recently, and as part of new venture as company owner, I have been frequently visiting the new industrial area and seeing the development and expansion in the infrastructure and the buildup of the economic zones. This will immediately make you recognize the real and viable support provided for SMEs and enterprises. In this series of blogs, I intend to highlight the journey of some technology-based startups established in Qatar since 2012. Some of them, I know their founders personally and have witnessed their success, failures and exit strategies. Some have become serial entrepreneurs and others became businessmen. Hopefully in the future we see an innovation Index for digital startups in Qatar.

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