Qatar-based startups are increasingly capturing the attention of backers who recognize the value of new tech ventures
Instead of investing in overseas property portfolios or shares, more people in Qatar are joining the growing number of ‘angel’ investors in local startup companies.
That’s according to Yosouf Saleh, Executive Director of Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), who says these investors are often the first to back upcoming entrepreneurs with product ideas – and that while such investments carry risk, they also offer some of the biggest rewards.
For the country’s future, private investors need to join us and support Qatar’s best new young talent with exciting ideas.
Speaking about the network of support, and range of initiatives, that QSTP – part of Qatar Foundation Research, Development, and Innovation (QF RDI) – offers to tech innovators, Mr Saleh said: “At QSTP, we have many young Qataris with huge potential that we are helping to develop their product.
“For the country’s future, private investors need to join us and support Qatar’s best new young talent with exciting ideas. Local angel investors have started to build a community, and they are growing fast.”
Investors in startups based at QSTP also benefit from significant existing investments in the innovation ecosystem that have been made in the 10 years since it was established, helping them to potentially grow faster and find international markets for their products.
Our strengths are our international business and research partnerships. Coupled with the research facilities available at Education City, we have an entire ecosystem of students, research labs and end users.
Since 2009, 108 companies have been based at QSTP. More than 30 commercialized products have been introduced to the market, derived from research and development at QSTP, and several advanced knowledge discoveries have been made at the science and technology park in collaboration with its partners. Meanwhile, QSTP has also supported regional companies by investing in over 115 companies across 12 countries in the MENA region, exchange for an equity stake in their business.
“Our strengths are our international business and research partnerships,” says Mr. Saleh.
“Coupled with the research facilities available at Education City, we have an entire ecosystem of students, research labs and end users all brought together in an enclosed physical space where we can incubate a venture, assure that it is not developing duplicate technology, provide seed financings and counseling and offer the best environment in the region to create real value. We have all the right tools right here.”
In addition to incubating young entrepreneurs, QSTP hosts the research and development operations of multinational companies in the fields of energy, information technology, healthcare and aviation. Partners include Cisco, ConocoPhilips, General Electric, Microsoft, Rosneft, Shell and ExxonMobil. These partnerships are continuing to make a significant contribution to the growth and diversification of Qatar’s economy.
“We have already developed technologies and technical applications that have entered the market,” said Mr. Saleh. “I think QSTP has helped develop an innovation mindset in the people of Qatar.
“Part of that mindset is for private investors to take part in backing the young entrepreneurs alongside the other programs that help them bring their inventions to market.”
As well as giving them the opportunity to be next to some of the world’s best researchers in those industries, QSTP offers new tech entrepreneurs a range of incentives and support. “In addition to free space at QSTP we also offer access to grant funds, and, for more mature companies, access to the new Technology Venture Fund, helping companies scale and expand internationally,” explained Mr. Saleh.
“Most importantly, we connect them with the ecosystem. Researchers in the RDI institutes [based within Qatar Foundation’s Education City] are an example. We also help them network with the global innovation ecosystem, through connections with Silicon Valley and through the , as well as access to mentorship with global entrepreneurs who come to Qatar.”