Qatar Foundation alumnus co-founds Qatar’s first online platform to connect aspiring entrepreneurs with local partners and investors
A major roadblock for many entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Qatar is the need to have a Qatari partner as mandated by the law. “For as long as I have lived in Qatar, I have heard stories of premature death of ideas. Whatever the idea may have been, the cause of death is almost always the same: the inability to find a partner or an investor,” says Haitham Al-Haidar, a Qatar Foundation alumnus.
But for Al-Haidar it wasn’t just a case of listening to people complain. He decided to help them – through Shareqe.
Shareqe, which means “my partner” in Arabic, is a newly launched online platform founded by two young expats, Haitham Al-Haidar and Yasmin Kassem. As the name suggests, the purpose of the digital platform is to connect expat entrepreneurs with local partners and investors.
“Listing an idea on Shareqe is absolutely free. When an idea is listed, investors and partners are alerted of a new potential opportunity. If they are interested in the idea, they notify the idea owner. This is when he/she pays a small fee to access the interested party’s details and contact information. Imagine that – giving your idea visibility and access to numerous investors and partners with the click of a button. It really doesn’t get easier than this!”
Al-Haidar explains the reason the fee has been put in place is to filter out serious ideas from non-serious ones. “If someone is not willing to pay a fee of less than US $100 to pursue their idea, it shows a lack of commitment or seriousness.”
The opportunities for firsts in Qatar are unlimited. Even if you replicate an existing idea with a good business plan, your chances of success are high
A quick visit to www.shareqe.com and it’s obvious there is no dearth of ideas. The platform was launched in October 2020 and in a little over a month, more than fifty business ideas have been listed, and more than 30 Qatari partners and investors have expressed interest in the submitted ideas.
Submitted ideas range all the way from sci-fi inspired cleaning robots to AI solutions for healthcare, pet food boutique, sports nutrition, concept stores, film production company and conventional audit tax firms.
“When we launched, I did not expect such a response, it’s clear we have hit a nerve. The interest is not just from new startups, it’s also from established businesses looking to expand to Qatar. The opportunities for firsts in Qatar are unlimited. Even if you replicate an existing idea with a good business plan, your chances of success are high.
Right now, all we need is commitment, innovation will follow. When the market gets filled with traditional ideas, it gives birth to disruptive ideas
“Right now, all we need is commitment, innovation will follow. When the market gets filled with traditional ideas, it gives birth to disruptive ideas. That is what we need to do – fill the market with traditional ideas first, and innovation will be sure to follow,” Al-Haidar says.
It doesn’t look like the pandemic has slowed down budding entrepreneurs in the least.
“If anything, it looks like there has been a boom of ideas in the past six months. The barrier to becoming an entrepreneur right now is the lowest it's ever been. The best time to make an investment is when the economy is at a low, as this ensures maximum return on investment. COVID-19 means the cost of starting something is cheaper than before, and when the market recovers, the gains will be much bigger,” Kassem says.
Al Haidar’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to take that leap of faith. Identify a gap in the market, work on developing a solid business plan and just do it, he says. “Failing is not a problem, not trying is. My other startup, Modaris – an online tutoring platform – went from having four tutors to 16,000 employees in a few years. The reason for its success is not because it's unique, far from it actually; it succeeded because we identified a gap in the market and had the courage to attempt to fill that gap with a good business plan.”