Qatar’s growing startup ecosystem has been enjoying the support of government-led venture capital (VC) and seed funding for many years, in addition to VCs from various international companies from abroad. However, the country has also been seeing the formation of new investment bodies from the local private sector, which call for more private sector-led venture investments to support Qatar’s growing startup ecosystem.
For years, the Qatar Development Bank’s (QDB) Qatar Business Incubation Centre (QBIC), the Ministry of Transport and Communications’ (MoTC) Digital Incubation Centre (DIC), as well as the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) and the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) have been providing seed funding to the country’s growing number of entrepreneurs.
However, according to startup expert and Founder Chairman of venture and growth capital platform 360 Nautica Dr Tejinder Singh, the establishment of private sector-led incubators, accelerators and investment funds in Qatar shows the advancement in the country’s startup ecosystem.
“Creating an investment is a very important element in the whole ecosystem. In any developed country, you’ll see the government is more of a regulator. The government is very good in terms of building the community and building the ecosystem or backbone of the whole development. But the private sector has to play its role.
“There are zillions of ideas in Qatar at this point of time. There’s so much going on. Qatar is a fast developing country and it has got a long way to go. And I’m sure it’s going to be more exciting in the coming five years,” Singh said in an interview with The Peninsula recently.
He added that 360 Nautica, which owns popular brands like Q Tickets and BPO Plus, plans to launch one of the first private sector-led incubator and accelerator programmes in Qatar. The company also plans to introduce angel funding, crowd funding, as well as VCs to support the country’s startup ecosystem.
To facilitate the growth of startups in Qatar, the country needs a regulatory framework for establishing private sector venture funds, said Marwan Marouf, Partner at Doha Tech Angels (DTA).
The DTA, a Qatar Financial Centre-registered Angel Fund which was launched last year, is Qatar’s first private Angel Fund that is focused on providing seed funding for early stage technology startups in Qatar, the Middle East, and beyond. The team comprises of a private network of 15 investors who are experienced angel investors, strategy consultants, and C level executives.
“At least in Qatar, we need a regulatory framework that helps establish private venture funds. A lot of our funds are given by the QIA which is very sophisticated. But there is a missing spectrum, which is a private investment capital fund which can be registered with the QFC. I believe this is important.
“We are seeing a lot of funds coming to Qatar, but there isn’t a local fund (from the private sector). And I hope we can bridge this gap at some point,” said Marouf while speaking at an Investment Forum organised by the QDB in Doha recently. He added that DTA has invested in about 10 companies, with around 30 percent of the fund invested in the Qatari market. The team has also invested in foreign markets like the US, Singapore, Oman, and other countries.
Mohammad Zebian, Program Manager of Acceleration at QSTP, which launched a $50m technology venture fund for startups recently, also agreed on the importance of establishing private-based funds. “It doesn’t always have to be led by government institutions. We have to leverage the private sector in general. I think the startup community needs to find a place of leveraging their startups to grow,” Zebian added.
Daniel Keiper-Knorr, Partner at leading European VC fund for tech startups Speedinvest, said VC is not the right remedy for every entrepreneur. “There is the sustainable growth path that doesn’t need excessive outside funding. In a startup ecosystem, the role of the government authority is providing the right legal framework. And the ecosystem becomes successful the more diverse and multifaceted it becomes as possible,” he added.