Qatar, the small yet thriving nation in the heart of the Middle East, has been fostering a vibrant startup ecosystem, nurturing innovation, and propelling its economy forward. With a vision to diversify the economy from its oil and gas dependence, the Qatari government has laid substantial groundwork for promoting startups, primarily in the fields of technology, finance, and sustainability. Thanks to its efforts, several exciting startups have been making their mark on the regional and global stage.
One such notable Qatari startup is Snoonu, which emerged in 2019 and has quickly gained traction as a personal concierge and delivery service. Its innovative approach to connecting consumers with their desired products and services has transformed the local eCommerce landscape. Additionally, Fi Technologies has garnered significant attention for offering a unique Wi-Fi platform, providing free internet access without ads across various public hotspots, such as parks, cafes, and clinics.
Meanwhile, Samam is focused on saving lives through its smart safety Internet of Things (IoT) system. By detecting and shutting off LPG and natural gas leakages, this startup exemplifies Qatar’s commitment to addressing real-world problems with innovative solutions. As Qatar continues to evolve into a hub for entrepreneurship, these startups and many more are set to thrive and contribute to the nation’s development.
Qatar’s Startup Ecosystem
Qatar Development Bank
Qatar Development Bank (QDB) plays a significant role in nurturing the country’s startup ecosystem. As part of its mission to diversify the economy and support innovative entrepreneurs, QDB has invested in various programs and initiatives that have helped accelerate the growth of startups in the country. Some of the bank’s key initiatives include:
- Providing financial support and investment to startup companies.
- Offering training and mentoring programs for entrepreneurs in collaboration with international partners.
- Supporting access to regional and international markets by giving Qatari startups a platform to showcase their solutions at prestigious global events.
Incubators and Accelerators
Various incubators and accelerators have emerged in Qatar to support startups and their development, offering services such as funding, mentorship, and strategic guidance. Examples of accelerator programs include:
- Qatar SportsTech: A specialized sports technology accelerator that supports startups in areas like performance analytics, fan engagement, and smart venues.
- Qatar FinTech Hub: A hub that aims to foster a vibrant FinTech ecosystem in the country, focusing on areas such as banking, financial services, and regulatory technologies.
Local and international entities, such as Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP) and the European Innovation Academy, further strengthen the startup ecosystem by facilitating collaboration and the exchange of knowledge between startups, investors, and other key ecosystem players.
FIFA World Cup 2022 Influence
The upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar has positively impacted Qatar’s startup ecosystem, creating opportunities for innovation and growth. It has driven demand for homegrown solutions in areas like smart city infrastructure, sustainability, and event management.
Qatari startups have responded to this demand by developing creative and technologically advanced solutions tailored to the event’s requirements. The World Cup has also served as a catalyst for increased investor interest and international collaboration, raising the global profile of Qatar’s startup ecosystem.
In summary, Qatar is making steady progress in growing its startup ecosystem, driven by efforts from entities like QDB, incubators, accelerators, and the influence of the FIFA World Cup 2022. As the country continues to diversify its economy, the MENA region can expect to see more innovative solutions coming from the vibrant Qatari startup scene.
Top Startups in Qatar
Snoonu is a fast-growing tech startup that received $5m (QR18.2m) Series A funding. This startup provides on-demand delivery services, offering users a seamless and convenient way to shop from various local stores, restaurants, and more through its mobile app. Snoonu’s strategic partner, Qatar Development Bank (QDB), led the funding, further validating this innovative company’s potential.
CWallet is a fintech startup focusing on providing a mobile wallet experience for users in Qatar. The mobile app allows for secure, cashless transactions without the need for a bank account. The company targets the unbanked population in the nation, making financial services more accessible to all.
Rimads is a healthcare technology startup that offers digital solutions for clinics, pharmacies, and individuals. This platform enables users to manage prescriptions and medications more effectively. By connecting and streamlining various healthcare services, Rimads plays a crucial role in making healthcare more accessible and efficient in Qatar.
Urban Point is an innovative mobile app that offers users exclusive deals and promotions on various products and services. From dining and entertainment to health and beauty, Urban Point covers a wide range of industries catering to diverse consumer needs. The app has grown in popularity within Qatar, bringing value and convenience to its users.
SkipCash is another fintech startup in Qatar, offering a mobile payment platform that is simple to use. Users can easily pay for various products and services using their smartphones, making cash transactions a thing of the past. SkipCash aims to make financial transactions quicker and more secure for the growing tech-savvy population of the country.
Droobi Health is a digital health startup leveraging AI and data-driven solutions to help individuals manage chronic conditions like diabetes and obesity. The platform offers personalized health plans, including meal planning, exercise routines, and health education, to empower users to take control of their well-being.
At-Home-Doc is another healthcare startup that connects patients with qualified doctors available for house calls. This service brings medical care right to the doorstep, providing convenience and peace of mind to users. By using modern technology, At-Home-Doc addresses an essential need in the healthcare system.
Sajdah is a unique startup developed as a smart prayer rug for the Muslim population of Qatar. The rug comes with an integrated app that offers instructional videos, prayer timings, and other essential features. Sajdah bridges the gap between tradition and innovation, catering to the diverse needs of the Muslim community in Qatar.
The Fintech sector in Qatar is witnessing significant growth, driven by the government’s efforts to diversify the economy and reduce dependency on natural gas revenues. In recent years, multiple FinTech startups have emerged, focusing on digital banking, remittance, and payment solutions. These innovations are aimed at streamlining financial services and improve the overall economic landscape in the country and are attracting funding from local and international investors.
Health and Wellness Startups
Qatar has observed an increased focus on health and wellness startups, with a prominent example being Droobi Health, one of the best tech companies in Qatar. This digital therapeutic product combines behavioral science techniques, data analytics, and AI to provide personalized support to people in building healthier habits and reducing their risk of developing chronic diseases. The HealthTech sector is expected to gain more traction in the coming years as consumer demand for digital health solutions continues to grow.
E-commerce and Delivery Services
In the realm of e-commerce and delivery services, Qatar has witnessed significant development, fueled by the proliferation of internet connectivity and the need for convenient, efficient online shopping experiences. Several startups have emerged to capitalize on this trend, offering a variety of products and services spanning various industries, such as fashion, groceries, and electronics. Qatar’s E-commerce landscape is poised for continued growth as entrepreneurs continue to launch innovative solutions and attract funds to support their ventures.
IoT and Data Analytics
The Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics sectors in Qatar are rapidly expanding, driven by a growing interest in smart city initiatives and the country’s strong infrastructure and investment in technology. Numerous startups are working on IoT and data analytics projects, developing innovative solutions that can help businesses, industries, and governments make informed decisions and optimize their operations. As the nation moves toward digital transformation, these sectors are expected to contribute significantly to Qatar’s economy and create new opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Funding and Investment
In recent years, startups in Qatar have attracted significant venture capital (VC) investment. In the second quarter of 2021, startups in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey secured funding of more than $1.2 billion, with startups from the e-commerce sector in Qatar accounting for approximately 60 percent of the total funding raised during this period.
Some examples of top tech startup deals in Qatar during YTD Q3 2021 are:
- Snoonu: $5 million (QR18.2 million) Series A funding led by its strategic partner, Qatar Development Bank (QDB).
Qatar Development Bank Initiatives
Qatar Development Bank (QDB) plays a crucial role in fostering domestic innovation and entrepreneurship. This is evidenced by their strategic partnerships and investments in local startups. QDB has consistently provided support to these startups in various sectors.
For instance, QDB led a $5 million (QR18.2 million) Series A funding round for Snoonu, an innovative tech startup in Qatar. This demonstrates QDB’s continued commitment to the growth and success of burgeoning businesses in the Qatari market.
Qatar Business Incubation Center (QBIC), an initiative by QDB, also offers promising startups a platform to pitch their innovative businesses to potential investors, thereby creating opportunities for networking and securing valuable investment deals.
In summary, startups in Qatar have successfully attracted VC funding, and initiatives led by the Qatar Development Bank are instrumental in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. As a result, various financing options are becoming more available for startups in Qatar, contributing to the growth of the local business ecosystem.
Challenges and Opportunities
Talent Attraction and Development
Qatar’s startup ecosystem has a focus on attracting and developing the right talent. In order to foster a sustainable and successful ecosystem, there is a need for skilled professionals from different backgrounds, including academia, science, and business. Qatar has laid a foundation for this through various educational and training programs, which aim to nurture talent and provide a workforce that can drive startups to success. However, competition among regional players and limited resources might pose a challenge to talent attraction.
A crucial factor for the growth of an emerging startup ecosystem like Qatar’s is the availability and quality of infrastructure. Doha, as the capital city, plays a vital role in providing access to facilities, services, and resources required for startups to thrive. Initiatives such as the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) offer a supportive environment for entrepreneurs by providing state-of-the-art facilities and opportunities for collaboration and networking. Ensuring the continuous development and improvement of such infrastructures can present challenges but also opens up multiple opportunities for startups in the region.
Embracing digitalization is essential for startups in the modern age. Adaptive and innovative technologies are being employed by Qatari startups to create cutting-edge solutions for various industries. Digitalization, however, can also bring challenges for startups in terms of rapidly changing technologies and keeping pace with the latest developments. Qatar’s focus on digitalization aligns with its broader national strategies, and investment in this area remains crucial for startups to excel and remain competitive in the global market.
Qatar faces regional competition in the startup landscape, with other countries in the Middle East investing heavily to establish themselves as startup hubs. Although Qatar has significant resources and the drive to build a strong startup ecosystem, competing with established markets like the United Arab Emirates and Israel can be challenging. To succeed in the face of such competition, Qatar must continue to leverage its strengths, such as access to capital, strong government support, and strategic location, to provide an attractive environment for startups to flourish and grow.
Collaborations and International Relations
Arab Innovation Academy
The Arab Innovation Academy (AIA) is a prominent initiative in Qatar aimed at fostering startup growth and international collaborations. With its focus on bridging the knowledge gap between the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and other global startup ecosystems, the AIA plays a pivotal role in nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Through educational programs, hands-on workshops, and exposure to international mentors, AIA equips aspiring entrepreneurs with the skills and resources needed to innovate and develop their ventures. The Academy’s efforts have yielded several notable startups from Qatar, such as Bonocle, a next-gen assistive technology device for the visually impaired.
MENA Region Partnerships
Qatar has actively pursued collaboration with regional partners to strengthen the entrepreneurship ecosystem and foster the growth of SMEs. Various institutions and organizations in countries like UAE and Jordan have engaged in strategic partnerships with their Qatari counterparts to support new business initiatives and knowledge sharing.
Some notable partnerships include:
- Qatar Development Bank (QDB): QDB has collaborated with regional institutions and governments to facilitate cross-border funding, knowledge sharing, and market access for Qatari startups. These partnerships extend to countries in the MENA region, including UAE and Jordan, among others.
- Qatar Chamber: This organization actively collaborates with regional chambers of commerce to promote entrepreneurship and business development opportunities in Qatar and across the MENA region.
- Invest Qatar: As a national initiative, Invest Qatar seeks strategic partnerships with key stakeholders in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond. These partnerships facilitate the growth and internationalization of Qatar’s startup ecosystem by connecting entrepreneurs to global markets, investors, and resources.
By engaging in regional partnerships and leveraging the expertise of international organizations like the AIA, Qatar continuously drives the growth and development of its entrepreneurship ecosystem, thus enabling Qatari startups to thrive in an increasingly interconnected global landscape.
The Future of Startups in Qatar
Qatar’s startup ecosystem has been growing rapidly in recent years, with a focus on attracting global startups and fostering local entrepreneurs’ talent. As part of the Qatar National Vision 2030, the country is investing heavily in entrepreneurship, business development, and innovation to reduce its reliance on oil and gas revenues.
One area where Qatar’s startups are making a mark is the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. Mobile app development, in particular, has been a thriving sector, with companies like Snoonu, a personal concierge and delivery service established in 2019, leading the way. By leveraging technology to enhance convenience and customer experience, such startups are driving growth and attracting attention from investors and venture capital firms.
In light of the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022, to be hosted by Qatar, the country’s startup ecosystem will undoubtedly benefit from increased global exposure and opportunities for activation and attraction. This focus on the event has the potential to generate new economic opportunities, further encouraging entrepreneurs to explore new business ideas and industries.
The food and beverage sector in Qatar is already seeing a noticeable surge in startups aiming to capitalize on the country’s growing culinary scene. Innovative concepts are being introduced, from new restaurants and cafes to catering services, food delivery platforms, and other unique dining experiences.
The future of startups in Qatar is indeed promising, with several factors contributing to the ecosystem’s growth:
- Business-friendly policies and regulations that support and construct an environment for entrepreneurs to thrive
- Access to funding through incubators, accelerators, and venture capital firms
- Developing technology infrastructure, enabling business operations to scale
- Networking and collaboration opportunities within the region and beyond
As Qatar’s startup scene continues to evolve, it will play a pivotal role in the country’s economic diversification, creating new avenues for business and innovation that will ultimately contribute to a sustainable and thriving economy.