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Reportedly, Qatar has a $100M fund available for startups.

At the recent Web Summit, Qatar introduced its startup investment program through its development bank. The program targets seed- and growth-stage tech companies looking to set up or grow their operations in the country. Eltrys has discovered that the program, named the “Startup Qatar Investment Program,” receives support from a $100 million fund managed by Qatar Development Bank (QDB).

QDB announced that the program will provide funding of up to $500,000 for early-stage startups aiming to establish a presence in Qatar and up to $5 million for growth-stage companies looking to expand their operations in the Middle East. In addition, the development bank emphasized that, in addition to financial assistance, it will offer portfolio startups opportunities to access markets and expertise. According to the website, the program focuses on startups across more than 15 sectors, such as fintech, clean tech, agritech, B2B SaaS, health tech, marketplaces, proptech, AI and ML, and robotics.

QDB CEO Mr. Abdulrahman Hesham Al Sowaidi highlighted the efforts to establish Qatar as a leading startup hub, with a focus on the tech sector. “Our goal is to attract and retain talents in various fields to support the entrepreneurship ecosystem, foster innovation, and accelerate technology adoption across all domains to contribute to a sustainable and business-friendly economy,” Al Sowaidi stated.

Qatar’s startup program is in line with the strategies used by venture firms such as U.S.-based Alpha Wave Global. They are in charge of Alpha Wave Incubation, a $300 million early-stage fund that receives support from ADQ, one of Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth funds. Throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), venture funds in the region require startups from outside to set up a secondary office in their areas to receive funding and other business benefits for expanding operations in the MENA and GCC regions.

Similar to other venture ecosystems, these venture capital firms’ limited partners, particularly sovereign wealth funds in the Gulf, set many of these requirements. Last week, the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar announced a $1 billion venture capital fund of funds focused on international and regional venture capital funds.

Qatar’s introduction of its fund of funds and startup program marks a significant move in enhancing its tech ecosystem to compete with neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE. There is a clear sense of urgency, as data from the emerging markets data tracker Magnitt shows that Qatar accounted for only 6% of deals in the MENA region last year, with venture capital investment in its startups totaling just 43 million Qatari riyals (~$11 million) in 2023. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia represents 52% of the region’s deals, with the UAE leading in deal volume.

Having more competition in the area adds to the region’s benefit. In the previous year, the MENA region saw a 23% decrease in venture capital activity, while the global average was 42%. In this context, Qatar’s increased involvement in venture capital, led by its sovereign wealth fund and development bank, presents a positive outlook for the wider region, with 55% of investors supporting startups being local last year.

Juliet P.
Author: Juliet P.

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