Instead of overseas property portfolios or shares, more people are joining the growing number of ‘angel’ investors in local startup companies, according to Yosouf Saleh, executive director, Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), part Qatar Foundation Research, Development, and Innovation (QF RDI).
“These ‘angel’ investors are often the first to back upcoming entrepreneurs with product ideas, and while the investments carry risk, they also offer some of the biggest rewards,” he told Gulf Times
in an exclusive interview in connection with the 10th anniversary of QSTP.
QSTP executive director Yosouf Saleh
QF’s innovation hub at Education City, QSTP hosts research and development operations from multinational corporations to small private startups. Speaking as QSTP prepares a campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of supporting young tech entrepreneurs and Qatar’s innovation ecosystem, Saleh called on private investors to take a fresh look at companies close to home.
QSTP is home to many young Qataris with huge potential
Investors in startup companies based at QSTP also benefit from significant existing investments in the innovation ecosystem made over the past decade
An exterior view of QSTP at night
“At QSTP we have many young Qataris with huge potential that we are helping to develop their product,” the official said, referring to their network of support and initiatives. “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 startup companies based at QSTP also benefit from significant existing investments in the innovation ecosystem that have been made over its 10 years, helping the startup companies to potentially grow faster and find international markets for their products.
Since 2009, some 108 companies have worked at QSTP. More than 30 commercialised products have been introduced to the market, derived from QSTP research and development and several advanced knowledge discoveries were facilitated by QSTP in collaboration with its partners. In addition, QSTP supported regional companies by investing in over 115 companies across 12 Mena countries in exchange for an equity stake in their business.
“Our strengths are our international business and research partnerships,” says 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 research and development operations from multinational companies in energy, information technology, healthcare and aviation. Partners include Cisco, ConocoPhilips, General Electric (aviation and healthcare), Microsoft, Rosneft, Shell and Exxonmobil. These partnerships contribute significantly to growth and the diversification of the economy.
“We have already developed technologies and technical applications that have entered the market,” said 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 programmes that help them bring their inventions to market.”
In addition to being located next to some of the world’s best researchers in those industries, QSTP offers a range of incentives and support to help new entrepreneur.
“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 Funds helping companies scale and expand internationally,” said Saleh. “Most importantly we connect them with the ecosystem. Researchers in the RDI institutes are an example.” A few hundred metres west on the Al Luqta road are the homes of Qatar Computing Research Institute, Qatar Biomedical Research Institute, and Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute.
“We also help them network with the global innovation ecosystem: through connections with Silicon Valley, the Arab Innovation Academy as well as access to mentorship with global entrepreneurs who come to Qatar,” he added.
The 10th anniversary of QSTP is being marked on October 21. QSTP is planning a campaign from now to the end of the year to raise awareness of the achievements of the companies it has helped.