Tech entrepreneur sees Qatar as ‘major Esports hub’
March 06 2020 08:28 PM
Mark Engelhardt
Thanks to its geographical location, Qatar could be a good logistics centre for Esports as well, says Mark Engelhardt, CEO and co-founder of Hallidai. PICTURE: Ram Chand

Qatar has the potential to become a major Esports hub, as well as a strategic logistics centre for Esports, according to an official of a tech startup from the latest cohort of Qatar SportsTech’s (QST) accelerator programme.
Mark Engelhardt, the CEO and co-founder of Hallidai, stressed that the partnerships that Qatar has forged with major international firms, and the massive infrastructure development being undertaken across the country would benefit many gamers or “digital athletes.”
“Based on my conversations with QST and other Qatari officials who are into Esports, Qatar is looking to become a major Esports hub – connecting Europe and Asia, and perhaps even the US. Thanks to its geographical location, the country could be a good logistics centre for Esports, as well.
“Microsoft is opening up its Azure cloud in Qatar, so even connection problems will be solved. And also you have 5G, so everything here – the technological environment in Qatar – supports the life of the digital athlete,” Engelhardt told Gulf Times.
Engelhardt’s company, Hallidai, is among the 10 tech startups participating in the accelerator programme of QST, an initiative by Qatar Development Bank (QDB). Through the programme, startups have the opportunity to accelerate their growth through mentorship, run proof of concepts, and build strategic relationships with QST’s corporate partners.
While at the QST programme, Engelhardt is further developing ‘Fridai’, a voice assistant for gamers or ‘gamer’s assistant’. By letting players focus more on the game, Fridai helps them avoid any type of distraction, he said.
Engelhardt said people around the world spend 3bn hours a week playing video games, while gamers spend 108mn hours a week on Google searches for guides or activating other software while gaming.
“We envision Fridai as a ‘friend sitting with gamers’ whom they could ask for assistance while they are playing. But unlike other voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant, Fridai is dedicated to gamers, which is why we see Fridai as a gamers’ assistant’ because it is purely focused on gamers and their needs,” said Engelhardt.
According to Engelhardt, some of Fridai’s skills are very specific to Qatar, hence the company wants to bring it to Qatar’s Esports market.
In connection with the 2022 FIFA World Cup, we’re looking into the game FIFA in terms of how to promote it from in-game and connect gamers with Qatar more. Gamers can ask Fridai to change tactics while playing the game.
“These are things that you have to access manually by opening multiple screens but with Fridai, gamers will not have to go through these lengths and can simply ask for what they want,” he said.
Engelhardt said the company is also working with different entities in Qatar, such as Aspire “to build the strong foundations” for Esports in the country.
“While Hallidai is more focused on the actual players, QST or Aspire could provide the needed infrastructure and facilities where the players could compete…all of these collaborations are for the benefit of digital athletes,” he said.
He also lauded organisations like QDB and QST for providing startups with facilities and the support to further develop their companies to reach either the local or global markets.
“The journey of a startup is long and challenging, and requires a lot of perseverance. QST helps us in terms of mentors, how to connect with people, how to provide us with a local presence, and in our fundraising efforts, among others. Programmes such as these provide us with an all-around opportunity to focus on our startups and the lessons that we learned at QST,” he added.

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