Qatar’s (sometimes crazy) ways to attract entrepreneurs

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Earlier this month Microsoft announced the creation of a giant data center in Qatar. In total, 36,000 jobs will be created in the Emirate. For the country, the arrival of a tech giant is a boon. Like its Saudi neighbour, Qatar is trying to pull its economy out of the oil and gas stalemate.

The arrival of Microsoft is also a very strong symbol for the country. It is a pledge of confidence for the actors of new technologies who now see Qatar as a land of safe development. But this decision does not fall from the sky and the leaders of the Emirate have used all the means at their disposal to achieve their ends.

Qatar wants its own Silicon Valley

Becoming the “Silicon Valley of the Middle East” requires effort. The most concrete of them remains the creation of the Qatar Science & Technology Park. This giant incubator has its fleet of local start-ups as bonocle. The young company, founded by two engineering students, offers multiple entertainment, but in Braille.

The small device of their invention makes it possible to read, count and even play. A device that should be very popular at the end of the year during the Football World Cup which will take place in Qatar. To best help its start-ups, Qatar has therefore set up a large research center.

According to its director of innovation Hayfa Al Abdulla, this place makes it possible to “building a community” orofonboarding the right people and making the connections start-ups need.” But the Doha Science and Technology Park is not just about seeing start-ups emerge.

The large building also acts as a film set for the TV show “Stars of Science”. In this reality TV entertainment, entrepreneurs compete against each other and over the twelve weeks of the show. They are eliminated one by one and the last participant still in the running is designated the big winner. It then benefits, in addition to media exposure, from substantial financial investment from the Qatar Foundation.

A reality TV show to find the start-ups of tomorrow

Khalid Aboujassoum was one of the show’s first winners. He won the 2012 season with his idea for an intelligent food processor “Oliver”. Thanks to the show’s success in all the Gulf countries, he was able to sign contracts with several resellers and he now hopes to be able to turn to the world market.

Other participants, like Majed Lababidi, participated in the show without their idea being accepted. For him, entrepreneurship is a profession in itself and carrying an idea, developing it and building it over time requires specific skills.

Today he is the head of Rawi Al Kotob, an application for teenagers in Arabic. In addition to the very good audience figures achieved by “Stars of Science”, the program offers entrepreneurs the opportunity to come and compare their ideas, improve them and receive unprecedented support.

With this production, Qatar is positioning itself as the “country of entrepreneurship” in a Persian Gulf still very marked by dependence on fossil fuels and its economy.

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