Twelve months from now, the much-anticipated FIFA World Cup 2022™ will have kicked-off in Qatar. Millions of sports fans will be watching and listening to the first-ever World Cup tournament to be held in the Arab world, with supporters from around the world set to travel to Qatar to attend matches and experience the country in person.
Businesses operating in the sports sector have their sights firmly set on the tournament, and one that is specifically looking to reach new heights is sKora, a Qatar-based sportstech start-up that has recently benefited from the Tech Venture Fund (TVF) of Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), part of Qatar Foundation Research, Development and Innovation (QF RDI).
Soccer Agency Recommender, sKora’s unique product offering, uses its one-of-a-kind Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to serve the vast population of aspiring professional footballers who do not have the means to afford, or access to obtain, expert athletic career advice.
The product recommends to players aiming to pursue a career in football a potential pathway that they can follow. This reduces the complexity of the processes involved in recruiting them and makes the sport more accessible, so that the next big stars of the game can be found quicker and set up to succeed.
sKora’s distinctive AI platform also stands out from the rest of the market, as it was developed here in Qatar, as opposed to its competitors who are largely based in Europe. This gives footballers in the Arab world who are keen to make it big – perhaps in one of the major European or South American football leagues – a great springboard to launch their careers.
“Technological advancements in football have unlocked unprecedented opportunities for growth in the sports industry,” sKora’s CEO, Adel Saad, said. “The introduction of data into professional football has pushed us towards digitalizing the sports agency business through automation and machine learning processes. Using our platform, customized AI-driven pathways are recommended for each player depending on their own skill set, traits and situation, away from biased views and opinions.”
The FIFA World Cup 2022™ is a natural milestone for the company, by which time sKora will have been able to scale and deliver a much bigger impact on the international and local football community. Until then, the start-up is looking to use the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021™, which kicked-off in Qatar on November 30 2021, as a catalyst to grow its user base.
“The Arab Cup is our opportunity to put our tactics to the test,” Saad said. “We are leveraging the event to run a program which will, for the first time, enable local and international footballers across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to join a trial with a Qatari football club and have an opportunity to be scouted.”
The dedicated work undertaken by the team at sKora has already borne fruit via a recent partnership with Lusail Sports Club, which aims to provide young and aspiring players with an opportunity to demonstrate their talent during a three-day program – the first of its kind in Qatar. The program will present a chance for players to compete in a professionally immersive environment while receiving training from UEFA-certified coaches.
Commenting on the support the team has received through the TVF, Saad said: “As an incubated start-up, QSTP has been a massive support throughout our journey. After receiving the funds from TVF, we were able to recruit many aspiring and talented interns from QF partner universities, who have now become full-time employees at sKora. TVF has been instrumental in propelling our start-up forward, taking us from the angel investment stage to working in the institutional investment space. The funding is ultimately allowing us to accelerate both our product development and marketing operations.”
Data and statistics on how the game is played, and how players and teams can gain a competitive advantage, are more important than ever in football. With enormous amounts of money in players’ transfer fees and wages often depending on those numbers, sKora is determined to play its part in the digital side of the sport.
“With the sports technology industry estimated to be worth USD $18 billion (QAR 65.5 billion) and expected to have a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 18 percent between 2021 and 2026, sKora wants to be a key player in this particular ‘game’,” said Saad.
“We will initially recruit in the MENA region to optimize and identify prospective professional talent. In the future, sKora platform will create modules specifically for players, coaches, teams, and sponsors. The platform will offer all parties the most efficient method of providing athletes the best possible advice for a successful career trajectory, while simultaneously providing clubs a pool of data-backed athletes to choose from.” Saad continued.
QSTP’s TVF is a strategic venture capital fund designed to support local innovative start-ups and attract international ones looking to scale in the region. TVF plays a critical role in developing the innovation ecosystem in Qatar through the support it provides to start-ups, including those like sKora. The fund provides opportunities for local, regional, and global tech founders and entrepreneurs to source seed-stage funding and follow-on capital. It also seeks to lower the barriers of entry to starting a tech company in the market.
To apply and find out more about QSTP’s TVF please visit: https://qstp.org.qa/tech-venture-fund/
To learn more about sKora and the brilliant team behind the startup, please visit: https://www.skoratech.com/