The commitment of Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP) – a part of Qatar Foundation Research, Development & Innovation (QF RDI) – to the nurturing and growth of technology startups is stronger than ever. Its newest programme, ELV8, is the latest example of how QSTP is continuously developing Qatar’s innovation ecosystem.
ELV8 is a growth stage accelerator which was launched in September this year to enable Qatar-based tech startups to expand into markets across the world. It is the first and only program of its kind in the country.
Leading the newly launched scheme is Mohammed Zebian, programme manager -Acceleration at QSTP.
He has extensive experience of working with several technology startups in the US and Canada prior to joining QSTP in 2012.
Explaining the reasoning behind why ELV8 was launched at this time, Zebian said, “At QSTP, we launch programmes to reflect the need within the tech and entrepreneurship ecosystem in order for it to develop and grow.
“The entrepreneurial landscape in Qatar has changed dramatically over the last decade. Ten years ago, our goal was to develop an ecosystem in Qatar which has a thriving private sector with innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation at its heart.
“Since then, nationwide investments in education and setting up research institutes, as well as programmes that specifically nurture entrepreneurship and innovation, have created a solid foundation in Qatar for new business activity to flourish.”
Outlining how startups have matured, he said, “A few years ago, Qatari-based tech startups focussed their attention on addressing the needs of the domestic market and perhaps the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. But now, we are seeing more mature startups creating product ideas that can have global impact, as well as stronger teams in terms of technical expertise. It is at this point we realised that we have companies that have potential to grow and succeed outside of Qatar – hence why we are now launching ELV8.”
Addressing the desire to lead the global market via Qatari-founded startups, Zebian said, “We feel we need to set the pace in enabling startups to expand outside of Qatar, while maintaining the startup’s core business activities, such as product development, in the country. Qatar’s startups have a distinct connection to our nation. We wish to strengthen that connection by helping them to grow, expand and develop, in order to reach their full potential.”
QSTP has teamed up with Plug and Play, the world’s largest innovation platform connecting startups, corporations and investors – headquartered in Silicon Valley, California, US – to deliver ELV8.
Plug and Play was chosen specifically because it is at the vanguard globally in terms of reach and connections with investors and industry.
According to Zebian, a startup has a greater chance of success if it goes to an accelerator that is tailored for the industry that it operates in, which is what Plug and Play offers through its various incubation centres around the world. The selected startups will be incubated at a venue determined by their industry, such as energy and environmental sustainability, fintech, and healthcare, among others.
Focusing on the benefits EVL8 will bring to the Qatari economy, Zebian said the programme will have several positive impacts.
He said, “I think it is important for businesses here to see other businesses being successful outside of Qatar. “ndeed, it is one thing to succeed in your own country; it is something different to thrive and compete on the global stage. The impact will not be limited to just the two selected startups that will travel abroad as part of the programme.
“Other startups will see their success and that in itself is a big motivator. Even if they don’t apply or aren’t ready yet, just knowing there are Qatari startups that are prospering outside of their home country is a great inspiration. In fact, it overcomes a psychological barrier. I know we have the talent and one startup that succeeds overseas can spur on a hundred others. Success stories can be infectious.”
“It’s also a test of our ecosystem so that we can identify the ideal way forward. Our objective is to enhance and perfect the ELV8 programme so that the startups can effectively grow in markets outside Qatar, develop and return prosperity to our country,” said Zebian.
Applications for the first ELV8 series have now closed and QSTP will now thoroughly evaluate the business strategy and growth potential of ten shortlisted startups.
At the end of October, two of those startups will be selected for incubation at a Plug and Play location in one of 35 cities worldwide. QSTP’s Tech Venture Fund will invest in the two chosen startups, with each one receiving investment to support their expansion abroad.