HEC Paris In Qatar Publishes First Comprehensive Review Of The Country's Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

"For a country like Qatar right now, supporting entrepreneurship is very important, because it is the fuel for tomorrow's growth."

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A new book published by HEC Paris in Qatar is shining a light on the country’s emerging startup ecosystem, with it providing data and insights to support stakeholders through every stage of the entrepreneurial journey. Authored by HEC Paris Postdoctoral Research Associate Dr. Allan Villegas-Mateos, Qatar’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem has been built based off both research and first-hand experiences of participants in this space.

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“I wanted to learn about Qatar’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, but when I started researching it a year ago, I realized that there isn’t too much available data, so, I took on the challenge of collating the data myself,” Dr. Villegas-Mateos said, in an interview with Entrepreneur Middle East. “Hence, the opportunity to write a book came about, and I viewed it as a scientific contribution to the development of Qatar.”

Following its release in May this year, Dr. Villegas-Mateos’ book has been billed as the first to examine Qatar’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and processes in their entirety, with it also listing recommendations for different stakeholders in the country to help bolster the national economy and advance its progress as per the Qatar National Vision 2030.

HEC Paris Postdoctoral Research Associate Dr. Allan Villegas-Mateos

“Right now, in Qatar, the business environment feels more flexible and open, especially with the FIFA World Cup being hosted here next year, and the end of the blockade at the beginning of this one,” Dr. Villegas-Mateos noted. “Nevertheless, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the country as it has the rest of the world, and it has delayed some growth plans for economic development. I can see that business incubators and accelerators in Qatar are struggling to find good ideas and entrepreneurs to participate in their programs. The dilemma is that even when the country strives to create better entrepreneurship conditions, if the culture and people don’t want careers as entrepreneurs, then you have problems in developing innovation and technology.”

According to Dr. Villegas-Mateos, more inter-institutional collaboration is needed to cultivate a stronger entrepreneurial culture, as well as support those who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs. “The most natural places to find and/or create new entrepreneurs are universities,” he added. “In consequence, from HEC Paris in Qatar, I am leading the creation of a network involving stakeholders of different institutions, from universities, to incubators and governmental players. One example is that for the first time in Qatar, we implemented this year an international study in Education City and Qatar University called the Global University Entrepreneurial Spirit Students’ Survey to measure entrepreneurial career intentions.”

Source: HEC Paris

While Qatar remains the world’s richest per capita country, Dr. Villegas-Mateos pointed out that its intention to transition into a knowledge-based economy requires it to invest in its entrepreneurial ecosystem, especially now that the world’s eyes are on the country ahead of the FIFA World Cup in 2022. “For a country like Qatar right now, supporting entrepreneurship is very important, because it is the fuel for tomorrow’s growth,” he explained. “Entrepreneurship serves as an important vehicle for economic and social prosperity by improving productivity and economic competitiveness, and for this reason, cooperation between participants is essential to acquire and diffuse knowledge in the creation of knowledgebased economies.”

Related: Qatar Development Bank Opens Applications For Scale 7, A New Incubation Program For Fashion Startups

The Executive Summary

Dr. Allan Villegas-Mateos’ recommendations for Qatar’s entrepreneurial ecosystem

1. A reconsideration of local constraints for entrepreneurial activities. “It’s not just about making new laws, it’s also implementing them, and opening up equal conditions for everyone, men and women, Qataris, and non-Qataris.”

2. The need for government and investors to collaborate closer and understand each other’s needs. “This will help startups, scaleups, and small and medium enterprises to grow faster with existing conditions, and to attract more foreign direct investment. It will require investment in building the foundations of angel and mentor networks, the hosting of bigger events, and the development of talent.”

3. Qatar must consider an ecosystem branding strategy. “The FIFA World Cup 2022 can serve as a trampoline to boost the country’s global visibility and show potential investors and entrepreneurs that settling in Qatar is a good choice. The location, the taxes, the easy access to international markets, and success stories will help to build the proposition.”

4. Collaboration among stakeholders is key. “The Qatari government is very straightforward in its development plan stated in the Qatar National Vision 2030, but with the current world economic situation, different institutional stakeholders need to strengthen their networks and collaboration, and aim to specialize in some specific sectors, rather than trying to cover them all at the same time.”

5. Strategy development needs to be measured. “Several key indicators and datasets are missing or are difficult to access- the most relevant of these are seed funding and venture capital indicators, because the number and amount of early-stage investments are comparable to ecosystem success rates.”

Related: The Way Forward: How Startups And SMEs Can Navigate The COVID-19 Crisis