GUESSS 2021 Report Highlights The Need To Foster And Support The Entrepreneurial Spirit In Qatar's Youth

The study revealed that most students' entrepreneurial drive fizzled out within the first five years after graduation, despite 89% of them being aware of business incubation and accelerator programs within the country.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

The number of active and nascent entrepreneurs in Qatar has been found to be above the regional and global average, according to a 2021 National Report of Qatar released by the Global University Entrepreneurial Spirit Students' Survey (GUESSS).

Shutterstock

The report also showed that entrepreneurship is a preferred career choice for current university graduates in Qatar, despite 87% of them not having taken an entrepreneurial university course and 37% of the students not having taken a related module.

Notably, however, the GUESSS study also revealed that most students' entrepreneurial drive fizzled out within the first five years after graduation- this, despite 89% of them being aware of business incubation and accelerator programs within the country.

The report was co-authored by Allan-Villegas Mateos, Research Associate, HEC Paris in Qatar, Mahmoud M. Abdellatif, Director, Center of Entrepreneurship at Qatar University, and Mokter Hossain, Assistant Professor, Qatar University. In comparing entrepreneurial career intentions and underlying motivations of university students in Qatar with those in 58 countries, the GUESSS report aimed at understanding the role of Qatar-based universities in fostering and supporting the entrepreneurial spirit.

With the country transitioning into a knowledge-based economy, the report identified three key reasons for students opting not to pursue entrepreneurial careers- the absence of a strong entrepreneurship culture among younger generations, the role of family expectations and backgrounds in influencing motivations and attitudes towards entrepreneurship, and a lack of alignment between university courses and the accepted notion that entrepreneurship involves a process of developing appropriate mindsets and skills through curricular and co-curricular programs.

According to Mateos, while culture has a significant impact on desired career paths, mandatory entrepreneurship courses and other ways of engaging with students can eventually lead to creating a wider, society-wide impact in shifting preconceived notions. "Many who study entrepreneurship may not go on to set up their own business, but with a greater understanding of setting up and running a business –including the challenges, sacrifices needed, opportunities, and rewards– go on to become investors, corporate entrepreneurs, or supporters of startup entrepreneurs," Mateos said, in an interview with Entrepreneur Middle East. "Entrepreneurship courses help create more than knowledge of how to start a business; they develop leadership, a culture of business and innovation, professional development capabilities, and networking skills– all facets that can lead to success within the corporate world. The difficulty, however, is to bring entrepreneurship courses to non-business schools like engineering, medicine, arts, etc."

Related: Educating Execs: HEC Paris in Qatar

Allan-Villegas Mateos, Research Associate, HEC Paris in Qatar. Source: HEC Paris in Qatar

Mateos' statement aligns with what the report suggests are important ways to bring about the development of a successful and sustainable university-based entrepreneurial ecosystem, including offering mandatory entrepreneurship courses at all educational levels, and increased efforts to reach student communities as well as faculty members through better communication, hosting and sponsoring entrepreneurship activities, and ensuring access to business infrastructure.

The report also highlights the need to develop robust and effective organizational infrastructure including the training of faculty involved in teaching, research, and curriculum development, advancing, and managing entrepreneurship initiatives tied to research incentives and rewards, and outreach using business incubators, technology parks, knowledge transfer offices, co-working spaces, and other infrastructure. A fourth action point the report indicates is ensuring that ecosystem leaders, sponsors, and champions readily have the financial and non-financial resources needed to support young entrepreneurs.

When it comes to the last point, Mateos shared that stakeholders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem need to look beyond just seeking investments. "The lack of access to capital is not always due to lack of liquidity or investment avenues but can be associated with the investment readiness of projects," he said. "Entrepreneurs must validate their business ideas, build minimum viable products, and be innovative to show the potential to scale rapidly with the proper investment. Therefore, in the short term, the founders must focus on that readiness and practice their pitches before approaching an investor. In the long term, I think there is a vicious cycle that needs to be broken, which is that the best investors are former successful entrepreneurs that have exited and reinvested in the next generations of founders. It is a multiplier effect that brings to the company they invested access to networks and knowledge of the sector."

Mateos also raised one more key point for new entrepreneurs to keep in mind before venturing out into the business world. "The problem right now is that most investors are wealthy, not because they are former entrepreneurs, and they tend to expect quick returns on investments- the new entrepreneurs need to understand this landscape, so that they can address the issue and raise funding properly."

And with the FIFA World Cup 2022 right around the corner in Qatar, Mateos believes it is the right time to start making necessary changes in the country's startup ecosystem. "Any entrepreneurial ecosystem needs to create success stories to attract more investments and human capital- so, the FIFA World Cup brings the opportunity to showcase to the rest of the world the business opportunities available and the options to settle and come to live in Qatar," Mateos concluded.

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