Start ups and SMEs in Qatar here’s your first step

Dear Startups and SMEs. It’s time to take your first professional step! First of all I wanted to say congratulations to Enterprise Qatar on the appointment of their new CEO. His name is Abdulaziz Al Khalifa. Don’t know him? Ask around, you’ll hear nothing but great things about this guy. What’s more exciting for me, is the fact that he’s all about supporting Qataris and encouraging start-up partnerships in the country. I get excited when there are people who want to empower the youth that get put into these great positions.

I wanted to share something that EQ call the Jadwa program. I’ve gone through their documents and their website and thought it would be nice if I put together the main points (or al zibda in Arabic). Honestly, there are many people (myself included) that have been burnt and demotivated by ‘incubators’, investment schemes and grant programs. Honestly, I kind of felt like it was all for show. “Hey look at us, we’re helping startups”, and then they just sit there.

I’ve seen other organizations (not necessarily in Qatar) that have spent MILLIONS on publicity and luxurious events. Honestly, all I could think was “Wait… why don’t they just use those millions to actually invest in startups?”. Common all you other youthful entrepreneurs, you’re thinking it, I just said it.

Anyway, now EQ has caught my attention (about time!) and it’s with this Jadwa program.

What is it?
You know what I’m bad at? Numbers. I get a great idea and go with my gut instinct. You know what would have given me even MORE confidence in my ideas? Understanding the potential of the business I’m trying to run. Now if I was going to pay a company or consultant to help me put together a feasibility study, it could cost an arm and a leg.

What Jadwa does is they will cover the cost of up to 70% of conducting a feasibility study. Before that, they’ll help advice you as to how sound your businesses idea is before actually moving forward with the feasibility study (that’ll help save you cash).

What’s included in the feasibility study is Market analysis, potential for profit, legality, and more. The goal is to look at the opportunities and weigh them in with the risks. Put simply, they’ll help you assess the cost required and the value you’ll be getting.

More info here on what a feasibility study includes.

Why should you do this?
Well, I’m not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. Different entrepreneurs have different styles. If I was asked to be a part of a program where the program organizers controlled my time and told me what to do, I’d ignore them. If someone made a service available to me that I could use when I wanted to, then I’m interested. So it depends how you want to get started with your business.

Who can apply?
If you’re a Qatari great. You’re one step closer. If you’re an expat, find your Qatari partner and you’re one step closer. (Don’t get sensitive please, this is a program focused on supporting Qataris in Qatar set up businesses in Qatar as a priority first :) )

Here is the online Application form for Entrepreneurs
Here is the online Application form for SMEs

Not what you’re looking for?
Don’t worry. I had a chat with the EQ team and they told me that they’re launching different products and services. There’ll be investment support, advisory services, office space, etc…

My advice

I’m about to impart some words of wisdom here. Take it from a guy that has business idea after business idea.
1- Focus. Pick something you’re seriously passionate about and believe in and go with it. Don’t get distracted. You’ll fail. If you don’t beleive in your own idea, why will others?
2- Be prepared to take some financial risks. Even if you DO get funding, it can be a while until you actually receive anything. Do you want to sit around and wait?
3- Partner! Find the right partners, whether it’s another business you can work with or someone that you want to work with in your own company.
4- Even if you are a small business that has already started for a while. Think like I do. Your business is just start-up with a head start. (It’s important to get into the right mindset).

Another note specifically for expats:
One common thing I hear is, it’s not fair that a Qatari gets 51%. Let’s set this straight. It doesn’t mean that a Qatari takes 51% of the profit. It’s 51% legal responsibility. That means that if the expat he is partnering with or sponsoring takes a loan for 1million riyals and runs away, the Qatari has legal responsibility and can go to jail. So just as an expat might worry about the Qatari sponsoring them, we Qataris also have to worry about the possibility of getting screwed over.
So to set things straight, you could have a legal partnership where the Qatari has 51% ownership but 10% equity or is 5% share plus a fixed salary. (These are just examples).
You want to know why there needs to be Qatari partnerships? We’re 8% of the population! It would take less than a couple of years for people of ANY nationality to just come to Qatar, set up shop, and take all the opportunities away from Qataris.
Then there’s the argument of “Well if they don’t want to do it, then why stop other people from doing business?”. Who says Qataris don’t
Some may say “it’s not OUR fault, not enough people have the entrepreneurial drive or skills to set up a business.” Qatar is a NEW country. Give my people a chance… :)

Any comments? Feedback? I’m pretty sure EQ will probably be checking this blog for your ideas and comments.

  • HungerQuenchers

    Very good piece. I cannot agree with you more. It’s a symbiotic arrangement, which benefits both the Qatari and Expat partners. The more important thing, in my personal opinion, is being in the right business, and having the right vision and direction.

  • Ali R. Tariq

    This is promising! I’ve always felt a more structured and supportive entrepreneurship ecosystem would greatly empower individuals and businesses in the MENA regions to excel way beyond expectations. I sense a very large and untapped talent pool. The sentiments shared above seem like steps in the right direction!

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    Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the Qatari Government is a signatory of states: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any medias and regardless of any frontiers.

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