What impact will the restoration of relations with Qatar have on its startups?
The almost four-year blockade of Qatar was lifted last week at the GCC Summit. Now that Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have restored full diplomatic ties, it presents a big opportunity for Qatar’s startup ecosystem to expand.
In this piece, Nazar Musa, chief commercial officer at advisory firm Pro Partner Group, which has offices in the UAE, Oman and Qatar explains the impact the decision might have.
The restoration of ties between Qatar and the remainder of the GCC opens up a great deal of opportunity for entrepreneurs and the startup sector as a whole. The opportunity lies both ways.
Qatari startups and entrepreneurs now have a far wider and diverse market in which to launch their products and services. The various free zones and centres of regional excellence that attract startups from across the globe in the UAE and in Saudi Arabia are now open to Qataris. Startups that have launched in the past three years in Doha can now look at expansion and the basics of infrastructure will now be open to them.
Ease of travel between GCC locations has returned. Regional banking for Qatari businesses will now be available and of course a significantly larger potential market will now exist. The free movement of materials should now allow more competitive pricing as new sources of regional supply emerge and this should not only allow increased margins for new businesses but also may improve pricing for the end consumer. One of the greatest challenges for entrepreneurs and startups in general is raising capital. With the restoration of ties in the region Qatari businesses can now reach further afield to raise their startup capital or the capital needed for scaling their businesses. With more VCs, private equity partners and angel investors available, good, well positioned businesses may even attract competition for their investment needs.
Reciprocally non-Qatari GCC startups and entrepreneurs now have a new market to sell their products and services. With the World Cup coming to Qatar in 2022 opportunities will become more prevalent for regional businesses to be part of this great global spectacle. Regionalisation of existing and new businesses becomes a reality and the ability to travel freely between all markets will support this. Qatari investment funds, family offices and angel investors will now become a potential source of fundraising for GCC startups. This once again creates liquidity in the market and allows entrepreneurs a choice that hasn’t existed in the past three or four years.
Knowledge sharing is an important aspect of the startup community and with more openness in the region this can only improve. We can see real opportunities in the travel and hospitality sectors. With airspace now open, regional carriers will be able to ferry both leisure and business travelers into and out of Doha airport, once the effect of the pandemic eases. The startups in these fields or ones that support this industry suddenly have more opportunity and a new market to aim for.
Startups need a few key things to be successful outside of just a good idea. A marketplace that’s fair and equitable. The ability to raise funds through as many sources as possible. Free movement of people, goods and services. Startups need company. They need the ability to develop and learn from their peers, to recruit and retain talent easily and to be part of ecosystems that support their endeavours. The opening of the borders with an important neighbour such as Qatar can only support the startup world and encourage entrepreneurs to spread their wings even further.