The GEW Doha provides many opportunities for startups to grow and kickoff

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AngelPolacco

Last week was Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) in Doha. The exciting thing is that while it was happening in Doha, it was also happening simultaneously in about 160 other countries around the world. 

For the fifth consecutive year, the GEW has taken place in Qatar. Qatar Development Bank (QDB) has organized the GEW for the second year running and this year it took place at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center. The purpose of GEW is to encourage people to innovate and bring forth the spirit of entrepreneurship so that they can grow and develop their businesses.  

Image source: DECC

Starting from the bottom, but now these startups are at the GEW

Saoud Al-Mannai is the Head of Learning at QDB, and the Project Manager of GEW. Al-Mannai said that the GEW is part of a bigger celebration worldwide for entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs, innovation, investors, and opportunities. 

The GEW provides workshops, panels and sessions to promote the entrepreneurship spirit within locals, and also gives an outlet to entrepreneurs by providing them with a venue to sell their own products.

“Right now we have 85 Qatari entrepreneurs selling their products here at the venue,” Al-Mannai said. “So what you can see here are Qatari entrepreneurs, their products, their own efforts  - nothing is imported, it’s all their effort.”  

Al-Mannai shared that GEW aims to give entrepreneurs a venue to sell their products, to educate people about what entrepreneurship is, how they can become entrepreneurs, provide potential entrepreneurs motivation to chase after their ambitions, and more.

“There are mostly startups here at the GEW, and they are organized by Bedaya. Bedaya is a subsidiary for QDB,” Al-Mannai said. “They usually deal with the very early stage startups.” 

Organization and programs

Bedaya is an organization that empowers, supports and guides the youth of Qatar to launch their business and start their career. Through Bedaya, QDB organized and gathered the 85 startups, provided the venue, alongside their sponsors, Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP).

“We provided the content, talked to international speakers; we had people from Silicon Valley, we had people from Kuwait, from Saudi Arabia, they’re all very experienced,” Al-Mannai said. “People liked them. Even after they finished their own sessions, people were flocking [to] them, trying to get more, like “what do you mean by that?”, “how can I do this?” They’re really experienced. They’re really valuable.”

Al-Mannai highlighted a few of the special guests present at the GEW. 

Image source: entrepreneur.com

“I would like to highlight a Kuwaiti guy called Essa Behbehani. He is very experienced. The room was full, people were asking [questions] all around. It was inspirational, and people learned from it,” Al-Mannai said. “We [also] had Angel Investors from United States presenting what an Angel Investment is. It’s fairly new to the region. And the third one is IDEO, which is a school that teaches design thinking.”

Validation

The startups present at the GEW ranged across different business sectors. Clothing, cosmetics, IT services, and food and beverage were among some of the industries that had booths at the DECC for the GEW. QDB and Bedaya wanted to have a balance between the different sectors of businesses. A team was responsible for the selection of these businesses and they are then filtered and categorized. The startups need to be active, particularly when it comes to managing their booths, according to Al-Mannai.

“It’s like their validation stage, the early, early stage. For example we have a startup here called Maktapp. Maktapp is incubated in QSTP and they came here to showcase their app,” Al-Mannai said. “You’ll see a variety of people at the very early stage and people who are at the more mature stage of their business.” 

Slow and steady wins the race

Some companies found that the first few days of the GEW went a little slow.

Athmane Boularas, Co-founder and CEO of Maven Technology, a digital solutions company, which started about three years ago, said, “The reason we opened this company is because we’re trying to match between graphics and the development. Most companies are either focusing only on development, or graphic design, they don’t have the ability to match in both ways. So we’re trying to bring those together to produce a fine product for the public.”

Boularas talked with Bedaya and with QBIC, they then provided his company with a booth to get his business going at the GEW. 

“For the first two days it wasn’t that much, but since the China exhibition opened, a lot of people have been coming here,” Boularas said. “We struck three deals yesterday, it was very good. The people come here and learn about the company and what we do, and there are lots of people looking for these companies in Qatar.”  

Appreciation

Companies like ZWD were appreciative of Bedaya’s and GEW’s efforts in inviting startups to sell and market their merchandise and products. 

Abdul Rahman Al-Zewaidi, Managing Director of ZWD, said that their business officially started last year, but that he’s been in the market for about 14 months and wasn’t making any progress.


“Let me take this opportunity to thank Bedaya first of all, especially Reem Al-Suwaidi, Hanane, Malak, all of them, they’ve been a very, very good help for us,” Al-Zewaidi said. “Whenever they have an exhibition or event, they immediately call us, and help us through their social media as well.”

ZWD sells the Lopifit bicycle and other electric bicycles too. The Lopifit is originally the brainchild of a Dutch inventor, Bruin Bergmeester. It acts as both a treadmill, for when you’re at home, or a bicycle when you want to go outdoors. 

“It’s good for the environment. And it helps people to cycle more. So that’s why I chose electric bicycles,” Al-Zewaidi said. “Lopifit is a bicycle that’s been produced two years ago, I am the only distributor in the Middle East for the Lopifit.

Image source: Lopifitus.com

Al-Zewaidi said that the electric bikes can travel a distance of about 60 kilometers, with about four hours of charging the battery. He also shared that many people showed interest in his booth over the course of the GEW.  

“I got a couple of people from media, and QatarTV came, because they saw us, and [did] an interview with me,” Al-Zewaidi said. “I think this is the main point of being exposed to people otherwise nobody will know about you if you’re not using, especially now, the new way for marketing — all social media, not like before when you’d advertise in the newspaper.”

Al-Zewaidi also appreciated the venue for the GEW. 

“Of course this place gave us a huge chance to get exposed. And most of the social media people and bloggers, they came here and took pictures and I’m getting calls from my friends, “We saw you on this! We saw you on that!””

Many people attended the GEW this year, and a lot of the startups received a lot of exposure through the help of QDB and Bedaya. 

Future GEW

Al-Mannai urges people to attend the next GEW as it’s beneficial and educational for everyone.

“We provide these kinds of trainings for free, and everywhere else it costs money. So we urge everyone to come, and even those who missed this year can come next year because they will learn a lot,” Al-Mannai said. “[I], myself, like stay in a session for maybe 5 or 10 minutes, and in that 10 minutes I hear a lot of information that is very important.”

What did you think? Did you attend the GEW? How did you find it? Comment below!