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Posted On: 17 June 2008 08:14 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:08 pm

Qatar; a haven for entrepreneurs?

Khalifa Al Haroon
Khalifa Al Haroon
Your friendly neighborhood Qatari
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Qatar has the potential to become a stronghold for entrepreneurship and establishing start-up firms, Doug Richard, entrepreneur and specialist in technology transfer, commercialisation and business education, told The Peninsula in an interview yesterday. Richard, who admits to being "very geeky", is a former panelist on the Dragon's Den series, which had contestants trying to persuade ‘dragons’ (potential investors) to put money into their ventures. Richard said: "Qatar to its advantage has large well-endowed research-oriented universities. The potential is here but I am confident I cannot predict the future as can anyone else." Nevertheless, having research-based universities is a start in moving towards creating clusters such as Silicon Valley. The next step would be providing entrepreneurship education and wooing venture capitalists and angel investors, he said. Richard is an entrepreneur himself, with his latest venture being Trutap, a free mobile phone service targeted at 18 to 24-year olds. "Basically, we are creating a Facebook for mobiles. It is our effort to create a global social network," he said. Launched six months ago, Trutap is a free service. "Our immediate goals are to start partnerships with mobile operators and we are in talks with companies in Europe and South Asia. We would also be definitely interested in tying up with operators in this region," he said. Revenue from the service would be divided between Trutap and the service provider. Although free of charge, revenue is expected to be generated from mobile advertising, seen by many as the trend of the future. On whether it is better being an entrepreneur or spotting a potential one, Richard said: "I like starting my own business the most. My own ideas somehow feel less risky than those of others." Discussing how to spot an entrepreneur, he said questions that should be asked are the benefits of the new product or service from a customer's point of view, pricing aspects, who else is doing the same kind of thing, dimensions of and access to a potential market and obstacles that may be faced, such as existing players in the field. The people involved in developing and fructifying an idea should have the relevant skills and experience to pull it of, he said. And of course, there is the financial aspect, with investors looking to make some money at least at some stage. Intriguingly, most start-ups fail, he said, with only one out of 10 rising above the debris. The entrepreneur has something of a reputation, unfairly he believes, for having a sharp tongue that led one Dragon's Den contestant to burst into tears and another to be sworn at. He laughs it off, saying: "I was told I only make the pretty girls cry." Richard has also seen his share of bizarre ideas thrown in front of him. "In the programme, one contestant had an idea of roller skates for the knees," he said. Clearly not much market for that unless we are talking Monica Lewinsky. Yet another bizarre idea was a mat for the family dog that would absorb all doggie odours. Now Richard is being bombarded with e-mails from a particularly persistent individual to throw money at his idea of a flying saucer. Fortunately, Richard has staff to weed out such off-the-wall ideas. Of course, he also has regrets on not jumping on to a winning formula. "One person conducted a study on how truffles grow. He found a way in the laboratory to create the conditions which would allow them to grow under a tree," he said. "He will be the truffle king of the world," said Richard wistfully. The Pen