Top Arab ‘techpreneurs’ offered insights into how they achieved success in Silicon Valley and why they are now bringing their ventures back home, at the third edition of Qatar Science and Technology Park’s (QSTP’s) ‘technovate’ discussion platform.
The tech and innovation community in Doha was treated to an illuminating discussion that shed light on how Arab expat ‘techpreneurs’ are returning to the region with coveted experience, a global network, and a fresh mindset.
Dr. Maher Hakim, Managing Director, QSTP, led the lively fireside chat with distinguished guests Joy Ajlouny, co-founder of Fetchr, and Dr. Khalid Al-Ali, co-founder of Senseta. During the informal discussion, both guests gave inspiring accounts of their journeys through the global tech landscape, and described how they are using their business and tech acumen to nurture entrepreneurship and innovation in the region.
Introducing the guest speakers to the audience, Dr. Hakim said: “It gives me great pleasure to have two of the top Arab techpreneurs with us here who have recently relocated from Silicon Valley. Dr. Al-Ali and Joy Ajlouny have brought the Silicon Valley mindset with them to the region. They are part of the driving force behind the growing regional innovation ecosystem.”
“By recruiting successful Arab techpreneurs to complement our research and development community, we can create an environment that is conducive to product innovation and economic success.”
Fetchr is a technology company based in Dubai that was set up to solve the ‘no-address’ problem hindering growth in emerging markets. It is the first start-up in the Middle East to be funded by one of the top venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, and has been named the number one startup in the region by Forbes Middle East.
Charting the company’s success in Silicon Valley, Ajlouny said: “The main reason Fetchr was able to secure funding from a top venture capital firm is because we offer a solution to a problem.
“Investors like to hear that you have a solution to a market need, particularly a worldwide solution. In Silicon Valley, there is no hierarchy, as venture capitalists know that their future lies in the bright minds that knock on their doors with great ideas and greater commitment to executing their ideas.”
Pointing out the tremendous entrepreneurial potential in the region, Ajlouny noted: “We are at the beginning of a startup revolution in the Middle East, and it’s an exciting time to be based in the region - the startup ecosystem is picking up pace and the tech community is expanding.
“We chose to relocate from Silicon Valley to Dubai because of the growth opportunity – there are a lot of young and talented people here who are eager to innovate, solve a problem, and make a difference. Fetchr aims to be a beacon of success for budding techpreneurs in the region.”
As a principal inventor of technologies patented in the US and worldwide, Dr. Al-Ali - the co-founder and Executive Chairman of Senseta, a leading company in mission-critical data fusion and analytics solutions - has spent much of his career in Silicon Valley. Recounting his journey of entrepreneurial success, he explained: “Senseta is based on the world of big data analytics.”
“When we first started out, big data wasn’t yet well-established, but we still managed to attract investors from Silicon Valley and five Qatar-based shareholders. The company has gone on to become one of the world leaders in mission-critical data and analytics used to save lives on daily basis.”
According to Dr. Al-Ali, “access to risk capital that invests in an idea, a young entrepreneurial spirit, and close proximity to cutting-edge academic institutions” are some of the key ingredients that have contributed to a thriving innovation environment in Silicon Valley, and the fact that they also apply to QSTP – part of Qatar Foundation Research and Development (QF R&D), means that it has a recipe for success.
The ‘technovate’ series developed by QSTP allows local entrepreneurs and innovators to discuss the hottest topics related to startups, product/ service development, innovation, and commercialization. For more information on QSTP’s programs and events, please visit: www.qstp.org.qa
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