Qatar FinTech Hub moving towards self-sustainability

Peninsula   |   December 10, 2020

The Qatar FinTech Hub’s (QFTH) incubator and accelerator programmes for early stage and mature FinTech startups which have been launched only this year, have already gained traction and attracted both local and global recognition, and are already growing to be financially self-sustainable, an expert has said.


Being self-sustainable, which ensures that a ‘hub’ has the ability to cover expenses with predictable and reliable sources of funding, is a best practice pursued by many in the industry.


“Multiple countries today globally are competing to establish themselves as a FinTech hub. All these initiatives have to be self-sustainable. And the traction and interest across the globe and locally (for QFTH) has been so good, that we have already got a commitment of about $2.43m in terms of sponsorships, and about $2.57m in FinTech equity. So the programme has nearly already become self-sustainable for the next two years, not only for this wave but the next wave as well,” said Hemant Kshirsagar, a QFTH mentor who is also the Ernst & Young’s (EY) India FinTech Leader who presented the workshop on Global FinTech Investment Landscape during the Qatar Development Bank’s (QDB) virtual Investment Forum 2020 recently.


Speaking during the event, Kshirsagar said that the QFTH, which was established to become a global epicentre and a FinTech hub for the region, has already entered into 32 local and international partnerships. These partnerships help the startup companies under the QFTH get access to business as well as access to funding on capital both locally and internationally, in addition to availing mentorships, he added.


“Traditionally, if you look at other incubators, normally the FinTechs are at very early stage. But the programme application phase and the attractiveness of Doha in the region has been so massive that we really got very mature FinTechs. All the 23 FinTech companies combined, which are on the programmes now, have a total valuation estimation standing at about $500m. And together, they have raised about $100m in funds. So they’re really at an advanced stage. They’re not very early where they’re just an idea. All the companies including the incubator startups already have their minimum viable product (MVP) in place and they’re going to the market,” said Kshirsagar.


He added: “One of the important reasons why this programme will succeed is generating business. Funding was fine, talent is fine, but a company survives on getting business. So it is not only mentorship which is important, but it is actually getting business so that you can become a revenue positive organisation”.


The QFTH, which was established in alignment with the Qatar FinTech Strategy under the chairmanship of the Qatar Central Bank (QCB), is managed by the Qatar FinTech Task Force which includes major financial institutions which are all part of the ecosystem in Qatar, including the QDB.


The QFTH’s incubator programme has shortlisted 11 early stage startups, while the accelerator programme has shortlisted 12 mature startups, with a number of Qatar-based FinTech startups also joining the programmes.


“Qatar is establishing itself as the key FinTech destination in the region. The idea was not to limit the programme only to local startups, but also to bring in international startups. From that perspective, we opened up the application and the first phase was focused on payments. The reason was very specific. We looked at the best practices in nearly every market in the world, and how they have grown. And we realised that in any FinTech ecosystem, the first market taht really develops which forms the base of other parts is the payments market. And the Qatar Central Bank was also parallely working on a FinTech Sandbox, wherein payments is going to be the first place where they will start.


"I have done this particular programme in multiple countries, and the response we got within the Qatar FinTech Accelerator and Incubator programmes has been massive. Because it's a global epicentre we're trying to build as a hub for the region, we created local and global partnerships. And we have received 750 applications from 72 countries. It’s truly a global programme that we’re seeing,” added Kshirsagar.


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