An initiative to support the fintech industry in Qatar has kicked off after receiving applications from more than 70 countries.
The Qatar FinTech Hub (QFTH), co-founded by the government-owned Qatar Development Bank (QDB), has announced the fintech companies that have joined the first cohort of its ‘incubator’ and ‘accelerator’ programmes. The first ‘wave’ will run until December.
The programmes are designed to cater to both local and non-Qatari fintech entrepreneurs and start-ups that are looking to accelerate their international growth.
QFTH unveiled details of the programmes in April and received more than 750 applications from early-stage and established fintechs in Qatar and 72 other countries, including the UK, USA, Australia, India, Singapore, Germany, Turkey, Nigeria, Russia and Indonesia.
Each participating fintech will receive financial support, mentoring and training provided by QFTH, its strategic partners and ‘mentors’. Upon completion of the programmes, eligible participants will also be referred to the central bank’s ‘sandbox’ where they will receive support on licensing needs in Qatar, as well as benefiting from a fee waiver on registration. A sandbox is a trial-and-error testing space in which projects can be undertaken with real clients without the risk of infringing financial regulation.
Licensing opportunities from the Qatar Financial Centre, as well as the ‘opportunity to collaborate’ with more than 16 local financial institutions and regulators, and range of business development opportunities on the global scale will also be made available to the successful fintechs.
Public and private sector team up for pitch days
After an evaluation process, 55 fintechs were invited to present their solutions via (virtual) pitch days. Shortlisted fintechs included companies working in areas such as payment services, mobile payments, B2B payments, small- and medium-sized enterprise solutions and know-your-customer (KYC) solutions.
The pitch days were judged by a panel of representatives from: QDB, Qatar Central Bank, the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), EY, Visa, Mastercard, Microsoft, Qatar Islamic Bank, Dukhan Bank, Qatar International Islamic Bank, Doha Bank, Masraf Al Rayan (bank) and QNB (bank). The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, the entity overseeing the infrastructure projects for football’s World Cup, which is due to be held in Qatar in 2022, was also represented on the panel.
Eleven early-stage fintechs were selected for the incubator programme: eight Qatari firms, plus Remit Radar from the UK, DaVinci Payments from Australia and Pay Ring from Russia.
Thirteen ‘mature’ fintechs were selected for the accelerator programme. These companies are based in: Singapore (four firms), UK, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, India, Canada, Brazil, Kuwait, as well as one firm from Qatar.
QFTH, which was established two-and-a-half years ago, has collaborated with local and international institutions, including financial institutions, technology and service providers, payment networks, academic institutions, regulators, in addition partnering with other fintech hubs from Singapore, the UK, Turkey, Australia, India, Lebanon, Nigeria and Sweden.
Due to Covid-19, this first cohort of both the incubator and accelerator programmes will be conducted virtually. The programmes will culminate with a ‘demo day’ in December at which the participating fintechs will be able showcase their innovations to QFTH partners, ‘industry influencers’ and potential investors.
‘Paving the way for aspiring entrepreneurs’
QDB chief executive Abdulaziz bin Nasser al-Khalifa, who is also QFTH chairman, described the QFTH as “one of the most promising initiatives in the region”. He said the first cohort of applications would “pave the way for aspiring entrepreneurs who will be leading the next generation”.
He continued: “QFTH’s leading programmes are another tribute to QDB’s strategy in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030, focused on promoting the growth of the private sector in key economic sectors, and with the aim of building a diversified and sustainable economy. The large number of quality applications from all over the world is a strong testament of the trust that QFTH has quickly gained with the fintech community worldwide.”
The QDB, previously known as Qatar Industrial Development Bank, was created in 1997 with the objective of diversifying Qatar’s economy by promoting developmental projects. Eighteen months ago it became the first member of the ‘international hub’ of UK fintech association Innovate Finance.
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recently opened the latest application process for its own regulatory sandbox. The FCA’s sandbox was created in 2016, since when it has accepted six cohorts of businesses. The authority also recently opened applications for organisations keen to participate in the pilot of a different sandbox – a ‘digital sandbox’, which aims to support earlier-stage innovation.