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Qatar’s startup sector wins big at the opening night of Web Summit

At the summit, the Qatar Investment Authority launched a $1 billion VC fund for international and regional venture capital funds.

Qatar’s startup sector wins big at the opening night of Web Summit
[Source photo: Web Summit Qatar]

The world’s biggest technology conference, the Web Summit, opened in Doha, and the tech jamboree hasn’t lost its lure after last year’s event was shaken by the resignation of its founder, Paddy Cosgrave, and was boycotted by several tech giants. Taking place from Monday through Thursday, the summit is being attended by tens of thousands in Qatar’s capital.

Opening the night yesterday, the CEO of Web Summit Katherine Maher said that the event aims to connect technology with ideas and attract investment opportunities for startups and SMEs. 

“At Web Summit, we are committed to being a force for innovation and connecting people who are reshaping the world.”

She added that coming to the Middle East represents a new opportunity to connect a new generation of innovators and changemakers.

During his keynote speech, Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, said, “We are building a new ecosystem. Advanced technologies must be shared with everyone; our collective goal should be to provide access, especially to developing nations. Web Summit Qatar 2024 serves as a milestone in this journey,” he added.   

Jassim Al Thani announced that the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) is set to launch the country’s first VC Fund of Funds, a strategic investment program to foster innovation in Qatar.

“QIA will invest over $1 billion in international and regional capital funds as part of a strategy to develop the venture capital and startup sector in Qatar and neighboring states,” he said.

According to QIA, the program seeks to attract international VC funds and startups to Qatar and the wider Gulf Cooperation Council region, focusing on the fintech, edtech, and healthcare sectors. It will generate market-level commercial returns in line with QIA’s mandate to secure sustainable, long-term returns for the people of Qatar.

The highlight of the opening night was Trevor Noah, the South African comedian and former Daily Show host, who talked about growing up with technology. From burning CDs as a kid to making some pocket money to becoming a technology investor today, Noah shared that his journey as a comedian is also tech-backed. 

“I would put comedy content online, and slowly, people called me into all these places worldwide despite these borders. Technology has shortened the divide,” he added. 

Noah further explained that the core of any founder should include a belief and an understanding. “Any tech company I invested in was because I believe that the founder of that company had a belief on what they were doing and they had an understanding of how to do it or how they think it can benefit society.” 

Noah said there needs to be a cost-benefit analysis regarding technology safety. “In the world of technology, the key is accepting that you may not know all of it. The less we know, the more we are bound to know, and that is what I am trying to achieve in technology,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a discussion on artificial intelligence and the advancement of technology, Amjad Masad, co-founder and CEO of Replit, said companies need to be responsible, and governments should be engaged in companies to ensure that technology is being developed responsibly. “At the same time, we need to make sure development on technology is not slowed down because it will help make our future better.” 

“I think Doha is an amazing space. They have done very much with their laws and regulations to attract that talent, but there is more to do,” he added.

The Web Summit in Qatar is running until February 29. The tech event welcomed 15,435 attendees from 118 countries and over 1000 startups – the largest gathering in the Middle East.

The Innovation By Design Summit is in Doha on April 24. Attendance at the summit is by invitation only. Delegates can register here to receive their exclusive invite.

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