International start-ups laud Qatar’s hosting of first Web Summit in MENA region

10 May 2024

The inaugural Web Summit Qatar marked a significant milestone for the global tech event’s expansion into the Middle East and Africa. The four-day summit drew 15,453 attendees from 118 countries, which included entrepreneurs, investors, tech leaders and startups.

Of the 1,043 participating startups representing 81 nations, sizable contingents from Africa made a record presence in Web Summit history, amounting to 20 percent, along with Qatar’s own local startups showcasing homegrown talent, 10 percent of the total. The resounding consensus? Qatar delivered a world-class event.

Among the startups taking part was Algeria’s SAFAKAT, a legal tech service modernising procurement. “It is my first time in Qatar and I have to applaud the outstanding organisation. It is a great opportunity for us, for all startups and the entire MENA region tech ecosystem. It is commendable that Qatar is organising such events in the region,” said CEO Djamel Ait Ameur.

As a former interior designer, CEO of UK-based Yulii Cherevko was inspired to launch his AI-powered interior design service to ease his clients’ woes with a cost-effective solution. “Compared to our Lisbon experience, which although was much bigger, Qatar provides more opportunities to be profitable, because it is more in our niche and there is more interest for our service here,” he said.

Murat Taskiran, Managing Partner at Türkiye-based INLOG Robot Technology, an automated fulfilment solution for warehouses, said he was pleased to secure several leads at the summit. He added: “It is an interesting vision to have the event here because it is a big market first of all. Secondly, it is a dynamic ecosystem, so many startups are coming from the Middle East. It is a great gathering and meeting point for all of the players around the world. Plus, there are also a lot of investors and opportunities for expansion here.”

Plenty of innovation was seen from the Middle East, including Lebanon’s Ray Labs, a SaaS property management platform that aims to digitally transform real estate. Sales Director Hazem Hassan said: “Web Summit started in Ireland and then Lisbon and a few other places around the world. It is a big deal being here because it is a unique conference, the way it works, the way it is organised. It is very good to have it here to cater to the interest in the region and give a lot of opportunities for the region itself,” said Hazem.

Mouhamed Ndoye, Cofounder & CEO of  Senegal-based healthtech startup Tanél Health, had high praise for Qatar’s successful debut. He said: “Stereotypically, the Gulf has not been viewed as a favourable place for startups. Just being able to be here and seeing it for ourselves—it is actually a great place to live. It is very safe, very clean. In fact, a lot of startup founders have been talking, thinking about what if we lived here? Those are the kinds of questions we are thinking about after Web Summit.”

One startup that wasted no time capitalising on the opportunities offered at the summit was VOLZ, a company based in Algeria. Through Invest Qatar’s Startup Qatar pavilion, which offered instant business registration, immigration advice and consulting services, Abelmoubdea Ghazi, Head of Strategic Partnerships and co-founder of VOLZ, managed to register a holding company right on the premises. “Before that, we were looking into expanding into Dubai or Saudi, but after being here, we decided to grasp this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Abelmoubdea.

Qatar’s hosting of Web Summit comes at an ideal time to energise its startup ecosystem and boost ICT capacity-building toward supporting economic diversification, in line with its Third National Development Strategy 2024-2030.