Sila, Qatar’s newly launched business angel network, kicked off with a live demonstration on Monday night to a packed audience. Selected entrepreneurs from Qatar, Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan and the US presented their business ideas to a group of investors from the region, in hopes of gaining funding, mentoring and networking contacts to help get their businesses off the ground. The event was held under the patronage of HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, founder and chair of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF). Founding partners in Sila include Silatech, Enterprise Qatar (EQ), Qatar Development Bank (QDB) and Bedaya Centre. Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee and Qatar Shell sponsored the event, and Qatar Foundation is Sila’s Knowledge Partner. The Sila Angel Investment Network is a network of organisations, businesses, and individuals aligned on the common goal of catalysing an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Qatar as a hub for the wider Arab world. It aims to do this by unlocking an alternative to traditional forms of financing for young entrepreneurs such as banks or loans from family members. Through a series of networking events Sila will work to build connections between young entrepreneurs from Qatar and the region with potential angel investors who would take an equity stake in start-up businesses, bringing both much-needed financing and business experience to help enable success. To address the so-called ‘start-up equity gap,’ Sila will provide entrepreneurial support services from a wide network of partner organisations. Partner contributions include training of entrepreneurs and angel investors, mentorship and incubation, financing, technical assistance, business network outreach, and on-the-ground implementation. Silatech chief executive officer Dr Tarik M Yousef said: “Sila is all about networks and connectivity. We seek to bring together components which already exist in the region — young entrepreneurs with energy and ideas, potential investors willing to assume some risk in return for an exciting role in driving business success, and organisations with technical assistance and knowledge to offer — to help nourish and grow the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Qatar as a hub for the wider Arab world.” Sila will also provide training programmes for both potential angel investors as well as for aspiring young entrepreneurs. Mansour bin Ibrahim al-Mahmoud, QDB’s chief executive officer described Sila as a solution to bridge the gap between championing a winning idea and turning it into enterprise success. “Our research has shown that entrepreneurs face many barriers and our role here, as vanguards of the private sector, is essential for these start-up’s to evolve into engines of growth for the economy. “This is why we at QDB, have devised many programmes amongst them is the ‘Al-Dhameen Programme,’ in partnership with other banks, to guarantee finance up to 85% of a project’s cost for private sector businesses.” Noora al-Mannai, CEO of Enterprise Qatar commented: “We are delighted to be providing managerial and technical advisory services, including mentoring and business incubation support, on behalf of Sila for high potential individuals and their companies; we look forward to providing a platform to help them grow dynamic, world class companies.” Haya bint Khalifa al-Nassr, director of communication at QF, said: “Qatar Foundation is proud to be a knowledge partner for the Sila project. Its aim of promoting entrepreneurialism in Qatar resonates with our stated mission to unlock human potential, and we are delighted to offer our expertise and resources to help ensure the success of the project. Qatar Foundation will be supporting Sila by offering entrepreneurs access and benefits at high level conferences, providing venues for workshops, and linking entrepreneurs to QF’s wide network of contacts.” Sheikh Thani al-Thani, deputy general manager, Qatar Shell, said: “In our effort to support SMEs in Qatar, we are pursuing several initiatives to enhance local content and support organisations that can act as catalysts in this process. This is part of our ongoing support to Qatar’s vision of promoting economic development via nurturing small businesses.” Bedaya Centre manager Saleh al-Khulaifi expressed happiness in incorporating Sila into the range of services the Centre provide to young entrepreneurs and job seekers in Qatar. Hassan al-Thawadi, secretary general of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, observed that the work Sila is engaging in has the potential to make a significant contribution toward diversifying the economy on a national level through promoting start-ups and small and medium business enterprises. “The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee aims to utilise the 2022 FIFA World Cup to be part of this process and to provide a catalyst for entrepreneurs and SMEs, on a national and regional level.” Additional organisations supporting Sila include Flat6Labs, Golden Seeds, ictQATAR, MIT Enterprise Forum of the Pan Arab Region, Qatar Mobility Innovations Centre, Qatari Businesswomen Association, Q Media, Sawaid Qatar, Stars of Science, Think Big Qatar, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, and Wamda.