Over the past few years, esports has steadily risen in prominence.
Firstly it was from a spectator and participation standpoint; however, as the industry has continued to develop and professionalise, other aspects of the sector have also gained greater importance.
Qatar SportsTech (QST) was originally designed to accelerate the sports industry in Qatar and the Middle Eastern region by providing start-ups with access to investment, expertise and connections, as well as developing the start-ups in its programmes by way of mentorship.
Some of the firm’s partners include beIN Media Group, Aspire Zone Foundation and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, along with other key stakeholders in and around Qatar’s sports ecosystem.
However, unsurprisingly, the firm has now turned its eye to esports in a bid to propel the sector and better position Qatar within its ecosystem.
The company’s Accelerator Program, which takes place over a three-month period on a bi-annual basis in Qatar’s capital Doha, sees 10 start-ups selected to take part. These start-ups are chosen by matching certain criteria across four key sectors: Athlete & Team, Fan & Viewer, Mega Sports Events, and of course, Esports. Applications for Cohort 4 are still open, and will run until the end of January 2021, with the programme taking place from March to May 2021.
Amongst the programme’s alumni are broadcast solutions provider Sponix Tech, smart clothing firm Torq Labs, and administrative, financial and sports planning platform Golee. Another 17 distinctive start-ups have also taken part.
The inclusion of esports in QST’s program highlights Qatar’s vision to develop its competitive gaming scene alongside its recent push for traditional sporting excellence, which is highlighted by the country hosting major international sports events such as the FIFA World Cup 2022.
Qatar has also seen initiatives such as the Qatar Esports Wega Global Games, launched earlier this year. The three-year global esports competition, centred around Qatar, aims to develop the country’s competitive environment, whilst also providing greater opportunities for participants in the scene. The first edition of the Global Games sees tournaments take place for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, Street Fighter V, and Pro Evolution Soccer.
Moreover, participants are competing to take home part of its $15m (~£11.22m) prize pool. This is just one of the initiatives that Qatar has created to show its intention to further develop esports in the MENA region.
If a company excels in the criteria and is selected to be inducted into the programme, then the organisation will be invited to participate in a three-month intensive accelerator at Aspire Zone, which is described by QST as the ‘beating heart of sports in Qatar.’ Throughout this process, each start-up receives a total of $150,000 (~£112,128) in investment. Of that, $40,000 (~£29,872) is provided in cash, with the rest at a discounted in-kind value.
As well as offering funding, the programme also provides a range of other benefits which can be used to mould an esports start-up. This includes access to specifically tailored global mentors, a range of investors through ‘Demo Days’ and also free office space provided for six months in Doha.
This year, Jordan-based organisation FATE Esports was selected amongst QST’s third cohort, again showcasing the firm’s willingness to invest in different esports ventures with the ultimate goal to boost Qatar’s competitive gaming sector. FATE scouts and nurtures top esports players and connects them with key stakeholders in the global competitive gaming industry to ensure that the esports ecosystem continues running smoothly.
Aside from being a part of QST’s program, FATE is closely connected with telecom giant Orange in order to run esports tournaments, particularly in the Middle East region. On the competitive side, the esports organisation also boasts an impressive CS:GO roster and recently made it to the Intel Extreme Masters Beijing-Haidian 2020 European Closed Qualifier.
Since its launch, QST has scouted 4,264 start-ups, received nearly 1,300 applications from over 80 countries, and invested $1.25m (~£934,450) across 30 sports tech start-ups between three cohorts within only 18 months.
As Qatar looks to establish itself as a global hub in the world of sports and esports, organisations such as QST will ensure that start-ups are provided with the proper tools and expertise to be able to integrate smoothly into the ecosystem. The success of the Accelerator Program has also seen QST think more locally to nurture and develop Qatari start-ups.
EntelaQ is designed to do just that with the ‘Pre-Accelerator Program’, aiming to help young entrepreneurs and university students residing in Qatar to launch their own businesses.
QST is providing a start-up environment which will ultimately benefit the country. Its Accelerator Program is not only developing global esports start-ups, but also integrating the organisations into Qatar’s esports structure. Moreover, by curating local companies and boosting esports entrepreneurs, QST hopes to push the boundaries of esports in the region by helping to develop a living, breathing and thriving scene.
Read the full version of this article in Edition 7 of The Esports Journal.