The Business Year

Sheikh Mansoor Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Founder & Chairman, MBK Holding

QATAR - Economy

Sheikh Mansoor Bin Khalifa Al-Thani

Founder & Chairman, MBK Holding

Bio

A member of the Qatari ruling family, Sheikh Mansoor Bin Khalifa Al-Thani is a visionary leader and entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience in strategic development, innovation, and venture capital. As the founder and Chairman of MBK Holding, he leads a multinational team of entrepreneurial leaders with distinctive experiences and professions.

MBK Holding invests, manages, and incubates market-leading technology companies and experiments with revolutionary business to help elevate the corporate world through a new way of implementing business models.
MBK Holding was designed to support and enhance the role of start-ups in Qatar, and what strategy does it apply to transform them into market-leading companies?

Sheikh Mansoor Bin Khalifa Al-Thani: MBK Holding is not a traditional holding and does not follow a traditional path for investments. I focus on people, and all my investments are in people in an ecosystem of entrepreneurs that complement each other’s business. Recently, entrepreneurship and innovation are the new terms that define this. MBK wants to help entrepreneurs initiate as a start-up to being a regional or global leader; it is all about talent, the quality of the talent, and how they work together to produce a greater value and manage scalability. The main challenge I see in entrepreneurs is scalability. They start out well and experience success, but then it becomes difficult for them to continue. Recently, we came up with new methodologies and approaches to help break through this scale-up strategy. Continuing to grow is a completely different game. It is different growing from 10 people to 100 people than it is from 1,000 people to 10,000 or even 100,000 people. The entire engine is different. You have to create new departments, disciplines, and partnerships. It is really about people and how you can grow. I am learning from Microsoft, where I started in 1996. There were about 10-15,000 people at the time, and there are 181,000 people today. Every five years, the company evolves and changes. I established many start-ups myself, and MBK Holding emerged as an ecosystem builder for start-ups and innovation globally.

How does MBK enhance the flow of know-how between young entrepreneurs?

Sheikh Mansoor Bin Khalifa Al-Thani: We are creating a few new initiatives. The last three years have been dynamic, because we have been scaling up as a holding as well. We started with a basic engine investment and subsequently developed new initiatives about mentorship and coaching. In 2022, we will start focusing on incubators, accelerators, and venture builders, because this is the level-up of what we are doing on a smaller scale. Venture builders develop technology for start-ups. With an innovative model, they take a service fee as well as some equity, which is unique and empowering. MBK Holding is making the global ecosystem bigger and stronger in the UK, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. It is not only about money; it is about the effort, knowledge, and network that we have from being all over the world. I create opportunities for ecosystem participants by leveraging their services among each other and by interacting within the extended global reach of their clients too.  I am working on making money without money, which is super-innovative and can only be done by quality talent that share the same value of next generation entrepreneurship. You create super-quality talent that works together to create value that can generate revenue and bring in investments. We want to create something with minimum—if not no—investment.

How would you define the start-up ecosystem in Qatar?

Sheikh Mansoor Bin Khalifa Al-Thani: MBK Holding started 15 year ago earlier than anyone else. The ecosystem of Qatar started early, and it is mature in so many different areas; however, there are weak points. One is the regulations of entrepreneurship and innovation. Businesses know how to establish a company, though there is a lack of details about shares or classes of shares that are friendly to entrepreneurs. The focus has mainly been on legislations, which is business law and court law. Second, which is extremely important, are investor visa schemes. Qatar recently started to offer them, though visa issues remain an issue that can make a huge difference in the ecosystem. Updates to legislation will also include the central bank, which is becoming extremely active. Many people like Qatar and enter the country, but when they come in, they cannot advance more for these reasons, unfortunately. There are certain things we cannot solve with money, and we need to create the necessary infrastructure.

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