Fin Tech Focus

Bridging gateways

May 27 - June 2 , 2020

Gulf Weekly Naman Arora
By Naman Arora

Gulf Weekly Bridging gateways

The Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) has entered into a partnership with GrowIN Portugal, a platform that helps entrepreneurs incorporate, fund, expand and move their start-ups to Portugal, writes Naman Arora.

Both the organisations plan to collaborate on the promotion of events and opportunities in both markets, develop start-up markets, arrange introductory meetings with key ecosystem stakeholders and exchange information on the evolution of their respective start-up ecosystems.

Pakiza Abdulrahman, Head of start-ups at the Bahrain EDB, told GulfWeekly: “GrowIN Portugal provides opportunities for start-ups to build, grow, and connect their companies within the market. Bahraini companies that choose to expand to Europe can take advantage of this opportunity and set up in Portugal, gaining access to the entire European market via Portugal’s supportive ecosystem.

“I think the most important thing we will get out of this partnership is the opportunity for collaboration and innovation between both Bahraini and Portuguese companies. Both Bahrain and Portugal offer highly skilled workforces, and by combining our approaches we could see real growth. We are offering European start-ups the chance to learn more about the kingdom’s opportunities and what #TeamBahrain brings to the table. We also want our entrepreneurs to learn from the experiences of their international peers.”

Bahrain and Portugal currently trade mainly in aluminium, paper and cotton products, with a trade relationship valued at nearly USD22 million (BD8.3 million). However, the EDB plans to expand that to include technology and start-up talent, building on the success of current European start-ups in Bahrain and the Middle-East.

Pakiza added: “Thanks to our continued involvement with Web Summit, we have seen a growing number of European start-ups enter the Bahrain ecosystem over the past five years. For example, French legal tech start-up NoPaperPost expanded into Bahrain last year and UK ICT venture Innervate, which has been fuelling the digital transformation of the Middle East. There are currently no Portuguese start-ups based in Bahrain, but we are keen to change that.

“The relationship between Portugal and Bahrain is historic, one of our UNESCO sites has Portuguese heritage! There are six Portuguese commercial agencies registered in Bahrain, and both countries enjoy a strong and long running trade relationship.

“This new initiative will also allow Bahraini start-ups access not just to Portugal’s ecosystem – which we have been able to experience first-hand over the past five years in Lisbon – but to the wider European markets as well. Just as Bahrain is the gateway to the Gulf, for our start-ups, Portugal can act as the gateway to Europe. From an EDB perspec-tive, we are looking at how to support Bahraini start-ups that provide tech-enabled solutions that facilitate social distancing and provide replacements for traditional essential services. There have been some great examples of home-grown Bahraini start-ups supporting government efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Queue management system Skiplino is providing its services for free for government agencies, medical centres and hospitals. GetBaqala, a Bahrain-based grocery delivery platform, allows customers to buy their essentials while practicing social distancing. And Weyak delivers medicine and pharmaceuticals to your doorstep. They provide delivery services for those in need of medication while practicing social distancing. These are the kinds of innovative startups we are looking at. Bringing these digital offerings into new markets is how we’ll support their scale up and growth, while also serving as a learning opportunity for our own ecosystem.”

Anas El Arras, chief executive of GrowIN Portugal commented: “Startups need support now more than ever before, so we are delighted to be collaborating with Bahrain EDB to do just that. Bahrain and Portugal each offer supportive ecosystems complete with funding support, highly-skilled labour forces, cutting edge digital infrastructure and world-class accelerators. Moreover, we each sit on the doorstep of major markets: Europe and MENA respectively. By combining forces, combining ecosystems, we can provide a global space to accelerate startups from around the world, and ensure innovation is not hampered by the global crisis.”

More on Fin Tech Focus