There are two ways to start a company in Qatar and retain full foreign ownership. They are called free zones and also, confusingly, insist on not being free zones at the same time. Regardless of whether they call themselves free zones this week, there are two of them: Qatar Financial Center and Qatar Science and Technology Park
They each have a very different objectives and criteria but there are ways to fit IT / computer / tech work into each, if with a different focus. I reached out to both of these places soon after I arrived.
QFC got back to me right away with their latest information. I made an appointment with them and a good thing too since apparently they are so busy that appointments are booked until about 3 weeks out.
That appointment just arrived and so now I have the information I was after.
First I should tell you more about QFC. Initially it was formed as a way to get foreign financial services companies to put branches here. Having accomplished that goal, they switched focus to a more broad set of company types outside of the financial sector. Sports and IT consulting are specifically named, among others.
When I talk to people here about QFC, I am told that it’s now exclusively used for sports like the world cup that will be here in 2022, the gymnastics championship that is here now and the world superbike championship that was here last week. I’m told that they don’t really do IT consulting things.
I didn’t let that dissuade me, and not just as an attempt to be thorough, which I am attempting, but because I already knew that getting picked up by the QFC would be a terrible thing. It’s based on and regulated by a huge chunk of legislation. There’s a bible’s worth of rules and regulations you have to to agree to and follow. Including a huge chunk of financial services rules that are retained even after the change of focus. It includes reciprocal agreements with dozens of governments about how various things will be accounted and taxed.
Basically the last thing you’d ever want. But I didn’t want the meeting so that they could vacuum me up into the behemoth. I wanted it because it seemed like they are well connected and if someone there turned out to like me maybe some good doors open.
My appointment was at 8:00am with Mohammed J.M.A. Al Kuwari in QFC Tower 1, 19th floor. Here’s a picture of the QFC Tower 1 doors as you walk in:
You can’t really make it out in the photo but the inside set of doors read "We Mean Business".
I arrived 15 minutes early and I was told that Mr. Al Kuwari would come down to the lobby to get me when he was ready. Here’s a pic of what the lobby looks like while you are sitting and waiting:
Take a good look at that photo for a nice long time if you want to know what an appointment with Mr. Al Kuwari looks like. I sure did. I waited until 25 after 8 before I called the number he had given me. It went to a voice mail system. I then waited another 20 minutes until I walked out.
Maybe he’s super important and had to save some massive deal that was about to fall through. Or maybe he looked at me on the security cameras and said, "who is this schmuck?". Or maybe he was really close to beating a level of candy crush.
Damned if I know.
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