M7: Qatar’s New Creative Hub
Qatar’s innovation and startup scene recently received a major boost with the launch of an exciting new venture by Qatar Museums — M7, a new innovation and startup hub located in Doha’s downtown Msheireb area.
We sat down with M7’s Acting Director, Maha Al Sulaiti, to talk about what this new project will mean for Doha’s local creative community and to learn more about its future plans.
Q: What is M7?
M: M7 is the epicentre for design, innovation and entrepreneurship in Doha. But I think it would be interesting to explain what M7 stands for to further understand what it’s all about. The “M” represents the location of the centre at Msheireb, and the “7” represents the principles we focus on when it comes to programming. These are to inspire, equip, validate, empower, accelerate, connect and promote. Each programme is carefully selected to ensure that we provide creatives with the opportunity to grow in all these areas.
Q: Who is M7 for?
M: Everyone that is creative or interested in supporting the local creative industries. It targets more established creative businesses by offering specific programming through to enthusiastic hobbyists with its exhibition and public event programming. It is also seeking to attract potential investors and to work with relevant government entities.
Q: What will M7 offer?
M: We envision a space that will have something for everyone who is interested in creative industries, whether they are a hobbyist or a very well-established business. The M7 building offers beautiful exhibition spaces, a dedicated incubation space, a café, learning area, a “fab lab” and concept store — all spread across the impressive four story building. The incubator is for more established designers who are looking to seriously scale up their businesses. There are experts offering training and workshops for emerging talents available in the co-working and learning spaces and other offerings that cater to the needs of designers. M7 will also offer designers and the public world-class travelling exhibitions as well as local exhibitions.
Q: How would you define a startup hub?
M: A startup hub is a mini ecosystem — a place for creatives to connect, grow and accelerate their business, and a place for resources and opportunities. It’s somewhere that startups know they could go and find support, wherever they are in their journey.
Q: What inspired this creative hub? How did the idea and concept behind M7 come about?
M: In the past few years, the creative scene in Qatar has shown great potential, seeing a larger number of designers and creative businesses emerge. However, the growth of the creative ecosystem has not kept up, and the understanding and support of creative businesses is yet to be shaped. M7 was developed from Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa’s vision to continue to support and build the creative ecosystem in all its stages and aspects and to provide designers with the necessary support and tools to be self-sustaining. Our main role is to bring together industry leaders, thinkers and active designers to build an ecosystem organically.
Q: What does M7 envision for its future?
M: M7 is all about the creatives. It’s the connector to opportunities for small businesses so they can take the lead and support one another. We want to see the local ecosystem expand, and gaps in the industry be addressed. Our role is to facilitate the growth and development of this ecosystem.
Q: What sets M7 apart from other creative startup hubs around the world and in the region?
M: Qatar is unique in its economy. With a heavy dependency on the oil and gas industry for years, it’s now turning to develop other industries. Its incredible growth provides unprecedented opportunities for small businesses and investors. Qatar has many connections and relationships around the globe, and this really is a unique positioning. Of course, this doesn’t come without its challenges. We are still early in the creative industry life cycle. There is a lot to think about and to build.
Q: How does M7 plan on tapping into Doha’s existing creative scene?
M: As the industry is fragmented, with things happening here and there, it’s important for us to become a reliable resource for designers, creative and clients. By hosting a lot of fashion and design events, activities and programmes, we can bring people together in one place. By doing so, it then becomes a lot easier for everyone to know what is going on and who’s who in the industry — and hence to be able to grow and develop together.
Q: How will M7 help creatives and designers looking to establish their startups in Qatar?
M: It is well known that it can be challenging to start a business in Qatar. Sometimes information is not readily available, and policies are sometimes not in favour of creatives. Short-term, what we plan to do is provide a one-stop-solution within the co-working space to provide advice and information. We plan to partner with the relevant institutions to ensure that we provide the necessary training and development for young entrepreneurs. In the long run, an important aspect that we would like to be involved in is policy reform, via partnering with institutions that advocate, so that we can inform policy makers on how to make it more favourable for creative businesses to operate. I believe this is crucially important for designers wanting to start a business.
Q: Is there anything else you want to add?
M: There are a lot of things happening for creatives, designers and artists in the near future. Not only with M7, but also with other institutions within Qatar Museums. And despite the current challenges we face with COVID-19, we are really optimistic that better days are coming. It’s a very exciting time for creatives!