Startup Rising (The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East)

It is another A-ha!! or Eureka!! moment for me after I read this book. It completely opens a new perspective for me as to the entrepreneurship culture in the Middle East(ME). In fact the emerging innovation or entrepreneurship culture for the entire region. Yes it does also include North Africa as you guess by what I meant by the entire region.

ME has gone thru a fundamental shift in various aspects in recent years. It is called the Arab Spring. Although some argue that it is actually Arab Winter, it highly affects all the region in terms of economy, culture, science and many others.

The book focused on the new frontline for the region. The entrepreneurship literacy was far below average compared to the whole world but the gap is closing with its high acceleration. Paradigm shift in the region caused groups especially the young generations to feel they can change themselves and the world via innovation, social media and entrepreneurship. In fact they are the reason for this change.

I am not selling a garbage to a garbage man but to me every VC should take ME into their radar not to miss the opportunities and finally they will be able to enjoy the benefits of early entry to the market.

Here are some highlights from the book:

* Tech innovation is ME is made possible since technology offers transparency, connectivity and inexpensive access to capital and markets.

* The system of wasta – who do you know or who you have your behind is about to be broken as internet technology has its own rules and these rules have yet been corrupted by the old-minded people.

* M-Pesa of Kenya is a noteworthy as it represents today nearly half of all mobile payments in the WORLD and it also represents %20 of Kenya’s GDP. Safaricom(40% is acquired by Vodafone) launched M-Pesa. Company is a show of how the need can change/trigger innovation. Since there is no banking system in Kenya people need a different system to transfer money. Before M-Pesa (A text based mobile cash payment platform) people ‘d need to transfer money in cash and physically. Please also check  “Maktoob(acquired by Yahoo for 175M USD)” . Maktoob’s acquisition was a game changing event for the entire ME as people started thinking I can do and I do not need wasta.

* Vodafone launched Xone Egypt in 2012 and utilized 3M USD to invest. what they are looking for from the entrepreneurs are A. Is the innovation strategic fit with us? B.Is it commercially viable and scalable? C.does the team have outstanding management. Like them, the marketing and the technology itself trilogy.

* Smartphone penetration is around 8 % – 12 % in the region but it is expected bo break the 50 % barrier within three years. Huge market opportunity. Also mobile tech and solar energy needs to be taken into account for investment.

* Region needs success stories that can inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.

* Since internet technology is emerging and people want to set up their own companies, three types of entrepreneurs have emerged.Improvisers are those who adopted models proven successful elsewhere like maktoob. problem solvers are those who are trying to find solutions for local problems like bey2ollak (try to solve the traffic problem in Cairo). Global players are those whose technologies are affecting the whole world like instabeat.

* One cannot be an island of excellence in the ocean of turbulence.

* With emerging of Social Media we will have more women entrepreneurs and do not forget that religion is everywhere and people think of it as their self-identity and hence they seek for shariah-compliancy for their endeavors.

Other to note and for further investigate:

-Flat6LAbs Accelerator

-Oasis500

Conclusion

ME is not as most American think. IT is emerging on every aspects and it bottom-up. By only looking tat top-down rules dictated by governments, ME cannot be best understood. Dialogue is needed.

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