If it takes a village to raise a child, then it will take the entire Middle East tech ecosystem to raise a successful startup. And as a young and emerging startup ecosystem, there will be crucial growing pains for first-time entrepreneurs and high risks for tech investors in the MENA region.
Yet with great risk comes big rewards, MENA is home to 3,000 active startups where the top 100 companies together raised over $1.42 BN in funding. With the acquisition of the Arab e-commerce Souq.com by online retailer behemoth Amazon and Careem’s financial deal with Chinese ride-sharing giant Didi Chuxing, we are moving the needle forward in the positive direction of becoming a global entrepreneurial hub.
As we celebrate entrepreneurship and innovation today on World’s Entrepreneurs’ Day, we highlight some of the region’s successful entrepreneurs and angel investors. We ask them what entrepreneurship means to them and their best piece of business advice for up and coming entrepreneurs.
Christopher Queitsch, CEO and Co-founder at OfficeRock.com
- Entrepreneurship means being able to do something every day you love. It does not even have to mean starting a company. We even have many intrapreneurs at OfficeRock.com working on internal projects. It means creating something from nothing, building something from scratch.
- Business Advice: Don’t start any business without first having customers lined up. Focus on sales and customers early on pays dividends in the future. But also – just do it, don’t let little details hold you back.
Elissa Freiha, Angel Investor and Co-founder at WOMENA
- Entrepreneurship is a stubborn desire to create. To build a solution that we hope will make the world better.
- Business Advice: ALWAYS write everything down, date everything, and have a legal paper trail for every decision and change. Also – Don’t raise money if you don’t need it: keep that equity as much as possible because too many cooks can ruin a supper.
Gaurav Dhar, Angel Investor, Mentor, and Co-founder at Stukk
- Entrepreneurship means the ability to create businesses with like-minded people at every level imaginable. No matter if you are a seasoned expert in your field doing something completely new or a person who is in the midst of their college years looking to solve a problem on a regional or global level. It truly is an exciting and unknown blank canvas. You create everything from scratch and can be your own boss and create an ecosystem of your own to nurture and grow with jobs, CSR and more!
- Business Advice: The entrepreneurship sword is double-edged. Success and failure are not far apart, especially in the early days of laying your foundation which has to be solid. Be disciplined, be relentless and surround yourself with people who are better than you in every way possible. Never stop learning or advancing forward. Remember what inspired you to start and always remain hungry to grow and do more.
Shaheeda Abdul Kader, Angel Investor, Operations, Express Print Publishers LLC
- Entrepreneurship, to me, is about Giving and Never Giving Up. My father is my role model. As a young man, building his companies, he did not scrutinize the Addressable Market Size or estimate how many Multiples he will return to his investors. He capitalized on the opportunities presented to him because he wanted to Give, his family a better life. It is not only about passion, or creating something or leading an organization. Some of his ventures failed, while others were roaring successes. He never gave up and never hesitated to start or invest in a new venture. Therefore, Entrepreneurship is an Ode to the Human Spirit.
- Business Advice: Be cautiously optimistic. Know that it’s just as important to learn how to Close a business as it is to open one. I know it is counter-intuitive to talk about entrepreneurship and closing businesses. If 90% of Startups will fail, it behooves us to prepare a soft landing for the founders. Young entrepreneurs should be aware of the closing costs and so should have some safety fund in case of such unfortunate events. In UAE, if the company is an onshore establishment, along with government fees, closing costs may include sizeable payments to the local sponsors as well.
We would love to hear what your best business advice are, join the conversation over on Twitter. Tweet to us @womenaco with hashtag #TwentyFirstAugust.