The Takeaway: The author of Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East explains four steps Arab governments and communities can take to leverage the digital start-up revolution in the region.
We in the United States have long held one narrative of the Middle East—one of political instability, sectarian unrest, and oligarchs protecting great wealth in the hands of way too few elites. We need to look no further than Syria to know the great challenges of the region. Yet the nation with the greatest per capita YouTube usage is…Saudi Arabia. One of the largest demographics of YouTube viewers there are…women. One of the largest content categories is…education.
I already knew the Ruwwad story intimately.
The vision was formed by Fadi Ghandour, the founder and now chairman of the largest logistics company in the Middle East and Africa, Aramex. As early as 2005, he told me about a youth center he was planning to build in a refugee camp in Amman.
From today’s historic civil wars in Egypt and Syria to protests raging in Turkey, turmoil in the Middle East is making front-page headlines every day. But in the midst of it all, a quieter revolution has begun to emerge, one that might ultimately do more to change the face of the region: the rise of entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs.
The West tends to look at the world through the prism of its own successes, and believes that it has a monopoly on innovative ideas and entrepreneurship. Nothing amuses the entrepreneurs I meet around the world more than when some US politician who refers to entrepreneurship as a “leading American export,” as if other, thousands-of-years-old entrepreneurial cultures have only recently discovered it.
It should be no surprise that the Middle East is now home to a thriving community of entrepreneurs helping drive economic growth
A JOURNALIST recently asked me how I could still believe in tech-based entrepreneurship in the Middle East today. In the midst of the terrible news of late in Egypt and over two years in Syria, it is hardly an idle question.
One part wanting the money, one part looking for cheap and efficient marketing, entrepreneur Hind Hobeika turned to the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo this past spring.
Her new product, Instabeat®, is a revolutionary swimming device that can seamlessly and instantaneously track an athlete’s workout. Mounted to any pair of swimming goggles, it displays conveniently, Google Glass-like, your heartbeat, calories, and number of laps and flip turns, giving real-time feedback and syncing to your mobile app or computer to track progress over time.
I am reading a wonderfully moving post on Wamda – one of the leading platforms helping entrepreneurs in the Middle East. But this post is not about yet one more amazing startup expanding or raising capital in the region. It is about Assem el-Gamal and Amr Abd el Rahman. They are Egyptian pioneers in the tech ecosystem – brave, brilliant, forward thinking, all about the future of that great country.
Many things amazed me in my travels across the growing tech startup ecosystem in the Middle East over the past two tumultuous years.
Nothing impressed me more, however, than the regular blurring of lines between “entrepreneurship” and “social entrepreneurship.” The former once connoted hard-nosed money making; the latter nonprofit, or at least not-solely-for-profit, enterprises.