Angelica’s latest article which was published in Forbes Middle East (October 2018) in both English and Arabic. In this piece, she discusses how taking the first step is often the hardest – especially when it comes to entrepreneurship. The article goes on to explore how to create and navigate change in the startup world and you can read the full article below or buy a copy of the magazine at Forbes Middle East. The full piece will also be published online on Forbes later this month.
2017 was a record year for the Middle East’s startup ecosystem, with US$560 million of funding invested in 260 startups. It’s clear that the region is experiencing a new entrepreneurial energy – one only has to look at some of the recent success stories, from Souq and Tajawal, to the Middle East’s very own unicorn, Careem, which has created more than 500,000 jobs for the region since its launch just four short years ago.
With its central location, regional governments focused on innovation and a growing investor sector, the Middle East is wide open to budding startups in every imaginable sector – for first-time founders and experienced entrepreneurs alike. While the UAE continues to be the main hub for startups, countries such as Egypt, Jordan and the Lebanon are quickly following suit.
Yet despite high-profile success stories, many fear entrepreneurship because of the uncertainty it holds. So, what is the secret to taking that first step and how do you deal with the most significant challenges of turning your vision into a thriving reality?
- EXPLORATION AND STRATEGY-BUILDING
You’ve come up with a cutting-edge concept and recognise the opportunity to capitalise on a gap in the market. The product is developed, tested, you’ve carried out risk analysis and created a business plan. But before you begin to approach investors, consider the comment by Rubens Menin, EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2018: “It’s not enough to be profitable for shareholders and to give jobs, although this is important. A company that doesn’t have a purpose is not sustainable.”
Ask yourself the core questions of Ikigai, the philosophy of purpose: 1. What am I really good at? 2. What do I love doing? 3. What can I give to the world? and 4. How can I earn money? Be true to yourself. When raising capital, ensure your vision and direction are as clear as a beacon. Get outside perspectives by talking to other entrepreneurs and competitors; attend summits, join networking groups, appoint a mentor, get critical feedback.
Across the region there is an array of government-led initiatives and incubators to support SME companies. Organisations are also seeing the benefit of partnerships with startups as a means to access innovative ideas whilst also demonstrating their commitment to supporting local communities. Tap in to this support. Be open-minded and choose the right finance that suits your specific business.
Even if you feel ready to take the leap, fear of failure and change can kick in as you consider what’s at stake. It’s easy to focus on the unknown, reputation and economic uncertainty. We all have different mindsets around stability and risk-taking but trusting yourself makes you more decisive.
When making change, remember that it’s when we leave our comfort zone that we experience true growth. When you unfold your brand, do it confidently and make sure you have the right support to help you reach your targets and create lots of attention!
- GROWING YOUR BUSINESS
Success takes guts, sweat, self-discipline and a big dose of resilience. Setbacks are a natural part of business – keep going and consider a new venture if things don’t go as you plan. Learn from your mistakes. You may have come from a large operation and miss regular pay-checks, social interaction and validation from others. Now validation comes in form of your achievements and what you add to the market.
Consider using co-working spaces for flexibility, networking and affordability. Tap into the gig-economy by hiring passionate contractors for short-term projects as you gradually build your permanent team. Learn what motivates different generations and prioritise communication; keep the dialogue alive with staff, customers, investors and media.
Competitive advantage comes from being faster than the competition and continuously bringing fresh ideas to the table. For that, you need a quality workforce; increase your innovation revenue by building diverse teams who challenge the status quo.
Translating your success globally is much dependant on attracting local talent. Know your future markets inside-out and train your managers to become more interculturally confident.
Never stop working on your own development as a leader – be authentic to inspire trust and keep reassessing your goals. Your speed and open-mindedness in creating and adjusting to change is a key determinant of your entrepreneurial success.
This article was originally published by Forbes Middle East in October 2018, Issue 76. You can buy a copy here: https://www.forbesmiddleeast.com/en/shop/