High-Impact Entrepreneurship

Endeavor Entrepreneur Omar Koudsi in TechCrunch: “Startups: Silicon Valley vs. the Emerging World”

Endeavor Entrepreneur Omar Koudsi, co-founder of Jordan-based Jeeran, the largest review site in the Middle East, wrote an opinion piece in the popular tech blog TechCrunch, “Startups: Silicon Valley Vs. The Emerging World”.

Omar writes about coming to the Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit last summer in San Francisco, and of the starkly different challenges faced by tech startups in emerging markets like Jordan compared with Silicon Valley:

I believe the lack of a well-developed ecosystem (funding, mentoring, risk culture, lawyers, human resources) puts the burden tenfold on the entrepreneur in the emerging world. In many cases, foreign entrepreneurs have to do ten times the lifting of an American startup — for a much longer period of time to boot — in order to succeed.

My company (Jeeran) was lucky to find a VC firm called IV Holdings that had emerged in 2006 — way before entrepreneurship became cool in our part of the world — and it changed everything. Of course, it still took us a whole year to close our first round of funding.

Most startups in the Middle East, he notes, are not so lucky as to secure support from venture capitalists early on, and must rely on their revenue, friends and family, and whatever investors they can secure, in order to keep their new businesses afloat.

Attending a workshop at Stanford University while visiting Silicon Valley, Omar found some of the advice given rather laughable when applied to an emerging market context:

One of the tips he gave us was to interview at least 10 people for each position before choosing the right candidate — to take your time and be selective.

I found it humorous, since we barely find a handful of people with enough expertise to make a difference, let alone 10 people lined for the database, UX, and product management jobs we (and so many others) are hiring for. Founders in the emerging world are mostly occupied with building-up talent as it comes along in bits and pieces, not recruiting it.

Still, he notes that even Western companies outside of the Valley often face such problems:

I found it comforting that many founders in Europe and even the East Coast complain about many of the same issues: Lack of venture funding, lack of talent, and an ecosystem that penalizes risk takers. Of course, this situation has much improved for them and for us, but it made me feel less lonely when I hear tales of East Coast founders trying to convince Wall Street talent to join a startup.

Nevertheless Omar says he values the learning experiences he had while visiting Silicon Valley, where valuable expertise is undoubtedly plentiful, even if the experts may take certain advantages for granted. He closes with an invitation:

Here is an invite for the Valley to go out and see how the startups of the world are solving problems in ecosystems void of the many resources taken for granted by the Y Combinator-accelerated generation.

The full article can be read here.

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