Since its 2009 co-launch of the Saudi Fast Growth 100, a list of the Kingdom’s top scaling companies, the AllWorld Network has accelerated its conquest to rank the leading scalable businesses throughout the Middle East and North Africa, launching the Lebanon 25, the Turkey 25, the Egypt 25, the UAE 25, the Pakistan 25, and the Maghreb 50 lists since December of last year. With the imminent announcement of the Jordan 30, and the eventual creation of a regional Arabia 500 list, the network is poised to codify growth in MENA in a newly comprehensive manner. While the power of a list alone may seem limited at first glance, the AllWorld Network’s mission to create visibility is anything but narrow.
In the cozy Turtle Green café in Amman, Jordan, on a bright Thursday morning, Network co-founder Deirdre Coyle explained how a simple ranking can generate momentum. “By raising awareness about the scalability of these companies, we connect the existing workforce to emerging industries.” Connecting the current workforce to scaling companies further contributes to creating the 100 million new jobs that need to be created by 2020- as the World Bank warns- if the Arab World is to sustain its population.
Fostering startups has been generally acknowledged as a crucial element in bolstering job creation. And yet, Coyle attested, it’s swiftly-scaling companies that lead the pack in expanding a country’s economic base, a fact that informs AllWorld Network’s “laser-like” focus on fast growth. Their methodology is based on a simple equation: visibility generates growth.
In 1998, after seeing companies benefit from being listed on the Inc. 500, a list of America’s fastest growing enterprises over three years old, the AllWorld Network founders co-launched the Inc. Inner City 100 to shed light on lesser-known businesses. The resulting opportunities that flooded the Inner City 100 confirmed their hypothesis that visibility alone could make or break extremely capable companies in unsupportive environments.
AllWorld Network has applied this same logic to the MENA region, where the rankings stand to benefit companies in three key dimensions, Coyle enumerates.
1. Ranked businesses gain exposure to investors.
While companies with a three-year track record of growth may already have funding, it’s often not the case. “About one-third of the companies we rank have capital already. One-third are seeking it and adjusting to the language of investment. Yet one-third aren’t sure how to approach getting capital,” said Coyle. Exposure accelerates the learning process.
2. Training and education sectors receive support.
Typically, around two-thirds of the Fast Growth companies have partnered with training programs or created their own in order to address gaps in employee skills. Placing a seal of approval on a company with training experience can result in spin-off training companies that bolster the entire sector, said Coyle. Of the Saudi Fast Growth companies ranked in 2010, “70% of the founders aim to start another company in the next year. 90% of those want to startup in another sector- most often training and education.”
3. The rankings transform the way that the companies do business.
“These companies know what they had to go through to get on the list,” Coyle commented wryly. A sense of shared standards generates trust and the seeds of partnership among ranked companies, even across borders, as businesses look to expand within the region. The primary market that many of these companies are aiming for is the MENA market, said Coyle, including those companies ranked in the Pakistan 25. By facilitating international partnerships, AllWorld Network works to anneal regional cohesion.
This sense of solidarity has also had an unintended side-effect. Many of the founders that join a Fast Growth list now feel that they have a common voice with which they can articulate their needs as businesses to the community, said Coyle. In some cases they have banded together to raise issues in hopes that societal changes will further facilitate their growth.
While the effects of its rankings are still nascent, the AllWorld Network’s goal of bringing global visibility to local brands will undoubtedly build a vision of newfound economic possibility in the region.
If you're interesting in joining The AllWorld Network’s list of fast-growing companies, apply to the Arabia 500 before June 30, 2011.