#MixNMentor Amman provokes heated debates

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During the morning opening talk. (Images via Wamda)

Jordan entrepreneurs never disappoint, even when they could take the day off for a national holiday.

While the rest of Jordan observed a public holiday, Wamda held its 23rd Mix N’Mentor in Amman - with impressive attendance from around 70 entrepreneurs, 30 mentors and a slew of students interested in dipping their toes in the entrepreneurship waters.

Ibtikar Fund chief operating officer Ambar Amleh said she noticed a great sense of community between the entrepreneurs, who were helping and supporting each other.

“[The] entrepreneurs were driven, had diversified, relevant and scalable startup ideas, and came to the event prepared with great questions,” she said.

Talent is big in Jordan

The fundraising roundtable during the first part of the day.

During the fireside chat at the end of the day, mentors and entrepreneurs focused on a perceived slide in Jordan’s ability to attract talent and its competitiveness compared to the Arab world. (Watch the fireside chat here).

Earlier this year, Wamda Research Lab (WRL) findings showed that 60 percent of entrepreneurs in Jordan were satisfied or very satisfied with the talent they hired.

“The advantage that we have is talent and security and stability, but these are not enough, as it is a small country with borders around us being closed more and more, in the last four to five years,” said Arzan VC senior investment manager  Laith Zraikat.

After the day ended, we emailed some of the mentors who took part of the event and asked them about their thoughts when it comes to trends and needs specific to the Jordanian ecosystem.

This is what they shared.

Ziad Traboulsi, engineering lead at Facebook's Dublin offices, giving a workshop on growth hacking.

In terms of trends:

Epayment is increasing in Jordan. The Central Bank of Jordan is pushing for more dependency on electronic payments by launching, supporting and promoting new sophisticated epayment methods. And large-scale retailers and corporations are launching online and e-commerce portals. - Mohammad Al-Rifai, business development manager at Payfort.

More tech in our daily lives. Health, education, transportation, payment, and commerce are major areas witnessing technology impact. Also, accelerators are changing globally and becoming more specialized, in health, education, and so on. - Abed Shamlawi, Entrepreneurship and ICT Advisor.

Fintech, manufacturing and healthcare. Through meeting with different investors and stakeholders, next upcoming trends we expect in the region are fintech, manufacturing and healthcare. We as Oasis500 are eyeing deal flow in these sectors specifically. - Luma Fawaz, Investment Manager, Oasis500.

Jordan is no longer a viable tech startup hub. Most founders are realizing that time is better spent developing products and raising money in other markets like Lebanon, UAE and Saudi, especially with more and more funds popping up and more money going into existing funds as well. In the last four years the government of Jordan has done little more than live off of its first-mover momentum. Four years is a lifetime in our industry. - Laith Zraikat, Senior Investment Manager, Arzan VC.

Samar Dudin, regional director of Ruwwad, giving a workshop on social entrepreneurship

In terms of needs:

A sense of urgency. Startups and the tech economy are its best hope to remain a viable country in the next 50 years. With all the political and economic challenges, it needs economic prosperity and stability. This requires a completely new and results driven mindset, bold decisions, quick action, and somewhat of a benevolent dictatorship to pushing those reforms onto the legislators. - Laith Zraikat, Arzan VC.

A cashless-based economy. The ecosystem needs more support from different components to create the required needs for consumers to shift toward using electronic solutions more frequently; thus moving from a cash-based economy to a cashless based one. - Mohammad Al-Rifai, Payfort.

A global scope. As global startup hubs become more and more accessible and more active in attracting talent from around the world, MENA founders will start building products targeting global customers. In the old days (five years ago) you couldn’t dream of building something and launching it in San Francisco. Acceleration programs are open to everyone and they are taking in larger and larger numbers every batch. Founders have started realizing just how easy it has become to go and start anywhere in the world. - Laith Zraikat, Arzan VC.

Mentorship. Being an entrepreneur goes beyond just the tech industry. Whether mentoring comes through organizations such as Mowgli or just experienced entrepreneurs supporting one another, the challenges a lot of the entrepreneurs faced during Mix N’Mentor discussions are quite simple and may have been resolved if they had access to trusted mentors. - Helen Al Uzaizi, Pique.

Younger entrepreneurs. If we target the next 5 to 10 years, then our focus should be more on kids in schools (10 to 14 years old) to drive new ideas and technology. - Abed Shamlawi, Entrepreneurship and ICT Advisor.

More governmental involvement. At the last Mix N Mentor, I noticed a significant lack of participation on part of the government or government departments concerned with tech and startups. This is a big contrast compared to five years ago. - Laith Zraikat, Arzan VC.

Stronger communication. Some basic information needs to be shared and for some reason we are not getting the right message across. Specifically in regards to expectations from founders and the roles played by investors and stakeholders. - Luma Fawaz, Oasis 500.

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