Startup Watch: Pokémon Go, VCs are ponzi schemes, and Cairo's legacy of entrepreneurship

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The world of entrepreneurship news is a complex one, with people ever ready to give their two cents on how you should be running your business/VC fund/incubator. Here’s our wrap of what we’re reading on analysis, f-f-f-failure, the zeitgeist, and a little something to lighten the end of the working week.

Cairo, a legacy of entrepreneurship. Egypt’s premier city doesn’t have the best reputation, but in spite of (or maybe because of?) the dirt, hustle and stress its entrepreneurial credentials go back centuries - the original Starbucks launched there in the 16th century. That’s some pedigree.

VCs are a ponzi scheme. OK so that’s a bit unfair, but as startup legend Steve Blank says, if you don’t understand the VC business model it may as well be - for you, the entrepreneur. He starts riffing on raising money around the 4:00 minute mark, but the rest - where he talks about broken homes building super-entrepreneurs and founders being artists - is well worth listening to.

From us to you: MENA has its head in the clouds. Computing, that is. Businesses and governments are spending like crazy on cloud services as they modernize, computerize, and analyze the gigs of data flooding into their digital office space. Tala El Issa in Jordan went deep into the foggy depths to find out where the opportunities lie.

Teach a man to fish… The zeitgeist is to help refugees relaunch their lives in a particularly startup-y way. Organisations are sniffing out talent, particularly in tech, arriving on new shores and providing an entrée into entrepreneurship. (We ran a little something on tech startups in Syria yesterday). This is a nice teaser, but keep an eye out for a report by our own Teeb Assaf at the Wamda Research Lab, due for release in October, on how MENA entrepreneurs are taking aid into their own hands - also with very startup-y results.

Syrian startup Daraty is training the next generation of Syrian 'makers' - in Syria. (Image via Daraty)

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week. Speed is a critical element of business; it’s how Ousta is rapidly taking over Egypt and how Talabat became a $170 million acquisition. Dave Girouard, CEO of personal finance startup Upstart, gives his tips on how to get things done fast.

Have you got into renewable energy yet? Why not? No, seriously. The annual Bloomberg New Energy Outlook report is out and says the global tipping point for ‘runaway’ renewable energy development is 2027, which may seem like a long way away but less so if you’re a hardware startup. In MENA, it’ll be the universal “least-cost” alternative to both gas- and oil-fired power by 2030 and installations will rise eightfold over the next 25 years. Yalla.

Here's your proof. (Image via Bloomberg New Energy Outlook 2016)

We need to rethink this ‘failure’ thing. Failing in Silicon Valley is “failing in the context of success”, the idea that if you mess up once you can pick yourself up and succeed later. But - and this is something entrepreneurs in MENA will be able to relate to - this doesn’t recognise that the process itself is full of pain and stress and often still not accepted by onlookers who need to hear that everything is a-ok, right up until you fall over. The solution is to make failure and the process of failing okay, rather than a celebrated thing to have on your resume.

Go big or go home. The GCC could be the sixth largest economy in the world by 2030 - if it can overcome its fragmentation and keep growing at 3 percent a year. But that would make the Gulf a formidable driver in MENA. Already regional entrepreneurs want to scale into that area yet as we’ve said before, it’s got some work to do before it becomes a true startup haven.

Watch out Nintendo, the Arab Pokémon Go is just around the corner. Probably. As the world descends back into childhood by chasing Pokémon, it turns out MENA’s game developers are well on board with the augmented reality (AR) trend. Wamda’s community architect Rami Deeb took what he admitted was a pretty unscientific poll this week, and was surprised to see so many gamers in the region already doing AR. Surprised, not because he doubts anyone’s ability to make a great Arab AR game, but because the industry is still only a sparkle in Nintendo’s eye. Go catch 'em all.

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