“[We] need to stop thinking of MENA as one country - some areas [are] hard, even tragic; some [are] rising,” tweeted Christopher Schroeder, author of Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East, in a 140-character-at-a-time chat on Tuesday evening.
“Technology will free us,” added Marwan Kheireddine, chairman of Al Mawarid Bank, joining in on the virtual sit down using the hashtag #MENABizTrends.
In response to a question on what industries are ripe for disruption in the region, Schroeder gave a blanket green light.
“If you remember me for nothing else today, be it this: Everywhere, every industry is ripe today…,” he said.
Kheireddine, who is also a former minister of Lebanon, was more specific by noting that entrepreneurs should look to innovate antiquated industries like banking.
Despite the immense business opportunities MENA offers, including a large talent pool with “global problem solving minds,” the discussion was also quick to address several important roadblocks.
Intellectual property (IP) laws are nearly non existent to entrepreneurs. forcing them to register their patents in the US, Europe, Japan or elsewhere, Kheireddine said.
“We have excellent lawyers in the region specialized in IP protection. Services are a bit on the expensive side but worth it,” he advised.
As for mistakes both regional governments and entrepreneurs make, they are most times no different than those of their international peers.
“Entrepreneurs make same mistakes globally - don't focus; run out of money; confuse hype for substance,” Schroeder said. “Corporations similarly make same mistakes globally; too focused on what they know, not open to innovation. Governments need to 1) take startups seriously as essential; 2) remove barriers to movement of people/ideas/capital/goods,” he added.
And finally, asked if Schroeder and Kheireddine had to decide where to invest their own money, Kheireddine said he would likely choose fintech.
“I look to the entrepreneur first and foremost; the scale of her idea and passion to make the change,” Schroeder said.
For more of their discussion, here are some of the highlights below. You can also read the full discussion by clicking here: