Startup Watch: Kardashians, Hyperloops, and the death of No Vacancy

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 f-f-f-failure, Hyperloops, Morocco, and a little something to lighten the end of the working week.

Stick it where the sun shines. Morocco is hosting global environmental pow-wow COP-22 right now, and they deserve to. This country has put the rest of MENA to shame with the scope and follow-through on getting solar energy projects off the ground. We’ve not as yet found too many startups working in Moroccan solar or wind (Alto Solution is one) which makes us wonder whether the large scale projects may be crowding out the small. But regardless, the Maghreb country’s commitment to renewable energy deserves our attention.

Wamda of the week: this entrepreneur’s Youtube channel is nuts. Sellanycar’s Saygin Yalcin hangs out with Kardashians. But that is not why you should read this story. He’s massively successful, several times over, and his insights about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship are cutting. You may not like the brutal honesty and tough love of his Youtube videos, but you’ve got to respect him.

Syria in tatters. President Bashar Al Assad opened the doors of his French-Ottoman palace to a group of journalists and analysts in October for a PR splash and the results were predictable. But it also gave everyone a first hand look at the economy in which Syrian startups are trying to navigate. It’s a dire situation, as you’d expect, where society has been divided into rich and poor with no middle, and there are myriad roadblocks in the way of all businesses.

The US dollar will buy 213 Syrian pounds today. (Image via Eqte)

The top startup killer is not funding. Startups fail for a bunch of reasons, but not having a market is one that founders rarely admit to. We understand: building a whole business around an idea that never actually had a market would be pretty embarrassing. But studies show that about half of failed startups come down to a lack of market need. The lesson here is to do your research.

OMG Hyperloop in Dubai!!! You'd need to have your head in the sand to not hear about UAE's Hyperloop plans. This article raves like an overexcited child about the city’s goal and the startup implementing it. Dubai isn't a bad place to do something like this though, what with the city’s $275 million budget to spend on innovation, its splurge on seven major accelerators, and this week another law change to help SMEs. We’re watching with interest to see what comes of it all.

Food delivery wins at customer retention. You could think that perhaps this isn’t a market to get into, now the behemoths have the run of it. But market researcher McKinsey believes there’s still much, much more room to grow, despite customers in key markets like the UAE and Saudi Arabia rarely switching. It is forecasting 25 percent growth in certain markets until 2018, and doesn’t even want to speculate on places like the Middle East, where many are yet to enter the wondrous world of smartphones and online delivery.

Research from September 2015 perhaps states the obvious: once we've found a site that delivers hot, not soggy food on time, we're not going to mess with that. (Image via McKinsey)

‘Smart’ VCs are getting angsty about ‘dumb’ money taking their things. Competition among investors for the Next Big Thing in startups in America is still very hot. So much so that even though this year was supposed to mark a pullback by not-in-the-know funders, VCs are still fretting about “unsophisticated investors” pumping up values and cutting their lunch. One could make the suggestion that they begin listening to dinner party conversations about emerging market ecosystems, and broaden their horizons.

Online travel is killing the neon sign. In every road trip movie set in America you’ll see the ubiquitous ‘No Vacancy’ sign. Now the movies may be the only place you see these, as moteliers embrace the digital age. Neon signs were heading the way of the dinosaurs anyway, but the end of that particular roadside sign is an interesting casualty of the rise of online booking sites.

Should Apple buy Netflix? When an acquisition is done well, “it can be insanely powerful”. But when not, it can be incredibly destructive. We’ve seen one or two acquisitions in MENA by startups, of startups, this year so it’s clearly time for entrepreneurs to be thinking about synergies, market premiums, and the big bad world of M&A.

Feature image: one of the many Hyperloop prototypes. (Image via Wikipedia Commons)

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