Wamda’s best stories of 2016

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2016 was the year of trying new things and testing some ideas on you, our readers.

We brought in a weekly series we called Startup Watch, a list of what we’re reading each week - whether heavy or light topics. We also added the monthly ‘New startups on the block’ series, detailing the newest companies to join the ranks of MENA entrepreneurs.

But it’s also been a year where we and our writers have dug into some serious issues.

Our Jordan contributor Tala El Issa covered the rift between the country’s taxi drivers and their tech rivals Careem and Uber this month. The YPO’s Bassam Samman cautioned founders against falling in love with their company. And lastly, Sophie Rimmington-Pounder provided an in-depth look at what is going right and wrong with Lebanon’s Circular 331 program.

Here are our favourites, chosen by the whole team here in Lebanon and Dubai.

February: Scaling out of MENA

Scaling beyond the Middle East is something most startups have on their agenda, but so few have accomplished. In this piece, we tracked down a few who’d done it.

April: Changing the way MENA moves

Smart transportation holds a lot of promise for MENA’s traffic-clogged roads, but it’s not being felt yet by the average man on the street. We dug into the reasons why this region needs to get on the smart transport train and seize the obvious opportunities in front of it.

May: What I know about virtual reality: Walid Sultan Midani

2016 was the year virtual reality became a viable ‘thing’ around the world. We weren’t immune in this region but the CEO of Tunis gaming development studio Digital Mania, Walid Sultan Midani interviewed as part of our What I Know series, had a few words of caution for local developers.

June: For tech’s sake get out of the way

Jordan has been quietly lagging behind in the regional tech and startup race, and Arzan VC senior investment manager Laith Zraikat is incensed. In this piece, he outlined five proposals to get Jordan back in the game, which were picked up by the government. No public news yet on the outcome, but we have our fingers crossed.

July: Who said travel tycoons don’t need startups

With international competition rising, MENA’s airlines are beginning to eye the startup sector for ideas to innovate this dinosaur industry. Not too much is happening in this space yet, but ideas are beginning to bubble.

August: Is Algeria finally getting a startup ecosystem?

In the space of 10 months Algeria went from no coworking spaces to two. It’s an ecosystem that is far behind its neighbours, but has the same dynamics supporting those around the region: young people who are in need of jobs, inspired by the possibilities of entrepreneurship, and willing to go up against a fearsome bureaucratic machine.

August: Entrepreneurs soak up the sun in Pakistan

Pakistan is a very different place than MENA and as a result, its cleantech sector is also fascinatingly distinct. Its entrepreneurs draw inspiration from East Africa rather than the Middle East, and sheer size of the market dwarfs anything MENA can offer.

September: 3 failures and a job: how Bio Energy Egypt hit success

A classic failure story: Mahmoud Galal failed so many times at his chosen sector before succeeding. So take this as a lesson: pivoting and learning is the secret to success.

October: Fertile ground for mobile wallets: Iraq

Fintech has landed here but of all the places striving to jump on this bandwagon, we’ll bet you’d not have picked Iraq as a frontrunner.

November: How silliness is disrupting media

There’s a lot of money in silly things. Ben Huh, the man who arguably made lolcats famous told us that memes, GIFs and the like are driving media -- and society -- changes.

November: Sellanycar’s Saygin Yalcin: from student to business celebrity

This Turkish entrepreneur is a fascinating character. You can’t use his Kardashian party pics to discount him because he’s just so successful, and his frank advice on his Youtube channel is not only brutally honest, but refreshing.

December: Lebanon’s woman problem

Why do conferences insist on doing a lone ‘woman panel’ rather than just finding women speakers for every panel? Nowhere in the region is doing well meeting this admittedly low bar, but Lebanon just happened to attract our attention with the dire female representation at the BDL Accelerate conference.

Feature image via Wamda.

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