Startup Watch: Pac-Man and retreat of the multinational giants

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 agritech trends, the retreat of multinational firms, and robot-made coffee.

The ultimate lesson in gaming: your success is hurting the children. This week Masaya Nakamura, aka ‘Father of Pac-Man’, died at 91 years old. The game has been played 10 billion times since its release nearly 40 years ago. But there’s a lesson in this predecessor of the gaming industry - the more popular you are, the more worried you should be about the state of children. “I am a little concerned about the way some young people play it so much...Once it goes beyond a certain level, it is not good for young people,” he said in 1983. Yeah. ‘A little concerned’ probably tuned into ‘A LOT’ by the time he died.

Milk and automation with that coffee? A San Francisco kiosk, equipped with two WMF espresso machines, is now serving coffee via robot. Customers order on their phone and in about one minute, receive an SMS when their coffee is ready. It is then handed to them by a robotic arm. Seems like a glorified coffee vending machine to us. We’ll stick to our smiley, imperfect human baristas, even if they can be forgetful and never get our name right.

No one said farming was easy. Just as crops grow one year and struggle the next, so too does agritech. Global investment dropped 30 percent in 2016. But not all is grim in an industry rushing to reform the way we grow food (in anticipation of having 10 billion mouths to feed by 2050). Seed investments (no pun intended) made up the majority of investments and there's been an increase in agtech accelerators and incubators. The trend will be more positive as those early stage startups begin the sprout.

Dreaming of becoming a multinational empire? Think twice. This The Economist article is a great one for MENA entrepreneurs, because guess what? “In the past five years the profits of multinationals have dropped by 25 percent. Returns on capital have slipped to their lowest in two decades." The retreat of the giants is largely due to higher wages of international factory workers, rising taxes and - here’s the good news for MENA - domestic companies are getting stronger, smarter and simply better at meeting the needs of their own region at a lower cost.

Wamda of the Week: Bahrain is jumping on the bandwagon. Welcome! Around 70 percent of young Bahrainis are interested starting their own business, which is great. But it’ll take more than a deep desire to be self-employed and escape terrible bosses, for the tiny Gulf country to become a regional hub for startups. To start with, the government needs to take a step back from being the typical proud parent of its SMEs, showering them with support and a little too excited for their development. If you love them, you’ll let them go.

All eyes and pockets on Africa. There is no denying the buzz around the continent’s growing tech potential, helped along by African diaspora angels, local investors such as the African Business Angel Network, and global players such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Luckily, a rising tide lifts all boats, including those floating in nearby MENA.

#DeleteUber. Watching the political upheaval over what has been dubbed the ‘Trump immigration ban’ is like watching a familiar scene in much of the Arab world. For most of the region, protests are nothing new, neither are deep political rifts, nor private sector involvement in politics. But as a region with much more experience in the area of political conflict, we’re wondering what your thoughts are on companies like Uber or Lyft taking political stances - and reaping the rewards (or losses) as a result. Is it a do or a don’t? If you’ve made it this far, leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Feature image via Flickr.

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