Startup watch: a tyranny of experts, cash burns, and Algeria who?

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 the tyranny of experts, dictators and growth, the battery zeitgeist, and a little something to lighten up the end of the working week.

Egypt has the single greatest thing ever created in the world. There’s a lot to dislike about Egypt: traffic, harrasment, etcetera. But it is, hands down, the best at this one thing: delivery. (And squash, they’re pretty amazing at squash too). We can’t rave enough about moments like when the El Tamimi grocery delivery guy trudged through a diabolical sandstorm to deliver breakfast because we didn’t want go outside for milk. And this is why startups like Goods Mart, Voo, Knockmart and the proliferation of food deliverers not only work in Egypt, but are flourishing.

Too many experts will spoil the board. A new study published in the Academy of Management Journal says having too many experts on your board is bad for company performance. It causes three problems: entrenched ideas, overconfidence and too little ‘devil’s advocacy’ for alternative options. Keep that in mind.

Be a better leader. Do you find that you’re rushing from crisis to task to launch to...? Taking 10 minutes to ask yourself some “ritual questions” can help. This article is a great starting point to help the harried founder find some time to chill, and if you want some local, startup-oriented advice check out Iqraaly founder Abdelrahman Wahba’s piece on the same topic. Woosah.

Do dictators or political instability affect growth? No! In happy news for startups in every emerging market, especially in MENA, it turns out that your local dictator or strongman is no barrier to the success of your business. On a macro level at least.

"You can see that there is truly no relationship between the stability of the government and a country’s growth.  The reason is that for every Zimbabwe (Mugabe), there is a Qatar (Hammad)." (Image via Frontera News).

Wamda of the week: Who knew Algeria had a rising startup ecosystem? Well us, obviously, but we’re willing to bet not many other people did. Wamda’s French editor (we do also have a great French site) has been watching, and hoping since at least 2014 for signs of life. She thinks she’s finally found some this year.

There’s a vague new funding round in town. An investor in the Valley has created a whole new VC category: Early A. There’s no information on what dollar value Early A might encompass, or if this is even really a thing. It sounds very similar to the pre-$1 million funding gap startups in MENA face. But seriously, if someone is offering you money at the right price it doesn’t matter what it’s called, right?

Why we still don’t have better batteries. For the past decade, there have been enormous moves to try to build the next generation of battery. The US, China, Japan and South Korea are battling to win the battery race - Wamda covered the potential of this sector in MENA here and here last year. Cheaper battery storage will change many aspects of society we currently hold to be immutable. But the actual development of new chemistries - such as lithium-air or liquid batteries - is not moving fast and there are very good reasons for that.

Will your cash burn kill you, or make you stronger? Skip to the end of this piece. It’s pretty self explanatory, but analyses some interesting ideas about when cash burn is worth worrying about and when it’s not, i.e. whether it’s malignant or benign. It’s aimed at investors so the tips inside could be useful to talk a leery financier round to your pitch.

Feature image via Kelly Marie Lane.



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