Have you ever wondered why countries like the US create so many companies that compete on a global scale, with many self-made millionaire and billionaire founders?
Certainly, if we think of technology, most of the biggest names in tech are American. In fact, to underscore America’s dominance in this sector, only four tech brands from outside of the US appeared in the world’s top 20 most valuable tech brands in 2020. Tencent and Huawei from China, SAP from Germany and Samsung from Korea, were competing with the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Oracle, Cisco, Intel, Adobe, Dell and Google.
So, why is that the case? Some might argue it is an entrepreneurial spirit where chasing the American Dream is a cultural asset.
I would say that is partly true, certainly if we make a comparison with the Middle East and UAE in particular, it could be a cultural issue, but more about that later. First of all, let’s look at funding opportunities in the Middle East.
There is a widely held view that funding for start-ups continues to be a major challenge for entrepreneurs in the Middle East. On average, almost 50 percent of seed capital is provided by the founder and approximately another 25 percent comes from family and friends.
So, is it all down to lack of funding, is that what is holding back our entrepreneurs? The UAE and Egypt are home to 35 percent and 27 percent, respectively when it comes to pre-seed start-ups so they are dominating the funding space at the moment, but entrepreneurs can still do more.
I am a proud board member of the Emirates Angels, a non-profit organisation that aims to support UAE entrepreneurs with early-stage investment, or seed capital.
Generally, this should provide a start-up enterprise with enough money to get the initiative off the ground and if the business proves to be viable, it can move forward into further rounds of funding.
My passion is PropTech and I sit on the association panel, so I get to see a lot of new and exciting start-up presentations. I must admit there are some very talented and creative minds in the UAE, who time and again have come up with some great ideas, which they have executed extremely well.
But then, there is something lacking, a sense of naivety perhaps, which is perfectly understandable, these are start-ups after all. But it goes a little deeper, the creative genius is not matched by realism.
And realism is the key word here because it shows up in all of the qualities that an entrepreneur requires to succeed. Whether its finance, market reach or size, dedication, commitment or risk management, being realistic would make it, well real.
Therefore, given my experience, let me summarise my top five tips for all budding entrepreneurs, which reminds me of one of the greatest entrepreneurs that ever lived, Conrad Hilton. When asked what his top three characteristics were, when looking to develop a new hotel, he coined the phrase location, location, location.
- Be realistic about the amount of funding you can achieve for your business idea. Not every initiative is a potential multi-million-dollar investment.
- Be realistic as not every idea works, and be prepared to fail. Richard Branson had seven major failures, but always bounced back – anybody remember Virgin Cola?
- Be realistic about the amount of commitment and perseverance that is required to turn an idea into a successful business – timing can be crucial.
- Be realistic about your market reach, this is the UAE not Silicon Valley.
- Be realistic as entrepreneurs need to be risk inclined not risk averse.
These values drive successful start-ups, so if you feel that you could become the next Souq, Careem or Dubizzle – get real and your start-up dream could become a reality.