By Dany Farha
Entrepreneurship, while a lonely and hard road, has become a job for many across the region. A friend of mine in the late 90’s once said to me “Why would I go and look for a job when I can go out and create my own, and hundreds more in the process?”
In part 1 of this post, I talked about the leanings that we have been able to glean from regions such as Latin America (Latam) and South East Asia (SEA), that mimic ours in many ways.
Today Latam and SEA are changing very rapidly. I keep close contact with the tech community in both geographies, and it’s typically made up of a handful of mega-successful wealthy entrepreneurs who have remained entrepreneurs and are on their next venture(s) or have, for the most part, become super-angels; in one case, having written 130 angel cheques in the last 4 years. Whilst admirable, that doesn’t create an ecosystem.
To add to that, third party research has shown that there is a critical mass of digital users required for a region or economic block for the digital economy to start generating mega successes.
That number is 50 million users, a number which today, we have surpassed in MENA.With the UAE at almost 9m, KSA at over 18m and Egypt at almost 34m, we have crossed 50m with the main 3 economies in MENA alone!
Here are my predictions or the future of our ecosystem:
- MENA will be taught as a case study in how to create a vibrant tech ecosystem in very rapid order. Books will be written about it, particularly applicable to developing markets that share our problems, demographics and digital consumption habits
- With a quarter of a billion dollars (or in the vicinity of) raised and deployed in the last 2 years, we will be seeing exits almost every year in the hundreds of millions of dollars from circa 2019 onwards
- Most exits will be driven by M&A from local and regional traditional businesses that have either missed the digital revolution, or due to a lack of digital DNA, have not been able to crack their digital vertical
To our local and regional institutional investors, I hope it’s not too late by then. I never want my children (and grandchildren!) to say to me:
“But Dad, you lived in Dubai during the golden era of digital and you weren’t a part of it?”
No one ever made outsized returns investing too late or by following the herd. Come on MENA — open up your cheque books! We will make you and many generations to come, very proud.