The topic of entrepreneurship is receiving a great deal of attention nowadays. Decision makers view human capacity development within entrepreneurship as the solution to our economic challenges. Consider this; WhatsApp’s value is equivalent to 60% of Jordan’s debt. In addition, apps like Careem and Uber have disrupted existing institutions at an unprecedented level, prompting one angry minister to say, “The entire ICT sector isn’t even worth a couple packs of cigarettes!”
Entrepreneurship incubators have spread all over the place. Encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship and startups has become our main work to the extent there are approximately 150 organizations and programs for entrepreneurs in the Kingdom.
Youth are beginning to go after their dreams of starting their own businesses as opposed to seeking traditional employment. It has even become a trend for university graduates to have their own idea, and use it to seek the help of donors, or have their own startup and the title of co-founder beside their names.
The help entrepreneurs receive is unprecedented; financing is plenty, telecommunications companies are pleased to be there for entrepreneurs with business incubators, technical and practical support, mentors, financial support, conferences, plane tickets, all to contribute to the startup experience. However, I hope that this support stays within the boundaries of empowerment.
Fifteen years ago, entrepreneurs didn’t have access to 10% of what’s available to our youth today in terms of support and financing in addition to technology such as virtual reality, smartphones, and social media. In addition, there has been a positive shift of perception toward startups which has helped today’s entrepreneurs with lots of benefits.
Today, a lot of the youths’ endeavors do not succeed… but failure is not an embarrassment. However, when these failures are repeated with the same person, then many question marks begin appearing and a sense of worry sets in about the hemorrhaging of money and time!
I believe that a real entrepreneur’s interest isn’t money or fame, and certainly not to attract investors for his idea. A true entrepreneur is someone who proves themselves and the value of their unique idea — someone who investors go after.
Over the past few years I have seen a lot of ideas that have entered the ecosystem. I have even seen some ideas that do not amount to more than a small store. On the other hand, I have tried to convince a few successful companies to invest in their business. One response that caught my attention was ‘too early’. This response shows that this entrepreneur believes in his idea and will not give it up easily—not even a small part of it.
The Central Bank of Jordan and the World Bank recently launched a fund for USD 100 million to invest in startup companies. The government considers this a golden opportunity for the private sector, but one important question still lingers: Will this fund effectively use the money to focus on empowering startups or just help them by injecting cash as support? Are we going to witness true growth in companies who deserve this money or will this be another line of ineffective help?
Jordan still has its human capital — if oil and gas run out, ideas, creativity and excellence will still be there. Our youth are our renewable energy … Our youth is our treasure that shines above everything else!
Bashar Hawamdeh – Founder and CEO of MenaITech