Chris Schroeder is the author of Startup Rising. He is an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He co-founded HealthCentral.com and served as CEO of washingtonpost.newsweek interactive and LegiSlate.com
Listen to Chris’s interview here.
With the increase of technology flowing into and coming out of the area, the Middle East is seeing a major growth in startups. The spirit of entrepreneurship has flowed into the area.
In 2010, Chris went to speak at a startup event in Dubai. He found 2400 people from all over the region coming to build new things. He wrote an op-ed on the way home and it expanded into a full book. To research, Chris traveled through North Africa and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and all through the gulf.
Despite shifting forces and political upheavals, entrepreneurs are finding ways to persevere in the uncertain environment. While some of the challenges are different, many of the problems are the same. Some of the biggest challenges are moving the goods around the area. While it’s easy to ship from Chicago to New York, shipping between Arab nations isn’t quite the same. Curfews and checkpoints can slow things down.
There is a youth bulge in the Middle East. Now, 35% of the population is under the age of 25. Traditional government programs and traditional businesses can’t absorb that amount of people, so the individuals take their own economic future into their own hands.
Internet access and mobile penetration is increasing. Some of the countries are over 100% with cell phone penetration, and smartphones are becoming more prevalent, as well. Smartphones aren’t just phones, they have become computers.
Combined with a youthful population, the technology adoption rank is very high. While there’s a lot of content online, there isn’t a lot of specifically Arabic content out there.
startupDespite the world’s elation at the Arab Spring, shockingly little has changed politically in the Middle East; even frontliners Egypt and Tunisia continue to suffer repression, fixed elections, and bombings, while Syria descends into civil war. But in the midst of it all, a quieter revolution has begun to emerge, one that might ultimately do more to change the face of the region: entrepreneurship. As a seasoned angel investor in emerging markets, Christopher Schroeder was curious but skeptical about the future of investing in the Arab world.
Traveling to Dubai, Cairo, Amman, Beirut, Istanbul, and even Damascus, he saw thousands of talented, successful, and intrepid entrepreneurs, all willing to face cultural, legal, and societal impediments inherent to their worlds. Equally important, he saw major private equity firms, venture capitalists, and tech companies like Google, Intel, Cisco, Yahoo, and LivingSocial making significant bets, despite the uncertainty in the region. Here, he marries his own observations with the predictions of these tech giants to offer a surprising and timely look at the second stealth revolution in the Middle East—one that promises to reinvent it as a center of innovation and progress.