Ob­jec­tive view valu­able for ea­ger en­trepreneurs

The National - News - - BUSINESS - SABAH AL-BI­NALI Sabah al-Bi­nali is an ac­tive in­vestor and en­tre­pre­neur­ial leader with a track record of grow­ing com­pa­nies in the Mena re­gion You can read more of his thoughts at al-bi­nali.com

Iwas hon­oured to be in­vited to Bahrain this week to give a talk at an event or­gan­ised by Bahrain De­vel­op­ment Bank’s Rowad Pro­gramme, a com­pre­hen­sive plat­form pro­vid­ing mul­ti­ple lay­ers of sup­port to Bahrain’s en­trepreneurs and start-ups.

Rowad’s breadth and depth are far greater than any­thing else that I have seen in the re­gion, and ad­dresses mul­ti­ple facets of the chal­lenges faced by en­trepreneurs and star­tups. The pro­gramme comes as close to be­ing a su­per-con­tained en­tre­pre­neur­ial ecosys­tem as I have seen.

If you are an en­tre­pre­neur I urge you to se­ri­ously con­sider its of­fer­ings. If you are an in­vestor you might con­sider look­ing at the en­trepreneurs and start-ups that Rowad is sup­port­ing; when en­trepreneurs have that breadth and depth of sup­port then they should have a greater prob­a­bil­ity of suc­cess.

The Rowad Talk, mod­er­ated by the pro­gramme’s co-founder Areije Al Shaker, was a dy­namic event that fea­tured some good dis­cus­sions with the au­di­ence. One point in par­tic­u­lar, about the ne­ces­sity for en­trepreneurs to seek ex­ter­nal feed­back, de­serves to be elab­o­rated upon.

A theme that emerged loud and clear from the talk and the dis­cus­sion was that en­tre­pre­neur com­mu­ni­ties can eas­ily be­come in­su­lar, with start-ups re­in­forc­ing each other’s be­liefs and rarely ven­tur­ing out of the mi­cro­cosm they op­er­ate in to un­der­stand what is really hap­pen­ing in the out­side world.

This process be­gins with in­cu­ba­tors and ac­cel­er­a­tors, fa­cil­i­ties which pro­vide crit­i­cal sup­port to en­trepreneurs and start-ups in their early years. But be­cause such pro­grammes usu­ally house ev­ery­one un­der the same roof, par­tic­i­pants can end up spend­ing an in­or­di­nate amount of time with their peers at the ex­pense of in­vest­ing the right amount of time with po­ten­tial clients, po­ten­tial part­ners, ven­dors and sup­pli­ers, ac­tual and po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees, and so on.

Such in­su­lar be­hav­iour is com­pounded by many con­fer­ences and events. These are im­por­tant ini­tia­tives, but if you are not care­ful, you can end up in­ter­act­ing pre­dom­i­nantly with oth­ers shar­ing the same mind­set rather than those who can bring a fresh per­spec­tive.

It takes ef­fort to break out of your com­fort zone. It takes even more ef­fort, and quite a bit of courage, to es­tab­lish new re­la­tion­ships, es­pe­cially with those who are dif­fer­ent. In turn, ef­fec­tively in­ter­act­ing with peo­ple com­ing from a dif­fer­ent place – and the dif­fer­ent ideas they bring with them – re­quires an open mind and a will­ing­ness to ex­plore new ideas, some of which might be in to­tal op­po­si­tion to your es­tab­lished be­liefs. How­ever, these ideas can have great value.

At this week’s event, one au­di­ence mem­ber told me that he had a start-up that was strug­gling, be­cause it was in an over­crowded mar­ket, and that this was a prob­lem that the gov­ern­ment should do some­thing about. His ap­proach typ­i­fies the prob­lem I am talk­ing about. The en­tre­pre­neur was fac­ing mar­ket is­sues and sug­gested that the cor­rect re­sponse was a pol­icy re­sponse from gov­ern­ment. I could just imag­ine him sit­ting with his friends and fel­low en­trepreneurs, all of whom care deeply for him and want him to feel bet­ter, and so the idea is born of the pow­er­ful gov­ern­ment rid­ing to the res­cue.

But I had no emo­tional con­nec­tion with him, and was able to give ad­vice un­bi­ased by friend­ship. I pointed out that the en­tre­pre­neur had demon­strated that his ap­proach was un­sus­tain­able be­cause of the mar­ket in which he was op­er­at­ing, and that he should not con­tinue on that course.

In the few min­utes we talked at the event we came up with two al­ter­na­tives. The first is one I’ve writ­ten about in de­tail be­fore: in­stead of set­ting up his own com­pany, the en­tre­pre­neur could sell his con­cept to one of the es­tab­lished play­ers in the mar­ket, with the idea of his build­ing his con­cept from within one of these es­tab­lished play­ers. If the mar­ket is truly over­crowded, then other par­tic­i­pants should be ea­ger for any edge. The sec­ond so­lu­tion would be to find an­other prod­uct or ser­vice to de­velop in a less crowded niche.

When de­vel­op­ing a busi­ness, never un­der­es­ti­mate the use­ful­ness of an

out­side per­spec­tive.

I had no emo­tional re­la­tion­ship with him, and was able to give ad­vice un­bi­ased by friend­ship

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.