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Billions Gone With The Wind... By Nima Adelkhani

Everywhere you go in the Middle East you hear the buzz of entrepreneurship. And here at MENA Opportunities probably more than in most places! You feel the pulse of the generation of doers. They are the voice of the future but they are not being heard or respected! I have visited 10 countries in the Middle East and in every one of the countries there are mandates, endowments, funds, funds of funds, grants, free loans and hundreds of other efforts to try am support the growth of the overall entrepreneurial ecosystem! In total between all these countries I think over $20 billion has been allocated to build knowledge based economies so that when the oil runs out and real estate crashes again, the people of these countries still have jobs!   Just in the past month, I have heard of a $7 billion fund to support Kuwaiti entrepreneurs, the central bank in Lebanon has allocated $400 million in a bold move to secure banks who then funnel the money to funds to invest in Lebanese companies, in Saudi Arabia there is a $2 billion dollar endowment to sector specific incubators, in the UAE over $1 billion has been pledged to Emiratis to start businesses, Doha is supporting 11 different ecosystems with a $300 million endowment and the list goes on and on... And don’t get me wrong all these are great but if you really want to support entrepreneurs and give them a chance to success then fix the support mechanism!   In Turkey an investor is investing his own money and giving companies growth capital by investing in them and their future! He has deployed millions in an effort to do his part to fix the ecosystem and to generate returns for himself... Why? Because he believes... It's not that he is bored out of his mind and just donating his money… And what do you hear from his critics? "He is giving the too much money and artificially inflating their valuations". “what nonsense”, “in order to build any multimillion (billion) dollar business companies need capital and guess what they valuations have to go up so how...”, etc… One man trying to do his part to build an entire ecosystem... and others say "let's wait and see what happens, I think he is going to lose millions". What a great attitude! I guess those people will miss the bus! Or maybe they never were serious about taking the bus in the first place!   So here is the low down... Fix the Sh$##y terms Entrepreneurs are given, fix the cap tables, fix valuations, implement better laws to make it actually easy to set up and get started! Don't take 30% for $30,000, don't be ask for board seats in companies if you have no clue how to bring value as a board member, don't force Entrepreneurs to give up too much too early! Bring value, answer emails, be on time, respect peoples time, if you offer to help actually do it and not say Inchallah and then never respond! Syndicate with as many other investors as possible, share deals. Believe in the Entrepreneurs and empower them to follow their dream, give them the ammunition to fight another day! Along the way, I have come across only a hand full of individuals who actually believe in the ecosystem and their country as a market. More times than not, I hear "the market this, the market that" or "the entrepreneurs are not ready or committed" or "there are no exits and there is no way there can be IPOs" again the naysayers out way the believes 10 to 1... The funny thing is that the market is there and after bringing 12 teams to Silicon Valley for PITME Labs the biggest feedback we got from the 147 mentors was "I can't believe that there are this many smart, committed, passionate, education, knowledgeable and humble entrepreneurs there in the Middle East" and that was just 16 of the hundreds or thousands that I have met personally! The Middle East is the final frontier of a market that has no dominate player on any vertical and over the next 5 years there are tons of opportunities for startups to build solid businesses... But only if the investors start realizing that if they continue to strong arm the entrepreneurs and continue giving the terms they are giving, all they are doing is sabotaging themselves and the entire Eco system! I have heard this sentence more than enough after a US or global credible investor has looked at a deal coming from the Middle East "I would not touch this with a ten foot pole" not because the entrepreneur wasn't committed or the market opportunity was not there but because the terms given in the previous rounds had destroyed any chance of anyone ever wanting to invest. The time is now to fix this and investors need to start realizing that without the entrepreneurs they would be unemployed! We have starting a petition on called "Better Terms in MENA" and if are one of the entrepreneurs who has been offered $10,000 for 30% or some baboon has asked to be on your board just to say that he or she is a board member, if someone has looked you in the eyes and said they would support you and then either didn't or actually got in your way of success then we want you to join us in demanding convertible notes and reasonable terms and responses to emails and people to show up on time! You are the future and you deserve respect!


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