Top 15 Articles About the Middle East Startup Scene in 2016

The Middle East startup scene kicked off around 2000 and suffered a financial dip around 2008. Yet with the explosion of accelerators and incubators along with government participation, the future of startups in the Middle East is one to monitor closely.  To get global parties up to speed, we curated the top 10 articles one should read to dive into the startup ecosystem of the Middle East.

  1. The MENA Startup Ecosystem: Problems And (Potential) Solutions: “While a growing number of young entrepreneurs in the Arab world have started to disrupt traditional markets with innovative ideas, they are still being met with great resistance from traditionalists”.
  2. Entrepreneurship in the Middle East: The Time Is Now: “The report, published as a guide to policymakers, emphasizes the well-documented benefits of start-ups that scale. Low costs upfront mean start-ups grow more and grow faster than other enterprises. Successful start-ups give rise to spin-off companies, inspire other start-ups, and reinvest in their environment, leading to a thriving economic ecosystem. The report highlights research from, which finds that for every 10 new successful enterprises, over $1.4 billion in new valuations and more than 2,500 jobs are directly created”.
  3. Why the Middle East Needs a Funding Ecosystem The Challenges and the Opportunities: The economic situation in the MENA region today is less than ideal. The World Bank states that the MENA region must create 100 million jobs by 2020 to accommodate the burgeoning youth population below the age of 25. This demographic makes up 60% of the overall population. Oil prices have collapsed, from around $100 to the region of $45, reducing government budgets and income in oil producing states considerably. However, the majority of programs I have seen have positioned entrepreneurship as an option other than employment.
  4. TECH TRENDS INSIDER Middle East Startup Ecosystem: “A Kauffman Fellows report predicts that before 2020, several high-growth startups from MENA will soon break into the $1 billion unicorn valuations. VC firms are clearly paying attention in the MENA region, as valuations in the region have just started to exceed to the hundreds of millions”.
  5. THE MENA STARTUP ECOSYSTEM – STATISTICS AND TRENDS With the number of start ups growing in MENA, the ecosystem for entrepreneurs in MENA is improving. Today, more than 64% of working-age respondents in MENA region want to start  their own business than be employed whereas 70% of respondents took their first steps to establish their own business in last 5 years. Check out our infographic “The MENA Startup Ec0system” for latest statistics and trends.
  6. GOING GLOBAL: ROBERT SCOBLE ON THE POTENTIAL OF MIDDLE EAST STARTUPS “As entrepreneur in residence at Upload VR, Robert Scoble has travelled the world discovering and working with some the most exciting companies working on the bleeding edge of technology”.
  7. What’s Holding Back Entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa? “Clearly, using entrepreneurship to solve MENA’s economic challenges is not so straightforward. According to Shikhar Ghosh of Harvard Business School, 30-40 percent of startups around the world end up having to liquidate their assets, with investors losing most or all the money they put in, and 70-80 percent fail to meet their projected return on investment”.
  8. The State of Entrepreneurship in MENA “Although the Middle East and North Africa is facing some challenges like the water scarcity (fresh water availability is expected to drop by 50% by the year 2050) and population density (3% of MENA’s surface area is home to 92% of its whole population), there are obvious opportunities such as the market size (424 million people). Despite the fact that there’s a lot of capital, the investors are still not educated towards online businesses, as they prefer to invest in traditional and offline businesses. But it doesn’t stop startups, that in 2015 reached more than $300 million in exists, in great part due to ($170 million exit)”.
  9. Fadi Ghandour’s roadmap to boosting MENA’s startup ecosystem :  “But despite their formidable potential, tech startups face many impediments within an economic reality that is insensitive to their needs. Antiquated policies and bureaucratic red tape amplify the already myriad difficulties of building a profitable business”.
  10. Is Dubai The Next Big Tech Startup Hub? “Over the last three years, the decline in oil prices might have put other Middle Eastern economies at some risk but Dubai, one of the five fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the world, has instead diversified, drawing tech talent from around the world. “It is establishing itself as the destination of choice for tech startupsseeking to access emerging markets, says Muhammed Mekki, founding partner of Astrolabs, a tech hub that hosts entrepreneurs from over 40 countries. “With over 2 billion people living within a four-hour flight radius and the right infrastructure to support a thriving start-up ecosystem, Dubai is a compelling location to consider for founders from around the world.”


Past Bonus Articles:

  • (2015) As More Venture Capital Targets Middle East, Funding Climbs, But Is Ecosystem Missing A Future Key?: “The news site Wamda pulled together a great list of 10 notable investment rounds that took place in the Middle East last year. They ranged from Goldman Sachs leading a $100 million investment in Hellofood, to Jamalon’s $3.65 million round. This is great news for the many people in the region working on developing a high-tech ecosystem. There are more funds, both inside and outside the region, investing in the Middle East. There’s also more innovation at an increasing number of startup labs and accelerators”.
  • (2014) SLUSH WORLD: DISCOVERING STARTUP SCENE OF THE MIDDLE EAST: “According to Talvari, one of the most exciting parts of the journey was uncovering the MENA region. In total, Slush has organized events in 5 countries of the region—Iran, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Turkey— and took a close look at Israel, Egypt, Syria by participating in their own local events. In spite of all regulatory barriers for technology startups and often unwillingness of investors to take bets on bold new ideas, the Middle East clearly holds a great promise for the future as an innovation and technology hub”.
  • (2013) Is the Startup Ecosystem in the Middle East Ready for Silicon Valley? : “Between the news of violence and severe clashes rummaging the Middle East, you hear stories of successful entrepreneurs making it through the sad turmoil and securing investment for their ventures, which reflects their persistence to create a better future for the region.  PITME aims to “turbo-charge the Middle Eastern startup ecosystem by providing access to Silicon Valley resources.” The idea dawned on Nima after spending the last couple of years meeting and networking with entrepreneurs across different companies in the region”.
  • (2012) The New Middle East: Women at the Center of a Startup Ecosystem “Technology is changing everything, breaking down cultural barriers that once held women back and creating innovative opportunities to make positive change.”

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