Middle East and North Africa best launchpad for start-ups - GulfToday

Middle East and North Africa best launchpad for start-ups

Prof. Gau Raganit (left) and Ahmed Nasser Al Nowais at the PBC Abu Dhabi and the Western Region Biz Talk.

Prof. Gau Raganit (left) and Ahmed Nasser Al Nowais at the PBC Abu Dhabi and the Western Region Biz Talk.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

A venture capitalist from a first generation family conglomerate, able to formulate his own investments company by way of cultivating an idea from age 16, said the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the place for start-ups.

Annex Investments founder/chief executive officer Ahmed Nasser Al Nowais volunteered an advice on how one could productively shake global economy by way of venture capitalism - that “dynamic and ever-evolving field requiring continuous learning and adaptability.”

He also said: “Effective communication is crucial for the success of family businesses. While there have been positive developments in recent years, there remains a need to address the perceived lack of emotional intelligence among family members. To overcome these challenges and foster effective communication, family businesses can consider implementing strategies such as establishing clear roles and responsibilities, encouraging active listening, and embracing open and honest communication.”

“Adopting practices such as regular family meetings, establishing communication channels, and promoting transparency can further enhance communication effectiveness. By prioritising open dialogue, clear expectations, and a willingness to address difficult issues, family businesses can create a strong foundation for long-term success and harmony,” Al Nowais added.

The American University of Sharjah Finance degree holder was among the resource speakers at the Philippine Business Council-Abu Dhabi and the Western Region “Private Equity, Investment & Finance Management Forum.” He was interviewed on Wednesday.

Through the one-on-one session with Prof. Gau Raganit, the chairman of the non-profit business organisation, Al Nowais shared with aspiring and established business community members in the capital the theories, learnings, and more importantly his insights.

Al Nowais is no stranger to the vicissitudes of entrepreneurship but opted to persist. He set up his own “car leasing entity that leased economical cars to corporations” upon graduation from high school out of his savings as he had the strong urge “to be independent and create my own source of income.” His father eventually backed him up and impressed upon him the value of “self-reliance.” He became a government employee. He now oversees various business ventures and investments with his own team.

“The MENA region is still in the very early stages of developing its start-up ecosystem; so, it is not fair to compare it directly to the US. However, the UAE government has shown a great progress in creating a supportive environment for start-ups. (Authorities) have reduced fees for start-ups and established tech hubs in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, among other initiatives. It takes time for both start-ups and venture capitalists to learn from their mistakes and grow,” he said.

As a venture capitalist, Al Nowais only prioritises and invests, considering the astute guidance and judicious consultations of his team, into start-ups which have “a positive impact on the community that align with the values of giving back to society.”

Al Nowais differentiated venture capitalists vis-à-vis angel investors who basically utilise their own money for business. The former purposefully coach probable financiers/stock and shareholders to “early-stage companies with high growth potentials. They “manage large pools of capital raised from institutional investors.”

He is “genuinely optimistic about the potential of the region. Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt all have excellent infrastructure for fostering a start-up ecosystem. Oman also has promising start-ups. Saudi Arabia, in particular, has opened up and presents tremendous opportunities for growth due to its large populations and increasing openness to attracting start-ups.”

“In the UAE, the market is quite saturated and competition is fierce, making it challenging for start-ups to grow. The vast population of Saudi Arabia holds great promise as a market with its vast population and its opening of doors to entrepreneurs means abundant rooms for start-ups to scale. Egypt shows promise as well although there is room for improvement in terms of rules, regulations, and policies. Over-all, the MENA region holds incredible potential for start-ups, and with continued efforts to refine the ecosystem, it can become a thriving hub for entrepreneurship,” Al Nowais added.

Al Nowais advised: “To thrive in the venture capital industry, individuals should possess a blend of entrepreneurial spirit, analytical prowess, and strong interpersonal skills. They must equip themselves with a strong understanding of finance, accounting and marketing through education and relevant coursework. They must immerse themselves in the start-up world by working at a start-up company or interning at a venture capital firm. They must connect with the key players; the entrepreneurs, investors and fellow venture capitalists. They must be patient and resilient. Building a successful venture capital takes time, dedication, and the ability to handle setbacks.”

Related articles