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24 thoughts on “When Jordanian Entrepreneurship Goes Wrong

  1. You said it. The very word ‘entrepreneur’ has been run into the ground. Half the people want to be bosses and without any of the hard work to go along with it other than simply having an idea for the ‘next big thing’. Most of the time it turns out to be a dud, and personally I can’t wait for this entrepreneurship fad to die out in this country. Too many people attempting to run before they can fucking walk.

  2. What an eloquent rant 🙂 it holds more truth now that some of the startups’ steam went out, and it shows. however, and maybe a point to add, this has not been completely the fault of the entrepreneurs alone. they simply saw opportunities and marched onto them.

    What they saw was a boom in the number of orgs and funds that ‘care’ for entrepreneurs. and focal point was investment. not sales, not impact as it should have been. i personally, with the Buy Kamagra Cheap project, chased an investment more than i did chase the business itself, and the value i was trying to provide. and this is what drived/drives entrepreneurs off track. they live from one competition to another, from one pitch to another and also from an event to another to draw the attention of patrons, media and investors/funders. the good thing is that entrepreneurs learn.

    I think its high time now for all to focus on what value they are working on and leave the world behind. focus on your constituents and markets, then get an investment.

    and Nassim be kind and fair too, there are many who are really working and working hard.

  3. I appreciate your thoughts and echo your lament about the short-lived nature of so many projects, ideas, and new businesses here in Jordan. Your advice is well placed and I couldn’t agree more. If you’re not willing to spend a lot of time planning, refining, and road-testing your idea before you even think about marketing it, you’ll be left with a lot of buzz and not a lot of impact — all form and no content.

    Creativity has to be backed up with serious critical thinking and strategy and a lot of hard work. Being a social entrepreneur isn’t easy–it takes a lot of patience, and a willingness to fail before you succeed. But if impact is your motive, it can be the most rewarding career in the world!

    Jordan is in great need of original ideas that have value, and entrepreneurs behind those ideas who are motivated by a desire to see their country progress and lead the region (and the world!) in innovation. It takes more than a catchy idea to bring that goal to pass!

  4. I belive this is so true. and almst the case of Morocco. Morocco might be different only in case of diasporic entrepreneurs, who are rare but hail back to some strong connections and they sometimes don’t need the local considiration. Thank you for sharing but i even expected to hear more about collectivism in Jordan and how it matches the inconsistencies with entrepreneurship … As for social entrepreneurship, the case is Utopic i believe !

  5. Excellent thoughts! although i skimmed through some parts! I would like to add that the recent trend of the so called “entrepreneurship” is nothing but quick win plans to get rich quickly through exit strategies. i believe thats the main reason as people are not worried about sustaining the business nor growing it but rather selling it to some investor whos willing to pay millions for their idea. ofcourse, this never happens as most of the initiatives are not thought through.

  6. Great read. In fact, a must read for all Jordanians in the entrepreneurship and tech scene.

    “If you’re 24 years old and your business card says “CEO” or “Entrepreneur”- rip it up immediately”.
    Last year, someone approached me (we’re both younger than 24 years old) with an idea. I said I will think about it and that in order to start, we need to build a team. I mentioned that we need a talented designer to join the team (by that, I meant a graphic designer to start with a nice logo and a web design). He called me the next day saying he found a great talented designer. He was talking about a business cards designer… and he had a prototype with “CEO” under his name. That was before we even built a product or a team. I backed out.

    One thing I don’t understand in Jordan is how it is very common to come across a “social media expert” (whatever that means), “an Adobe CS expert” or a “PHP developer”. People are specialising in very specific areas before mastering the fundamentals and basics. A “social media expert” should essentially be a marketer/advertiser who just added one extra medium in his toolset. What happens if social media dies out in 5 years? His “expertise” would become useless. A “photoshop expert” should essentially be a talented, creative graphic designer that uses Photoshop/CS suite as part of his skill-set. Similarly, a “PHP developer” should essentially be a software engineer or a front-end engineer.

    I’m not sure we are spending enough time investing in our skills and fundamentals. This world has become extremely competitive that being a “social media expert” or an “entrepreneurship expert” is no longer sufficient. Hence, many failed products.

    Most startups in Jordan are struggling with lack of talent, which is often a bigger issue than lack of money/investment. We need some sort of academy that actually teaches core skills. Skills that are useful in AND outside the startup world. Core skills that have the ability to generate new/innovative products whether it is now, in five or ten years when all these tools we are becoming “experts” in die out.

  7. entrepreneurship in a developing country would be cut-throat hard.

    you guys said something very important but didn’t elaborate, which is “lack of talent” , thats because the REAL TALENT and the great minds dont stay here, and for a very good reason.

    we have the brain drain problem just like every developing country out there since forever, nothing new.

  8. Thank you for a great article!
    I think the main mistake is not defining the word “Entrepreneur” to begin with! not anyone with a great idea is eligible to become a successful entrepreneur!
    I agree with what Tariq said, fast exit strategies are ruining the whole concept! a company to be ready for exist must at least spend 10 years creating a success story!
    I think also the mentality of the investors are encouraging these quick exits situations, none of the investors I have met are really interested in growing the business or even understanding the idea behind it! many are more interested in throwing and growing their money without believing in the idea itself!
    Nayef I like your ideas, lack of skills is an issue, when it comes to establishing strong teams to operate those start ups.

  9. I agree with your premise on the prevailing ‘culture’ of obnoxiousness and fluff in the startup stage, especially when there’s no real inspiration and talent behind the guys and gals who embark on these ventures. However, I think some stats and numbers would alleviate your distress with the situation, because failure extends beyond being obnoxious, and crosses over to those entrepreneurs that do do the right things.
    Different sources reference different figures as data sets are hard to come by, but the dominant figure is that 90% of all startups fail at the angel/seed/series A round (typically 2nd birthday). Of those that do make it, only 50% make it past series B. This is a sobering reminder that competition is tough, technologies and processes are hard to implement, and getting the right service or product to the right market at the right time is a pretty gargantuan task even if founders and teams follow your 8 commandments.

  10. @Saeed: Of course there are some out there who are doing good things and my objective wasn’t to paint a completely black and white picture – but rather to point out that behind all the glitz and glamour and calls of jordan being the next silicon valley, there are harsh realities to deal with. As you said, we need to assess what the value added is.

    @Shaylyn: “Creativity has to be backed up with serious critical thinking and strategy and a lot of hard work” – absolutely.

    @Hamza: i think it’s a problem relevant in much of the arab world. would love to hear more about what you meant with “collectivism in Jordan and how it matches the inconsistencies with entrepreneurship”

    @Nayef: i absolutely agree – tools have not become specialties for some reason and many have adopted that titling as a way to distinguish themselves in the market. and yet, core skills of the field remain unknown to many of them. this is also, in part, what i meant by learning to crawl before running.

    @Watheq: would love to hear more from you on the topic of incubators and their impact…?

    @Godot: well, i did not mean them as commandments, and as the disclaimer says, my “tips” are all subject to debate and scrutiny, and so, not to be taken as gospel. that said, they are based largely on what many fail to do, or what many have already done. i understand the numbers are generally not in people’s favor, but avoiding some basic pitfalls (as those suggested above) are a good start towards surviving. Yes, competition is cut throat for startups, but being pushed out by a competitor is largely due to ones own ineffectiveness. That said, much of this also applies in the social entrepreneurial world and probably even more so given that the nature of the field isn’t to make a profit. thanks for your input.

  11. I can’t sit here and fault any of these people for trying at least they have the guts to do that much and not worry about risking the total loss of their invested money.I know some people that have very good ideas and they have the money to support their ideas yet they don’t have the guts to go ahead and start. It could be the fear of losing the money, it could be the fear of fear itself, it could be the fear of the stigma that will be attached to losing, or it even could be the fear of succeeeding, yes, some people are fearful of success and that fear prevents them from starting. It is okay to fail because if one doesn’t try one will never know whether one will fail or succeed.If one fails he will learn from his mistakes and the next time around s/he will do a better job.

  12. @maxrobinson It’s not like they’re doing it for us or for our benefit. In fact, no one asked them to take a risk.

    Those of us who are giving constructive criticism are those who would love to see Jordan turn into the Silicon Valley of the Middle East. While at the same time recognise that the path to reach that level is a very, very long and difficult one. I was in SF at the top startups just a few weeks ago and going again in a few weeks. Trust me, we have one hell of a long way to get just half way there.

  13. rep’
    I understand that the road is long and it requires a lot of patience and hard work but I magine how jobs are created every time someone decides to open up some kind of business? As a matter of fact most recent studies shows that most job opportunities are found through people opening up small business.So if their actions result in creating job opportunities for others it is obviously a good thing.Right.Continuing to rely on the government to employ all the people in the country is not the right attitude to go about it. At some point in time private jobs by ordinary citizens need to kick in to fill the gap.Any business as simple as owning a Taxi cab employes at least 2 people.This means 2 new unemplyed people are suddenly employed and can provide for themselves and their family. I’m not trying to simplify the complex issue of unemployment, all I’m trying to show is that although we didn’t tell these people to take a risk and at the same time they are doing it for themselves and not for us.Yet, we do at some point in time benefit out of their actions with our efforts and they take the risk with their money it is more or less quid pro quo type of a situation and not a zero sum situation like in the case of the government emply all the people.

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