A recent question on Quora asked: When will venture capitalists start to invest in Egypt and Tunisia? The answer on Quora alluded to all the reasons that VCs don’t invest much in Europe, compounded by current political instability in the Middle East.
Techwadi, a nonprofit focused on building bridges between Silicon Valley and entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa, is trying to change that perception. Last week, an event put on by Techwadi at Stanford convinced me that the region has huge potential to produce many successful startups.
Of course, there are significant challenges in these countries. One founder that presented at the event mentioned that simply registering the company in Egypt would take many months, and the legal infrastructure was so lacking that it would be extremely difficult to simply divide shares among his cofounders. There are problems that governments must take extremely so they do not serve as obstacles to entrepeneurship.
Yet the event provided evidence of multiple bright spots, most notably, the entrepreneurs themselves. Several extremely passionate and bright founders presented. One was working on an Egyptian location-based network called Intafeen. The founder was a very experienced ex-Googler who had assembled a team focused on localizing mobile innovations in the Middle East. The level of cultural understanding and localization would be very difficult for an American company to copy. Another early stage company was founded by a very well-spoken engineer and inventor with dozens of patents to his name. The company is not launched yet, but it looks very promising.
Also, the level of support and engagement from the Arab community in Silicon Valley seems very strong as evidenced by the recent Techwadi event. In addition to numerous mentors, several investors also participated, including Saeed Amidi, founder of Amidzad Partners, and the Chairman of Techwadi, Ossama Hassanein. Congratulations to them as well as the entrepreneurs who are spearheading a movement to promote technology entrepreneurship in the MENA region.