Forbes; It's Not a Small World
If it feels like a small world, it’s because you’re not thinking big enough.
In March, the world looked “South-by-Southwest” to Austin, Texas. Armed with chargers, and wrestling for available outlets, technologists, musicians, and film stars converged on Sixth Street. Conversations started with “what’s your Klout score,” and the term FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) came to life in the palpable form of Highlights, Tweets, Path updates, Facebook posts, and the occasional anachronistic, if effective, SMS. Uber powered pedi-cabs, and RootMusic brought many of the BandPage artists up on stage.
At “South-By,” as it’s affectionately called, “It’s such a Small World” is an hourly thought. But it’s that very thought that drove some to look beyond the horizon, at the venture frontier, and toward the Middle East.
ArabNet, the brainchild of Omar Christidis, a Lebanese-born Yale MBA, brought together 1000s of entrepreneurs and investors hailing from 22 countries. Held in Beirut, Lebanon at the end of March, the Digital Summit consisted of a conference, an Ideathon, and a Startup Demo Competition. The invited speakers included representatives from Facebook, Google, TechCrunch, IBM, Vodafone and dozens of others.
From international emerging markets representatives such as CMEA Partner Saad Khan to local founders of Trendyol, the Tiger and Kleiner-backed Turkish e-commerce power player, ArabNet brought together an array of experts beyond borders, not to recreate Silicon Valley in the Levant, but to empower a demographic rather than a geographic.
Next door in Turkey, Istanbul hosted MIT’s Global Startup Workshop, a multi-day event that brought together participants from over 40 countries. Students from MIT and Stanford’s BASES organization brought perspective, and the U.S. State Department’s Global Innovation in Science and Technology (GIST)program coordinated by CRDF Global sponsored international mentors to work with 30 of the top Turkish technology entrepreneurs.
A consequence of President Obama’s Cairo speech, GIST helps organize startup boot camps around the world to empower economic development through innovation and entrepreneurship. In Istanbul, the program was bookended by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jonathan Margolis and Managing Director of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center, Bill Aulet.
While success requires intellectual and technical talent, hunger, mentorship, and capital, the locations where this is becoming possible are ever expanding. By shining a light on local deficiencies, whether capital or human capital, energy or mentorship, we can level the playing field.
While the Arabic market is relatively small, it is expected to become the fourth largest linguistic footprint online by 2015. Outside the Arabic market but proximate, in Turkey, the 75 million people, 45 percent Internet penetration, youth demographic, and crossroads locale have already inspired Tiger Global, Kleiner Perkins, Atomico Ventures to eye it closely. Startups are nascent, but local funds like 212 and Galata Business Angels are providing early stage capital, and media coverage from Webrazzi is beginning to guide global attention.
International delegations from GIST and others are the initial layers of human capital development for aspiring entrepreneurs, but local startup catalyzers such as Etohum.com are also driving local change.
It’s not a small world if you’re thinking big. Those most poised for tomorrow’s success are the ones who are already thinking global today.