On April 16, TechWadi leaders joined the American Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at Stanford (AMENDS) to engage with talented MENA delegates on financing entrepreneurial initiatives. AMENDS is a student initiative at Stanford University that enables students from the MENA region and the United States to share their ideas, experiences and concerns, as well as empower the worldwide network of youth leaders who hold the future of the Middle East in their hands.
In 2013, AMENDS counted 37 influential young leaders making waves across the Middle East; their initiatives helped the development and support of entrepreneurship, education, environment, health and art. Delegates spanned the spectrum ranging from Samer Azar, Lebanese Co-founder and CFO at AltCity, passionate about supporting innovative and creative companies in the MENA region, to Nargis Azaryum, an activist working on social reforms. Whether social entrepreneurs creating employment, change, and opportunity, or startups innovating on the tech front, TechWadi leaders stepped up to the plate in a focused session on fundraising for the diverse but inspirational group at Stanford.
Co-Founder of Newbury Ventures Bruce Bauer led the way by discussing the different factors that an entrepreneur has to consider when searching for US venture capital. He raised questions regarding ways to find investors, how to convince them to invest in a startup as well as ways to approach decisions by entrepreneurs. He emphasized that no matter where an idea comes from; partners, mentors and financing are within an entrepreneur’s reach in the modern ecosystem.
Salim Jabr, Lebanese member of Sand Hill Angels, gave an enlightening presentation about what VCs and Angels look for when evaluating an opportunity. He passed on his perspectives on the importance of taking risks to AMENDS delegates, reminding them they might be the creators the world is counting on. He highlighted the key areas investors focus on: whether there is an unmet need, whether there is a big market, whether the product or the technology is different, whether there it is a scalable business model and whether it is the right time or the right team is in place. He also raised technical concerns about the terms and the importance of choosing the right investors.
Mona Defrawi is an Egyptian social entrepreneur and CEO and founder of 4 companies. She took the floor to discuss the role of entrepreneurship as change agent especially in the Middle East where employment cannot solely rely on large corporations. Passionate about entrepreneurship, she took time to define traits of entrepreneurs and highlighted the differences with employees. She echoed the energy of the entrepreneurs in the room, urging them to create value by solving a problem and taking risks.
Nima Adelkhani is also a social entrepreneur and the founder of Progress in Technology in the Middle East (PITME). Like Mona Defrawi, he encouraged the MENA delegates to be creative and make a change. Based on his experiences in the MENA region, he shared his instructive observations, discussing the market opportunities and deficiencies, then gave them advice on how to finance entrepreneurial initiatives. Lastly, Hassan Haider, CEO of Bahraini Angel Network, Tenmou, led an effective discussion by pointing out his mistakes while creating and financing his own startup in the MENA region. He emphasized the importance of mentors, specifically in the region where there is a lack of exposure and information.
TechWadi’s annual collaboration with the brilliant young leaders at Stanford allowed the AMENDS delegates to learn about venture capital, angel financing, and crowdfunding in the US and MENA region from experienced and accomplished international entrepreneurs and investors. It was an eye-opening look into the reality of financing entrepreneurial initiatives and a great occasion to build powerful connections. Moreover, the TechWadi members speaking and in attendance, left having learned just as much about the incredible talent, initiatives, and future on the ground in the Middle East.