How to Celebrate Entrepreneurs

By not inviting bloggers. Well, most bloggers.

Any person who marginally knows me will attest to the fact that I am allergic to the over abuse of the words “entrepreneur” (which took me a while to learn to pronounce) and social media adjective.

In any case, a few days ago I received an invitation to attend a press conference for an upcoming event that carries the heavy title of “Celebration of Entrepreneurship“. I first cringed at the title, fearing that this would be, a few years from now, an international public holiday. However, I put my reservations aside, wore a white shirt (a rare occasion), put on as professional an attitude I could muster, and attended the event, as a blogger, and here are my two cents on the matter: It took them 40 goddamn minutes to serve me orange juice (which I had to ask for, after declining their fine selection of wine and beer).

Yup. This is what happens when you invite a blogger with multiple personality disorders.

On a more serious note, the event, as I understood, was very informal so my judgement on lack of structure would not add to the matter. Though it bothered me that I entered the hall and found myself comfortable without being asked for an identification or proof that I am allowed to be there to begin with.

Let me get some PR out of the way:

The event was hosted by Arif Naqvi, Founder and Group Chief Executive Officer, Abraaj Capital, and Fadi Ghandour, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Aramex. The panel of entrepreneurs included:

  • Ahmed Bin Shabib, Founder, Shelter
  • Rashed Bin Shabib, Founder, Brownbook
  • Peyman Parham Al Awadhi, Co-founder, Wild Peeta
  • Mohammad Parham Al Awadhi, Co-founder, Wild Peeta
  • Sulaf Al-Zubi, CEO (UAE), INJAZ al-Arab
  • Anas Bukhash, Managing Director, Ahdaaf
  • Amel B.Makkawi, Owner and Director, Art Sawa

The talks from the panel did not go beyond a nutshell version of the story of how each business made it from zero to hero. There were some laughs and giggles at mishaps and when it became apparent that all of them struggled with The System at one point or another. One of the key issues that was brought up every now and then is the gap between The System (laws, government, etc) and small/medium businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. What hit a cord with me was the mention of the lack a “Freelance Residency Visa” that would allow you to pursue your dreams without having your ass owned by the sponsoring company.

I heard that such a visa did exist, in the older days, issued in the emirate of Ras al Khaima, when I was made redundant and was looking at every option to remain in the country for more than 30 days (seriously? 30?). If anyone can confirm it please let me know!

One of the burning questions of every wannabe entrepreneur is “how to do it”, though I am sure the book stores are now full of entrepreneurship material written by experts (because hey, an expert is one who knows more than you right? WRONG!). As Arif and Fadi pointed out several times in the event, education is paramount as people are not born entrepreneurs, but are made. I slightly disagree as you need to be born with the drive, ambition, and leadership (or you grow it during the years), but yes, sometimes you need a push in the right direction and education to know what to do with what you have. According to them, the money is flowing freely in this region and funding has to be put in the right places to address issues that entrepreneurs face. I believe another step would be to invest in the right ideas, otherwise every entrepreneur on twitter (which I think is a good 80% of users) would suck the money out of this region dry.

Anyway, I think I’ve written more than my due as a blogger who writes prose, humour, and uses a lot of Photoshop. The event is in a month so I am sure there will be lots of typical press coverage around it.

Now to end this post in the Jar of Juice way, I present you with a couple of quotes from the conference (and no, I won’t attribute them to anyone):

“I made the decision two years ago to stop going to conferences talking about entrepreneurship” [pause] “Except this one… because it is different.”

And my all-time favourite:

“Private equity is everything that is not public equity.”

An added extra (you can find the text  it came from here):

It means you don’t need antihistamines to work