Jordan-the Middle East’s Axis of Innovation  

Amman is making waves in the IT industry
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It’s no longer news that the Middle East has seen a surge in technology activity across the region. It’s almost important to remember though that the Middle East is not a homogeneous region (far from it!); technology innovation and adaption is taking place at different speeds and starting from different points across the region. So when we saw this piece in The Financial Times about the strengths and weakness of the Jordanian tech market, we were intrigued with its analysis at the country level, rather than the usual regional level.

As the author deftly notes, Jordan has carved out a niche “as a centre of IT, outsourcing and ‘Arabisation’, the translation and cultural adjustment of English-langauge media and web content.” That’s certainly something we see at WOMENA: over 10% of the companies we’ve looked at are currently based in Jordan with many more startups with Jordanian founders based out of Dubai or, on rare occasions, out of another MENA country. For a country of 6 million people in a region of 300 million plus people, that’s a phenomenal rate and attests to the level of entrepreneurship in Jordan.

Why have so many startups emerged from Jordan? There are multiple reasons and as the author alludes a well-educated population and supportive government are key among them. We think other key reasons are:
The network effects from Maktoob’s acquisition by Yahoo! (which we discussed here) and its hugely positive impact on Jordanian entrepreneurship
It’s geographic position right in the heart of the Middle East with good transport links
The lack of other opportunities in the country, as it has so few natural resources, push people to innovating on their own accord; its human resources are its most valuable and important resources

So what can Jordan do to make sure it remains a MENA tech hub? These are a few of our thoughts:
Make sure Jordan keeps on producing great startups for one! Jordan has built a reputation for impressive innovation and entrepreneurship and when the quality drops questions will begin to be asked
Increase investment in technology education from primary school all the way up to university
Break down the barriers for women to become entrepreneurs; there are some great female Jordanian entrepreneurs but they are outnumbered by men

What do you think? What can Jordan do to continue punching above its weight in MENA technology innovation?

Introducing Our Middle East Partners: N-Z  

Following on from our earlier blog post, below is the second post in introducing our partners in the Middle East.

Progress in Technology Middle East connects connecting entrepreneurs with Silicon Valley resources. PITME has developed an excellent network of partners in Silicon Valley to support Middle East based entrepreneurs

Startup MENA runs a series of networking events and workshops for startups across the Middle East, which can be found on our events calendar. Startup MENA has branches in Tunisia, Egypt and the GCC

TechWadi is the leading non-profit organisation dedicated to building bridges between Silicon Valley and the Middle East. Dr. Ossama Hassanein heads up TechWadi and is a big supporter of WOMENA. WOMENA is also an ecosystem partner of TechWadi

Turn8 is a partnership between DP World and i360 Accelerator and is a leading startup accelerator based in Dubai. Turn8 launched in 2012 and has accelerated some of the top startups in the region including our own portfolio company Melltoo

Venture Capital 4 Africa (also known as VC4Africa) is an online community of entrepreneurs and investors dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship in Africa. This should be your first port of call to learn more about the startup ecosystem in Africa

Wamda is a platform of programs and networks across the Middle East that aims to accelerate entrepreneurship ecosystems across the Middle East. With programmes like Mix’n’Mentor and their grassroots content, Wamda has supported the development of startups across the region

Weyakum is dedicated to empowering young Emiratis with critical work skills to further their professional development and is led by Ameera Amir