Entrepreneurship is flourishing in the Middle East, says study

Entrepreneurship is flourishing in the Middle East, a London Business School survey of regional executives has revealed.

The survey of nearly 500 regional executives found that the Middle East is seen as a growing market for entrepreneurship, with more than two thirds (71.4 percent) of respondents describing the sector growth as ‘steady’, ‘fast’ or ‘very fast’.

Executives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were most emphatic about a growth spurt, scoring well above average at 81.5 percent.

Andrew Scott, professor of economics at London

Business School, said that as the region becomes more prosperous, a healthy entrepreneurial sector will become even more important:

“Entrepreneurs, not established firms, tend to be the most important source of innovation. With the recent decline in oil prices, economic growth will come from different sectors and it is important that the private sector takes over the momentum from the government. Entrepreneurship can play an important role in this.”

And the findings suggest that people recognise this.

Nearly half (45.4 percent) of the regional executives who participated in the survey said they have considered setting up their own business. More than one third (35.8 percent) said that they have already started one or more ventures and nearly half (45.6 percent) said they felt ‘confident’ about starting a business in the region.

Maintaining this confidence is key for fostering long-term economic growth in the Middle East, according to John Mullins, associate professor of management practice in marketing and entrepreneurship, London Business School, and author of The New Business Road Test (2013) and The Customer-Funded Business (2014).

“Starting a new business is not for the faint of heart, as enormous uncertainty surrounds any new venture, and the probability of success is daunting,” he said.

“However, it is entrepreneurs and their fast-growing companies who will create nearly all of the region’s new jobs going forward, and it is entrepreneurs who will make available goods and services found elsewhere that are not yet available here.”

Despite the confidence in growth, 66.7 percent of respondents from across the region believe that there is room for improvement. 56.3 percent believe that SMEs in their country could be doing better, if given more support.

The survey identified a number of challenges that continue to impact SME growth, including excessive or inappropriate regulatory or governmental policies, few sustainable SME banking products and an SME management skills gap.

Professor Scott says: “While it is true that entrepreneurs need to generate their own passion to succeed, we know that so many of the common mistakes that entrepreneurs make in SMEs could be avoided.

“This is why business schools are increasingly incorporating entrepreneurship courses amongst their general management offerings. It may be true that entrepreneurs can’t be made in a business school but you can certainly help them become more successful.”

When it comes to new business financing, venture capital is currently seen as the most successful funding model across the region (36.5 percent). Looking to the future, executives also believe that more private investor funding (eg, angel investment) would be the most effective measure in supporting new businesses.

According to Dr Mullins however, budding entrepreneurs should consider alternative options for their first investment.

“There is a widely held assumption in the Middle East and elsewhere that a venture capital firm should be every aspiring entrepreneur’s first port of call,” he said.

“‘We need more angel investors,’ is an equally familiar cry around the world, just as it is in the Middle East. But actually, that is not true. The vast majority of fast-growing businesses around the world never take any venture capital.

“So where does their money come from? It comes from the same source that Bill Gates and Paul Allen used to start Microsoft – and Michael Dell, too – their customers. There are intelligent ways to secure customer funding, and it is vastly cheaper capital too.”

Nearly 500 members of the London Business School community, including alumni, Executive Education past participants, Executive MBAs and the School’s Middle East Club,  participated in the survey, sharing their views on entrepreneurship, the current state of the Middle East’s SME sector and its future trajectory.

Related:
Topics
Join the Discussion

Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

  • No comments yet, be the first!

All comments are subject to approval before appearing

Further reading

Features & Analysis
Understanding blockchain and its growing importance in the UAE

Understanding blockchain and its growing importance in the UAE

Project Pen’s John Lillywhite talks to Moe Levin, founder of...

2
Beating the odds: Palestinian entrepreneurs continue to thrive

Beating the odds: Palestinian entrepreneurs continue to thrive

In the second article of a two-part series, Ambar Amleh, chief...

A bird's eye view of the UAE start-up ecosystem

A bird's eye view of the UAE start-up ecosystem

Tarek Ahmed Fouad, a Dubai-based serial entrepreneur, analyses...

Most Discussed
sponsoredTracking