Middle East is not Silicon Valley, says venture capital firm partner

Region should try to create a system of its own as opposed to mimicking one
Wamda Capital’s Khaled Talhouni.
By Lubna Hamdan
Tue 21 Mar 2017 10:21 AM

The Middle East is not Silicon Valley, nor should it aim to be, according to venture firm Wamda Capital’s Khaled Talhouni.

Speaking at the Arabian Business Startup Academy yesterday, Talhouni said the region should aim to create a system that works for its circumstances, instead of mimic an existing one in the West.

“I couldn’t
disagree more that the Middle East is like Silicon Valley, not because there’s
anything wrong with the Middle East, actually the opportunities are much
greater in our emerging markets, but I think there’s a unique set of
circumstances that came together to create Silicon Valley back in the 1950s…
between government spending, research institutions and a number of key
individuals who came together to build that. And that created a unique ecosystem system
of
its own. We shouldn’t chase to recreate what’s there. WE should
build what works for us. And I think what works for us is slightly different.
It doesn’t take away in any shape or form from the scale or size of the opportunity, because
the region is more underdeveloped and there much more room for growth” he said.

Talhouni said
the region should take advantage of opportunities in leading markets such
mobile, where it leads in some of the highest rates of mobile integration and
consumption.

“There is
huge opportunity to lead from a lot of the innovations happening already in the
Middle East. One clear example of that is the exponentially fast adoption of
mobile. The region leads in mobile adoption and consumption of digital services
particularly content. It’s such a fast rate compared to the rest of the world. The
region leads in mobile phone consumption. We have the highest rates of
consumption on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, so we adopted it in a very
fast way. We should embrace that. We shouldn’t just try to replicate what is
already there in the form of the silicon valley ecoystsem -  we can
take what works, and adapt it for our unique set of circumstances. We need to
build what works for us and invest in it in an aggressive way. That’s something
we feel strongly about,” he said.

The managing
partner at Wamda Capital spoke alongside Precinct Partners’ Amjad Ahmad at the
Arabian Business Startup Academy, which took place on Monday in Grosvenor’s
House, Dubai Marina.

The duo
discussed a number of gaps in the Middle East’s startup community as well as
funding options entrepreneur do’s and don’ts when approaching investors.

Other
speakers included Beehive’s Craig Moore and Beco Capital’s Alvaro Abella.

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