If you’ve used one of the most popular weather apps, called Clear Day, you might be surprised that it comes from a company that started in Egypt. Despite constant news reports about violence and oppressive regimes (often funded and supported by Western democracies), the Middle East is actually one of the fastest growing Internet regions. Wherever you find problems, you can find entrepreneurs making money providing solutions.
In the book “Startup Rising,” author Christopher Schroeder surveyed a variety of technology startups that are creating more disruptive change in the Middle East than any wars could ever do. After seeing videos of how companies recycle materials from discarded computers, another Egyptian entrepreneur founded a recycling company called RecycloBekia. Despite knowing nothing about recycling, this entrepreneur taught himself how to recover precious metals from used computers and make money from the process.
Although the Middle East has a reputation for oppressing women, that didn’t stop from Hind Hobeika from starting a company called Instabeat (http://www.instabeat.me) that sells a wearable heart rate monitor so swimmers can monitor their performance in real-time. As you swim, you can see your current heart rate compared to your optimum heart rate just by looking inside your own swim goggles.
Plenty of Middle East entrepreneurs are looking to the West for ideas to bring back to their home countries, but that also means many Westerners can look to their Middle East counterparts for great ideas that could benefit people in America and other parts of the world.
As much as Americans might like to think that they somehow have a monopoly on technology, Silicon Valley isn’t the only place where technology entrepreneurs can start up and thrive. If a volatile region like the Middle East can spawn a new generation of technology entrepreneurs who have to battle dictatorships, civil wars, and terrorists to not only survive, but flourish, then what’s to stop anyone from any part of the world to look for problems they can solve and then go out and do it?
Entrepreneurs are people who see problems they can solve with technology. Any time you see a problem, there’s potential profit in finding a solution. With few people using credit cards in the Middle East, there’s a huge potential in mobile payments through smartphones, which completely upends the traditional banking system and government regulations of most Middle Eastern governments. Technology offers one way to change that part of the world through innovative products that solve pressing needs. Before governments can even recognize the world is changing around them, it’s already too late for them to stop it.
In the future, expect the Internet and technology to reshape places like Africa and the Middle East. While those regions will still have problems, entrepreneurs offer the best chance for changing that part of the world (for better or worse). If people in the Middle East can get rich despite dictatorships, civil wars, and terrorists, then it’s certainly possible for anyone in any part of the world to start turning their great ideas into a viable business and finally free themselves from working in a boring, dead-end job once and for all.