Chris Schroeder

Christopher Schroeder

Internet CEO, Venture Investor/Advisor & Writer. Father of three, Husband of One & Mentor to Many

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 14, 2015

Discussion

Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
Am I an optimist? I've spent the last four years traveling across the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and beyond seeing how new generations with universal access to tech are changing their societies. Wrote a book on it Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East. Entrepreneur (healthcentral.com among others); Intrepreneur (washingtonpost.newsweek interactive among others); Investor (vox media; skiftt, 10APP, iBotta among many others); advisor/LP in leading VC funds (no name dropping). There is no time in world history better to be alive.
Hala Fadel هلا فاضل
Hala Fadel هلا فاضل@halafrangie · Managing partner, Leap ventures
@cmschroed what is the market opportunity presented by Iran in the tech space and how does it compare to the rest of the middle east?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@halafrangie I have been in awe of what I've seen there -- the challenges are great, mostly in still figuring out what government will do sustainably -- but the talent, history, culture, access to the world around them is all there. I wrote some about it here: http://www.politico.com/magazine... I think the potential shared learning and connections with MENA are enormous. My generation likes to talk about historic distrust of Arabs and Persians -- and I don't know enough to comment on what that means to a new generation. Except that every young person I met loved to go to Istanbul and Dubai and vice versa. Note, btw, that Iran just announced a huge deal for air craft for flights to and from Dubai.
Nina Curley
Nina Curley@9aa · Managing Director, Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi
@cmschroed Much of the VC capital and the accelerator programs in the region are oriented towards pure tech plays and scalable products first and foremost. What trends do you see in social entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship for environmental and societal impact? Given the challenges of the region, what opportunities do you see here?
Saeedreza Abbaspour
Saeedreza Abbaspour@srabbaspour · Product Manager - Software
@cmschroed What is holding SV investors back from investing on Iranian startups? Especially now that Iran and the west reached to a deal and most of the sanctions are removed.
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@srabbaspour US Law. :) This will open shortly, but remember rule of law, ability to get transparency, ability to repatriate capital -- all will take time to convince investors. But if the politicians take this seriously, Iran will be an extraordinary part of the technology ecosystem. Even with sanctions in many ways it already is.
Khaled Talhouni
Khaled Talhouni@khaledtalhouni · Partner
Do you that cryptocurrencies will be widely adopted in emerging markets with limited financial infrastructure and banking/credit card penetration or is there a need for traditional financial services to develop first ahead of that?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@khaledtalhouni I believe necessity drives a ton of adoption. The question not demand, which is already large. But will the companies be able to sustain in scale as competition will come from places like Silicon Valley. But some great enterprises like BitOasis in your backyard are very intriguing.
Hala Fadel هلا فاضل
Hala Fadel هلا فاضل@halafrangie · Managing partner, Leap ventures
@cmschroed what do you see as a game changer in the region over the next 2 years compared to other regions?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@halafrangie you. I mean this,. Folks like your VC operation, wamdacapital, sawari ventures, Flat6Labs and more global players are looking to invest real capital in the remarkable innovation that is coming bottom up in MENA and beyond. This despite the tradition one narrative in Western Media. The young folks need sustained capital, mentors, market access. Folks like you are providing this at scale now.
Loulou Khazen Baz
Loulou Khazen Baz@loulsk · Founder & CEO, Nabbesh.com
@cmschroed it's been 2 years since you published startup rising, what has changed? do you still maintain the same views on the Middle East? Are we better or worse off?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@loulsk you live the ups and downs better than anyone, so your answer is more valuable than mine. Much remains hard -- startups are hard. But the speed and increase of quality enterprises and capital has been very encouraging to me. Most of the companies I've written about are not only still there, but thriving. Souq.com, of course, the Amazon of the Middle East just completed a round valued at over $1 bb. eCommerce generally has blown the doors off in the region and elsewhere. The UAE has been very forward leaning with the GCC on opening rule of law. This is wonderful. Syria and Iraq are heart breaking, and yet I know so many superb entrepreneurs from there still building from impossible conditions in and out side of them.
Ruba Al Hassan
Ruba Al Hassan@rubaalhassan
In your book you write about the rise of women entrepreneurs in the Middle East, which tends to be counter to the usual western rhetoric of the Middle East doing poorly on gender empowerment . What is the reality on the ground that you have seen?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@rubaalhassan The Economist reported 25% of startups in MENA are run by women. I've been to start up gatherings which have 40% women. Try to find that in Silicon Valley! One woman told me, "the definition of a great entrepreneur is someone who works through anything. Guess what, we work through a lot." Pretty good overview.
Elmira Bayrasli
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
I agree w you that there is a lot of potential in the Middle East. Yet it seems to get overlooked and/or eclipsed by what's happening in Silicon Valley. Should we measure startups and innovation in the Middle East in the same way we do in Silicon Valley? Or how can we value/access what's happening in the region on its own merits?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@endeavoringe I think your fabulous new book has made clear that innovation and great ideas -- game changing all -- makes clear that great ideas come from where great humans, which means everywhere. The difference between today and even five years ago is the access to software that unleashes and scales these ideas where ever they come from. Like most things in life, one has to take the criteria seriously from Silicon Valley - there is a reason why the Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter of India are Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter; or that Google has such a swath in search and other activities. But, at the same time, these new markets will be huge and require local understanding -- look at Ali Baba and Tencent which built multi billion dollar enterprise with virtually no revenue from the West; and great global innovation will come like Waze did in Israel. But the competition with software will be compelled to duke it out with great ideas from Silicon Valley very often
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@endeavoringe btw, so people have the link to your must-read book: http://www.amazon.com/Other-Side...
Nina Curley
Nina Curley@9aa · Managing Director, Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi
@cmschroed You've written extensively about the benefits of entrepreneurship; what are the potential pitfalls that we face as startup enablers and promoters? Are we realistic and open enough about the challenges entrepreneurs face? What are we doing right and where/how could we improve our coverage and our work to evangelize and advocate?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@9aa If we convince entrepeneurs that this life is the movie Social Network, we have failed. This is hard work. Give everyone a copy of Ben Horowitz's book (It should be coming out in Arabic also I think shortly!) :)
Paul Niehaus
Paul Niehaus@paulfniehaus
@cmschroed can you talk public sector. Emerging market governments have some of the biggest needs for innovation and IT to deliver critical public services, but are notoriously fickle customers. I've seen several startups in India run out of runway while waiting for gov't to pay on a big contract. What should the public sector be doing to build trust?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@paulfniehaus I'll stay this until I am blue in the face. Never has there been more tools available for people to solve problems bottom up -- the people most benefiting by these opportunities and problem solving. When we look at the challenges of poverty, or the youth bulge (30+% of populations now between the ages of 15 and 30) government too often hope the old games of government jobs and big traditional processes will solve things top down. Well how well has that gone? Now the tools are there. If governments embrace this kind of problem solving, get their own processes to the 21st century (as the UAE has to a great degree and we are seeing amazing potential in places like Rwanda -- the irony is their societies will improve in the very ways governments are most held accountable and let their people down. It is happening anyhow.
Donna Harris
Donna Harris@dharrisindc
While entrepreneurship is emerging all over the world, "Silicon Valley" has yet to take it seriously -- both from an investing and media coverage standpoint. What will it take for this to change?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@dharrisindc I think not so much not taking it serious as balancing opportunities. The talent, rule of law, ability to scale is so powerful here -- those who can will invest in the best here. This of course has expanded around the country as you know, and many are beginning to look abroad. I think the challenge is they have historically done it wrong: "We're americans from Silicon Valley! Roll out the red carpet" -- or the market cap is so big we have to be there; we can outsource so have to be there. ME ME ME. It takes time to build serious relationships and partnerships; it takes a change in mindset to know that great innovation and ideas will come from everywhere, and no one knows their markets like the great innovators from these markets. Everyone has something to bring to the table. I've not seen any where enough of that.
Nora Jabbour
Nora Jabbour@norajabs
What do you see as the largest impediment to growth in the Middle East as it relates to the entrepreneurial community? Alternatively, what is the catalyst for continued success?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@norajabs success will breed success. Look at souq., talabat, and many others. This will encourage more startups to go for it; more money to invest. I think the greatest impediment is too large a belief societally that this is an economic side show. They miss the multiplier impact of startups; for their enterprises; for new enterprises they buy and sell from; for the new enterprises they kick off. And that EVERY company today is a tech company in some form. That which makes for a great startup ecosystem also makes for globally competitive enterprises at any size or stage.
Amy Guttman
Amy Guttman@amyguttman1 · Journalist, Forbes
What's the most innovative product or service you've seen in your travels around the accelerators of the Middle East?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@amyguttman1 I think we in the west get very hung up that "innovation" means the next bright, shiny new thing. That is absolutely one of the things that makes Silicon Valley amazing. But we forget that if you lived somewhere where there was no banking, and no mobile access -- and one day you all have mobile phones and can text cash, expand your businesses, create new business, connect better to your families and loved one and friends -- try telling me that is not innovation. I have seen remarkable use of technolgy to go at education. Nafham by Flat6Labs founder Ahmed Alfi has over 20,000 videos uploaded in Arabic to supplement the education system in Egypt with 35 mm videos viewed, 500,000 uniques a month -- all in 18 months. It's like Khan Academy in away; tell me that is not innovation in Egypt and shortly around the region. At the same time, I've seen great ideas in fin tech, crowd sourcing work like Nabbesh, alternative use of solar energy and more. We'll see a whole spectrum of ideas and innovation there as software continues its unstoppable access to everyone.
Mohsen Khalkhali
Mohsen Khalkhali@mossibat · Venture investor @ Iratel Ventures
@cmschroed what is the most important step a new VC (I'm a partner) can take to help a new/young startup community (In Iran) flourish and succeed?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@mossibat You guys are doing so much smart now. See my note above about being "of service." Too many VCs, and I've seen this in MENA too often, think their companies are lucky to "have them." Their term sheets are abusive because often there isn't competition. You should wake up every day asking how you are service to your companies and the ecosystem. This is not zero sum game stuff. You all will raise amazing boats in your amazing country of young talent. I think the VC's known as the truly -- not in words -- entrepreneur friendly place with have huge advantage. Be tough; shoot a dying business or a CEO who crosses the line. But until those tough decision nodes, it is about helping them win.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
You are an optimist about many things and it's very refreshing. What's something that deeply scares you, that you're not optimistic about, that perhaps may not seem as obvious?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@eriktorenberg the clock. I want to see how all this plays out and there is not enough time in the days of all of us believing in this to have all the impact we wish we could. Beyond that it is things I cannot control . Remember, I was in Damacus in 2011 and saw brilliant and creative young startups. So I know first hand what people playing a 20th century game can bring for a time. But I believe it is only for a time, and so while politicians do what they do, I support the young people who keep coming.
Ben Casnocha
Ben Casnocha@bencasnocha
You've talked about your management philosophy of "no surprises" -- communicate, communicate, communicate so that your employees, investors, board members, etc. aren't caught off guard. How do you square this philosophy with a world that's changing rapidly, and in which entrepreneurs sometimes have limited info about the future? In other words, how do you advise CEOs and entrepreneurs to embrace "no surprises" as a value in a world and industry full of unexpected surprises?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@bencasnocha to say just that. to not only communicate exactly what you said here -- and you've conveyed this so beautifully in your books -- but to make it a co-authored discussion. No one founder, no one ceo, no one team members has a handle on all that is going on. This is a reciprocal, co-authorship of insight on rapidly changing worlds -- with amazing tools like unprecedented data -- to find and digest based on the expectation that the world will surprise us, but we'll learn to conquer it in the base we can.
Amer Bin Breik
Amer Bin Breik@amerf1 · Startup
@cmschroed Just got your book today! Looking forward to reading it!! Do you see a rise in on-demand startups in the Middle East? And do you think incubators work well in the Middle East? Because some seem to take large equity (over 20%)
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@amerf1 Thank you for doing so. Do let me know what you think. Accelerators have lost some of their panache in the States as the records of companies has been mixed. The glaring exception is YCombinator which has been amazing. 500Startups and TechStars in my view are also very important. But in growth markets I think they are essential -- not only in offering capital, resources, infrastructure young companies need -- but mentorship and a collection of other young people who can rethink culture of what it means to scale and succeed. I think Flat6Labs across the region is extraordinary in this, and there are many more. I've seen the same in Iran with Avatech and others.
Amer Bin Breik
Amer Bin Breik@amerf1 · Startup
@cmschroed thanks a lot for that reply, will let you know about the book! I'm sure Flat6Labs is one of the few that are great, @9aa is doing an amazing job. Thank you again
Atil Erken
Atil Erken@atilerken · General Partner, Collective Spark
@cmschroed What do you think about the noise factor in the region both on the investor (angel/VC) and the entrepreneur side? Is it a self-destructing factor that deters innovation and success stories or is it part of the creative destruction that is required to bring out the best and the fittest? As optimists my guess is we both think it is the latter.
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@atilerken absolutely the latter. you see and cultivate this balance beautifully in the companies you back in Istanbul. It's fun to visit and watch how you interact with them
Nicki Friis
Nicki Friis@nickifriisw · Entrepreneur. Former Partner @ Ideanote.
@cmschroed B2B SaaS company - Ideanote. .com is occupied by a domainshark. Do you recommend to change name or use .io/.co? Our target market is big corporations. We've existed for 1 year and have customers.
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@nickifriisw with time, I'm not sure there will be a difference. But .com is still so common, so findable in search etc., if you can get their with a good related .com, I'd lean a bit there.
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
I cannot thank you all enough not only for these remarkable questions, but I know many of you are on the front lines building. I have utter confidence in your future, and believe as I just wrote, we live in the most amazing days in world history. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/w...
Reza Shaeri
Reza Shaeri@rezashaer · Partner, Global Ventures Law
@cmschroed Thank you, Chris, for making the time. Very informative as always!
Khaled Talhouni
Khaled Talhouni@khaledtalhouni · Partner
@cmschroed What do you think are the immediate opportunities that investors in Silicon Valley are missing out in emerging markets and in particular in the Middle East?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@khaledtalhouni the macro shift to growth markets is so significant, that many in Silicon Valley understandably focused on great opportunities here -- don't focus on that inevitability. These are not days to merely think "time to outsource cheaply " -- me me me. This is about co-authorship in amazing places who know themselves and technology cold. Some are getting it. Most are slow.
Ruba Al Hassan
Ruba Al Hassan@rubaalhassan
is there a specific country in the Middle East that is particularly primed to lead the entrepreneurial revolution? what else needs to be done to encourage the ecosystem?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@rubaalhassan I believe your country, the UAE, is a magnet right now for talent and ideas, and is a perfect connector north south east west to an enormous ecosystem of startups. Jordan still launches superb tech talent and ideas; Beirut is amazingly scrappy and entrepreneurial; Cairo is a juggernaut if the business environment allows them to launch. But I tell every government official I meet in the region, watch closely what is coming from the UAE and more broadly in the GCC. In my view, however, they cannot move fast enough. In the meantime, bottom up, kids build. No one I met has said, "hey, I won't do a startup because the bankruptcy law sucks!" That woman or man should be our heroes, and we should do all we can to help as the ecosystem and top down institutions still matter.
Leslie Jump
Leslie Jump@lajump · Founder & CEO, Startup Angels
@cmschroed We had front row seats to the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011, the 'revolution' largely failed, but entrepreneurs persevered. How far can they go, given the deeply flawed regimes running much of the region?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@lajump we'll see how much failure there is with time. Universal access to technology has convinced a generation to fear less, trust themselves, collaborate and build. That is still very much alive everywhere I go. They also build bottom up, regardless of ecosystem challenges. However, talent will go where it can succeed. No surprise I see such amazing talent from ALL over the region in places like Dubai, UAE and even Amman. This is the most mobile generation in history -- not merely in devices, but they can go where they succeed. The regimes you mention will blow a once in a lifetime opportunity not supporting this.
Leslie Jump
Leslie Jump@lajump · Founder & CEO, Startup Angels
What lessons can other parts of the world learn from the entrepreneurs in the Middle East?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@lajump Linda Rottenberg, the great founder of Endeavor Global, talks about connections EtoE -- Emerging Markets to Emerging Market. I don't use "emerging" anymore, but her point stands. ALL of them can learn from each other, sell to each, connect and share best practices. Those increased connections through your efforts and on steroids through so much unleashed on platforms today will bring this to bear.
Gillian Morris
Gillian Morris@gillianim · CEO, Hitlist
What are the big sources of capital at the seed, Series A, and growth stage throughout the Middle East?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@gillianim not enough. There has been a lovely increase in angel capital which is terrific. Locals like Flat6Labs, private individuals, and wonderful tenacity from outsiders like Dave McClure and 500 Startups, who I think has invested in 30 companies in the region in the last year. There has been private equity for some time -- great players like the Abraaj Group, Tiger, GA etc. But in between, way too little. A huge opportunity. Watch what Fadi Ghandour and his team at wamdacapital and others are doing. This will be central in helping more enterprises with great ideas scale to the needs they have.
Reza Shaeri
Reza Shaeri@rezashaer · Partner, Global Ventures Law
@cmschroed Reports that Rocket Internet acquired Zoodfood startup in Iran.
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@rezashaer I had not seen that. I wasn't sure they were allowed to yet. if you have a link can you send that to me on twitter/email? They are aggressive in Iran, I'm told, already before that acquisition a bit under the radar.
@cmschroed There are obvious benefits and risks that accompany investing in emerging markets. What have you found to be the most surprising benefit and risk when investing in startups in the Middle East?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@ktmboyle I think the risks are similar to any risky early stage investment -- does the entrepreneur have the chops, what Ben Horowitz calls "courage," to see things through; have that fanatical passion of their product and serving real customer needs; they have the character and will build the cultures of trust and tenacity to succeed. They are sometimes harder to find in more nascent markets, which is why taking the time to co-author, know those markets, partner and lock arms with the best investors and filters is essential. Political risk is always an issue in ANY growth market. This is not easy stuff -- but offset by the massive changes we are seeing of great education, rising middle classes, ubiquitous access to technology, great concentration in cities -- that I believe are fly wheels to larger opportunities we in the West barely see right now through the cloud of one narrative media gives us.
Reem Khouri ريم خوري
Reem Khouri ريم خوري@reemkhouri · Founder and CEO of Kaamen
@cmschroed What in your opinion would be the best way to support entrepreneurs in the region?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@reemkhouri to show up. there is plenty of money, even expertise, certainly business development and mentoring opportunities. More and more are. But it's a drop in the bucket of what could ahve impact.
Reem Khouri ريم خوري
Reem Khouri ريم خوري@reemkhouri · Founder and CEO of Kaamen
@cmschroed I am interested in particular to hear your views about supporting Palestinian entrepreneurs who are facing daily challenges because of occupation and lack of mobility
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@reemkhouri some of the most extraordinary entrepreneurs I have met come from Palestine. I've been a supporter of Gaza SkyGeeks -- and the women and men there are amazing. McClure again just came back from there. In impossible circumstances he sees the heard and soul and talent of these amazing people. Under occupation there will be structural limits, but increased access to software and ability to reach outside into the region (and beyond) makes me hopeful that opportunity will continue to be created even in these circumstances.
Curt McGowan
Curt McGowan@cmcgowan864 · BDM, PCCW Global
@cmschroed how/where do you see global telecom and value added services companies working with in-country and startup organizations in order to provide the needed technology and expected security for these ventures?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@cmcgowan864 the opportunity is great, and players like Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and others have participated and done some support of the ecosystem -- not only in their services, but by actively supporting the startup ecosystem (mentoring, in some cases like Vodafone even in some small investment). Candidly, I don't think it is CLOSE to what they could do, and hope to see more of it.
Curt McGowan
Curt McGowan@cmcgowan864 · BDM, PCCW Global
@cmschroed Thanks - I see the mentoring idea going places - recognizing use and growth of latest technologies in this region paired with in-region staff, support, and language skills will drive acceptance of global companies. Is it also a view that 'western companies' need to step out of the box and truly accept that global perspective on where success can come from (i.e. eliminate the 'not invented here' perspective). Appreciate your time today!
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Stealing this tactic from Marc Andreessen in his interview with Brian Grazier on the a16z podcast. Can you say the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the following people (some of which are friends of yours) that perhaps may not be as well known Reid Hoffman Richard Branson Marc Andreessen John Lilly Josh Elman Salman Rushdie George H.W Bush
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@eriktorenberg Reid: That a great man can be a good man. I've seen few with his intellect, tenacity, curiosity, understanding of marketplaces, raw execution -- a great strategic mind, but always figuring out how tactically games are laid out and played in life. And I've seen only a handful genuinely caring about the issues of our time and how to have impact upon them, while treating everyone around him the same as he did before his remarkable success; great friend to his fortunate friends. Branson: raw audacity, and willingness to take exception and big bets for the future (space in particular);. Marc -- too much that is too personal, but mostly gratitude in who he is and what he has taught me in pretty much every walk of life; Lilly, just a hero with a wonderful sense of humor combining his operating brain with great insight as an investor; Elman much of the same, with a riveting curiosity. I enjoy Rushdie's books and his courage throughout his experience. President Bush -- that we may never see his likes again in public service, which overall would be a very sad (and bad) thing.
A Coburn
A Coburn@acoburn123
Laws and govt regulations can be hurdles for entrepreneurs the world over, but what do you see in the region of governments actually encouraging entrepreneurship and, if so, in what areas?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@acoburn123 this is an utterly essential question and too often not enough. There is a basic criteria in my mind that any act that frees the movement of people, ideas, products and capital -- you are on the right side of history. Many governements just aren't comfortable with this, or don't understand it. Policy and cold war infrastructures is what the older set (often in power) often are the hammers for every nail they see. Business is slightly "bad" because a profit motive isn't as powerful as non profit. Tech is some crazy thing for young people or Silicon Valley. Crazy. They can unleash problem solving at a global scale in the very places they have delivered least and people want more. In MENA, there is a way to go, but watch the UAE carefully. Some impressive steps even in the last year.
Steven W
Steven W@mrwongsteven · Nice guys finish lunch.
@cmschroed What tools do VCs use?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@mrwongsteven I think in the West most use the same tools in different ways -- from data gathering, to communicating with their companies through Slack, all the obvious document sharing and filters. What I think makes great firms different -- and I put a16z at the top here -- is not merely "tools" but mind sent. What does it take to make a great venture enterprise great companies simply want to be affiliated with. They use tools and capabilites -- in personel, marketing, legal, market development -- at service not only to their companies but to companies in the ecosystem they admire but don't necessarily invest in. I have a small investment in a great company that has a great dashboard for social -- very unique approach and IP -- and they have not invested in them, but bring them out to meet other entrepreneurs, build relationships. It is an "off service" mind set more important than the tools, though the tools faciliate ease and frictionlessness to do so. YC is superb at this also.
christina lila
christina lila@modefylabs · MIT Enterprise Forum
@cmschroed We hear a lot about the ideal entrepreneur DNA, are there any conditions that you think are making people in MENA region better at entrepreneurship than us in the West?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@modefylabs My son just came back from working for a startup in Taiwan and I pushed him hard on what was different there similarly to as you raise. What's different? I asked it 100 ways. At one point he got annoyed with me and said, "Dad, I know what you're trying to make me say, but you know what surprised me? how similar I found entrepreneurs in Taiwan to great ones in the US!" Mike Moritz in my book said the same thing: put great entrepreneurs in the same room from anywhere and they speak the same language, go after problems the same way. This is the foundation. I will add, tho, in growth markets there is very little sense of entitlement -- and I see a little too much of that hubris in the US, but even those often implode and the universal best of the best rise. Usually... :)
Sherif Kamel
Sherif Kamel@sherifhkamel
What is the one thing/platform, if any, that you find distinctive to the ME that can be the driver for a holistic entrepreneurial uprising?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@sherifhkamel I have never seen one platform do it -- it is a collection coming together, not so much explicitly but organically. It means great institutions like the one you ran so well, the AUC School of Business, not only teaching and supporting kids with accelerators, but training teachers, helping to find great teachers to inspire the next generation; it is the forces of great ideas, mentorship, capital that is essential; and it is pushing governments who, in my view, are out of bullets BUT FOR bullets as a solution to challenges. This is new, it will not go back, and it is a collective effort. I am also intrigued by new initiatives the Gallup are pushing to create programs to find the best of the best in natural entrepreneurs -- like we do for athletes in the US -- at very young ages. So there will always be new ideas, technology that will join this collective effort. But I suspect cannot be one thing.
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
Signing off!
ian mccarthy
ian mccarthy@ianmccarthy · COO, BrightSky
@cmschroed Can you talk a bit about the ways you see the grassroots innovation in the region building on & transforming that key democratic institution in the region: the souk? For good economic reasons, we usually talk about innovation here in Silicon Valley as if it has to be focused wholly on the massive scale that works for venture. But your book is so rich with stories about innovations that are focused on solving problems at hand, regardless of the ceiling on likely scale. (Like that awesome one about those 5 high-school-aged women in Yemen who - trying to make it economical to switch to battery-powered lanterns from the massive hazard kerosene lamps pose the tent communities in their area - created in just a few months their own solar charging stations with the materials they had at hand by leveraging the information they found in hundreds of YouTube videos.) And you point out how the emergent effect of ALL this innovation has the potential to radically transform the region - how it IS radically transforming the region at the grassroots level, how there's an inflection going on because of the rise of a new generation in the midst of unprecedentedly democratic technology. Is what we're seeing right now with the new technologies the emergence of the souk into the mobile-internet economy?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
@ianmccarthy The question I get most often from grinos about my book is "is all this startup stuff launched by the Arab uprisings?" What they miss is that the desire to have a political voice, a societal and cultural voice, a voice on the role of women, a voice on one's economic future -- they are all part and parcel of the same thing. This passion has always been there among people everywhere -- the difference today is we have the tools to learn and express and collaborate on solving problems, and learning. So the "souk" you talk about me is the "souk of ideas." Often, this is used for bad -- we see bad actors using technology to recruit young people, filling a void in their lives. In this country, we see people hunker down in their own comfortable narratives, often demonizing those we disagree with. Technology has always offered more than one side of a sword. Do we thin Orville and Wilbur though one day people would bomb cities or fly their "product" into buildings? People are people. But all more the reason to take this phenomena seriously and help unleash the best angels of our natures. As is so often happening.