Forbe’s Mike Elgan spent a week in Jordan, where he was impressed by the Bedouin’s resilience and ability to adapt to a constantly changing environment. With the Middle Eastern startup landscape changing at an incredibly rapid pace, Elgan’s 7 lessons entrepreneurs can learn from the Bedouin seem more than apt for MENA startup scene.
1. Learn to do without. Arab businessmen are used to to stand at the helm through storm and fire, but with startups relying more and more on capital, expecting –and preparing for lean times to come is a must.
2. Flexibility and adaptability. As Bedouins have done for centuries, do not spend on luxuries that are not essential, like business travel, fancy office spaces, or catering. “Minimize investment capital and be parsimonious with what you do get, for the sake of longevity,” Elgan says. With Co-working spaces flourishing in startup capitals like Dubai, Cairo, and Amman, jumping on the bandwagon could prove beneficial in multiple ways.
3. Forget about enemies: partner with everyone. It is known world-wide that nobody stops at a Bedouin camp and leaves without having a sip of tea. Hospitality creates alliances and leaves a lasting impression that will eventually come back, whether in future partnerships like this alliance between two Arab startups joining forces for Gaza, or other forms of collaboration.
4. Master your environment. Bedouins have mastered the harshest climates and endured the unpredictable rough desert life. “That mastery of an environment—whether it’s a software platform, market, competitive landscape, or product specialty—brings longevity in business,” Elgan explains. We could find no better example than The Bedouin Way, an Egyptian startup based in South Sinai that uses powerful photography, social media and the Internet to offer what Bedouins have done for centuries: desert safaris and mountain dinners.
5. The importance of a code of honor, which translates to business as a mission statement which rules the morality of all employees.
6. Specialize and generalize. Even though each Bedouin tribe specializes on a skill, they are all expected to know their environment so as to improvise solutions when problems come along. This is what a successful startup should achieve, he says, and this is particularly true for the Arab world, where new challenges often suddenly surge on the political and social arena.
7. Internal competition does not have to be negative. Elgan applies an old Bedouin saying –which goes: “I against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers”—to the startup world, where while employees compete on an internal level, they cooperate when facing rivals.
For more information: Read Mike Elgan’s tips on Forbes.
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