Business Across Borders (BAB) is a non-profit that is trying to spur economic growth in Iraq and the broader Middle East by helping educated youth start their own companies. I recently traveled to Northern Iraq to kick off our third venture competition at the American University of Iraq in Sulaimani (AUIS). Prior to my trip, I asked Brad to donate copies of Startup Communities and he was down to contribute. Below are thoughts on my trip in the context of Startup Communities.
As I listened to business people in the area, students, and members of the American University of Iraq, I was struck by the overwhelming need for entrepreneurs in Startup Communities in all arenas of life. An entrepreneur is a problem solver, an innovator, a person who gets off the couch to fix something that is really annoying them. Though it is nice to have lots of entrepreneurs that start companies in the traditional sense, rebuilding a society requires entrepreneurship in every facet of life in every community, city, country– in government, health, law, environment, technology, education, business. This point is obvious to the people of Iraq, and I was amazed at the level of responsibility people were taking around me to do their part in the larger Startup Community to create the world they want to live in. Related to this point, here are some of the most interesting trends I’m seeing in Iraq:
Iraq is Growing Rapidly with an 8%+ annual GDP growth, and so is the broader Middle East. Mobile data traffic and speed are two of the most powerful trends. The MENA region will have one of the strongest mobile data traffic growth trends, increasing 36 fold through 2016. This region will also have one of the largest projected compounded annual growth rates of 97% in projected average mobile network connection speeds from 2011-2016. (Cisco Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecasts 2011-2016).
There is hustle among motivated and educated University students. Mesopotamia Marketing Research, the winner of our competition this year, is an example of one such group of students. This group (pictured below) is looking to provide market research for Iraq’s growing service sector. Other winning teams included an online platform for buying and selling used cars, a translation service using Youtube, and a tourist company. I have no illusions about the obstacles to growth in the region given it’s context in the world today, but the will to do more, reach higher, and advance among young people is palpable. No one has to tell this generation to get off the couch and start fixing problems. Meet some of them here: www.businessacrossborders.org