What you need to know about the Middle East’s new social entrepreneurs
Friday, August 16, 2013
Many things amazed me in my travels across the growing tech startup ecosystem in the Middle East over the past two tumultuous years.
Nothing impressed me more, however, than the regular blurring of lines between “entrepreneurship” and “social entrepreneurship.” The former once connoted hard-nosed money making; the latter nonprofit, or at least not-solely-for-profit, enterprises.
But now, in almost every business pitch I heard across industries, entrepreneurs were thinking about the social impact of the product or a socially responsible way in which to run their company. These entrepreneurs envisioned a “double bottom line” of profitability and sustainability and a way of doing business blurs the lines between investment and philanthropy.
At one level this development in the heart of the Arab world may seem unsurprising. The Arab uprisings have been, if nothing else, an expression of extreme dissatisfaction with the status quo. But the new generation is not just looking for impact; they are looking for impact now.
Conventional wisdom too often wrings its hands over today’s social and economic problems – and the seeming inability of traditional non-profits to solve them. After all, many of these NGOs have unreliable funding and mixed results on the ground. A new generation around the region sees that profitable business can help solve these problems. And through self-funding, these enterprises can rapidly accelerate their social impact.