“We need to allow people the chance to innovate. You have to be a supporter and then be away from them and allow them to flourish and do good business. I think we have enough talent to take things forward; all we need is to provide the environment for them to succeed,” Husni Khuffash, country business manager, Google tells AMEinfo.com.
Young entrepreneurs and start-ups can struggle with the business side of setting up a company, and it is here that help is most needed. “Some [entrepreneurs] have a good idea but they don’t know how to turn that idea into a good business plan process. Some of them do have that, but they do not have access to funds to deal with the investment,” Khuffash states.
IT business knowledge is key
The problems facing the region in this respect involve primarily giving business acumen to talented IT professionals. “The challenge is primarily in the awareness. Some of it is [people] are not aware of where to go to establish their companies, they don’t have experience and they need help with putting together a company and establishing a business plan,” Ray Milhelm, chief technology officer, Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority explains to AMEinfo.com.
However, Milhelm says the funding is there for start up companies. “A lot of the funding is available and there are many people willing to invest in the region. We at DSO are working on building a fund. We are working on a fund to support entrepreneurs and start ups and companies in the early stages in the growth stage,” he reports.
Large multinational companies have been encouraged to help out in this respect, and it is a role which Google is happy to play, according to Khuffash. “In this area and we have been very active in technology with third party organisations, with our time and knowledge and our investment to take companies to the next step,” he states. “Sometimes we share information, sometimes we sponsor internships or run competitions and we do this in all areas of the Arab world. So we are committed to do that.”
Google, Microsoft providing support
Other major companies in the sector have become involved as well. Microsoft recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Jordan-based Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Knowledge Society, which aims to help develop the skills of ICT start-ups and entrepreneurs in the country.
The programme being set up is designed to help participants to better enable their projects. Microsoft is to provide them with access to its technologies, technical support and various other resources to help them achieve this.
Opportunities for young IT professionals
Away from the challenges facing young IT professionals, there are a number of opportunities, both for companies and individuals. “There are a lot of programmes and a lot of great initiatives in the Mena region. A lot of universities have been trying to encourage entrepreneurs and a lot of organisations have as well. We are trying to encourage them and have programmes within universities and help them out with coaching and mentoring,” Milhelm.
Despite the concern over the amount of talent being able to break through in the region, there are a large number of positives in the sector. “I think we have great talents and good people, we have strong numbers like having the highest mobile penetration in the world. We adapt to technology a lot, we don’t produce it, but we adapt to it a lot. And the opportunity that we have is that we are in an emerging market and it is moving very fast. The internet penetration is growing at a pace that you wouldn’t see anywhere else in the world. I think this region has so much potential,” concludes Khuffash.