A few days ago, a friend asked a question on Facebook, tagging many of the "entrepreneurs" in Egypt. He asked them to give one line of advice for new startup owners and future entrepreneurs. Many gave good advice, and many said not to start anything in Egypt and to leave the country, hands down. The confusing thing was, a couple of these people, whom advised us to leave, had built successful businesses in this same country.
Let’s start off by agreeing that the word “entrepreneur” is thrown around much too casually and undeservedly. When we started off, they’d tell us that you guys now have a “startup” and you are “entrepreneurs” and we honestly couldn’t care less. Partly because we didn’t know exactly what those words meant, and partly because we’d just left our Engineering careers and titles meant nothing to us.To achieve entrepreneurship, you must know a few things:
First of all, whether you like it or not, when you’re a head of a company, big or small, there are people who look up to you. A wrong word from you can harmfully affect these developing souls. An unintended joke can be misunderstood. An irresponsible statement to attract attention or look cool can end someone’s dream, early.To be an entrepreneur is to pledge as a leader and role model, and to acknowledge that you represent something bigger than your own, and that your actions and words do affect people’s lives.
Second, entrepreneurship is not a title, it is who you are now. It’s about changing the world, one design at a time. One line of code at a time (if you’re in to that kind of thing). One person you influence at a time. It isn’t about sitting in a yellow office on a green beanbag chair drinking loads of coffee all day to help keep you running so people think you’re busy all the time. It certainly isn’t about quitting your day job because you hate waking up in the morning. It isn’t about money, because you probably won’t make any in the first 3 years. Oh and did I mention that you will fail many times before you succeed? That is precisely what entrepreneurship is about. Learning to withstand failure. The most successful are the ones that fail more and fail fast, to get up quickly.
So how's it really like to build and run a company in Egypt? Hard. Very hard. But who says hard is bad? Have you heard the term "underdog?" It describes those whom are less likely to win or succeed. But in truth, those whom are less likely, usually turn out to be most successful, because they get lots of unexpected support and people want to see them succeed, because it gives them hope. It's like a dog chasing you; if you stop for one second, you'll get bit, so you run even faster than you thought you could.
Purpose. Harsh circumstances give you purpose and help you focus on the necessary. It helps you create something real. It puts the pressure of do-or-die. If you can't handle this pressure, sign up for a visa to the US and wait for 6 months, maybe you'll get accepted, maybe not. Put all your ideas and projects on hold until you travel. If you do travel to dreamland (cuz you think it is) where all the tools are available and ideas are worth millions (they're aren’t), call me when (and if) you start a business. It’s not about the place, it’s about the purpose. Do you just want to be called an entrepreneur? Do you want to have a “startup” cuz it sounds cool? Or do you want to solve real problems for real people that need you? It doesn't matter where you do it, but I'm starting here.