If last week was an attention grabbing week, let me tell you that this one was an eye opening for me! Yes! For the first time I see the entrepreneurial side of NY.
To be honest, New York for me has always been about Wall Street, the biggest financial market in the world, gigantic corporations, etc. But I discovered throughout this week that this city is the biggest startup incubator in the world.
The theme of this week was the entrepreneurship week and what an inspiring week it was for me. The week started with the success story of the young entrepreneur Ziv Navoth. I was touched by Ziv’s story of how he started his journey in India selling advices to the people for 5 Rupees! When you meet Ziv you will find out that he is good at advising and inspiring people and I believe it was one of many factors that helped him out through his journey. Ziv founded a start-up incubator and later sold it to a public company in UK. He was also one of Bebo’s executive team and was responsible for marketing and business development who led the negotiations and the sale of the company to Aol for $850M. Ziv also mentioned how publishing his book sparked his new business idea “Paragraph”. Ziv felt the lack of connection between the literary work, the writers and the readers and wanted to come up with an idea to respond to this need in an effective manner and this is how he came up with “Paragraph” the helps authors and writers bring life to their stories and makes it more exciting to the readers throughout his products and services. Paragraph won Apple’s best application in 2013. (http://www.paragraph.com/)
Then came Diego’s story in the afternoon session. Diego’s another successful entrepreneur who came from Argentina to NY and did not speak English well. However, the big apple didn’t stop him from achieving his dreams. Diego is a Tech engineer who came to NYC with his friends with a business idea but lacked the capital. He knocked on the doors of VCs in NYC till he managed to raise his first $75,000 where he was able to develop his first prototype then sold his idea to the investors who further invested in his startup with $1.5 million. His business idea “We Hostels” succeeded and later was acquired by a big corporate and managed to use their resources to expand his business. Diego’s story was inspiring to every immigrant who came to NYC with nothing but a creative idea yet this city believed in him and showed him the way to make his dreams come true. WeHostels was named as one of the “100 Most Brilliant Companies of 2011” by Entrepreneur magazine. (https://wehostels.com/)
Diego’s presentation took place at “WeWork” startup incubator and co-working space which in itself is another successful model of start-up incubators. It is one of the biggest and the most successful incubators in NYC. Beside the fantastic interior design which makes the workspace really beautiful and attractive for entrepreneurs, they are also community based incubator where they provide their members with networking events, mentoring sessions and technological infrastructure (internet, printing, conference rooms, etc.) to provide a creative work environment for the entrepreneurs. (http://www.wework.com/)
To be honest, I was not familiar with the coworking space model before my visit to We Work and how fast it is now growing globally. I was totally impressed by how beautiful is the interior design and the number of start-ups there. And I was left wondering how many incubators and co-working spaces do we have in the Middle East. And to my surprise I found that we don’t have that many! There are very few number of coworking spaces in the whole MENA region. There’s one called “The Hub” in Dubai, another one in Cairo called “The District”, couple of ones in Beirut and Jordan, and recently a new one opened in Saudi Arabia. I believe the model is still premature as the idea is not that common in the culture yet. But, this is encouraging me to further research the idea in my region which will be on my list once I finish the NY trip.