Abu Dhabi Media Summit turns focus on entrepreneurship.

Dan Senor, co-author of Start-up Nation, has told delegates at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit that the start-up economy of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region “can take off like a rocket ship” providing it meets certain market criteria.

Senor spoke of the opportunities for rising entrepreneurs in the MENA region:

“If you have a combination of a huge market with hungry entrepreneurs who are not as risk adverse, and you add in expertise in venture capital and also building companies, if you can combine all that, this region can just take off like a rocket ship,” explained the author and senior adviser at Elliott Management.

Senor drew on the example of Israel as a country which, in the early 1990s, had become the “farmers of high technology”, using the government-funded Yozma program to invest in private venture capital funds and help to build an innovation-based economy.

“There was a recognition in Israel that, while they had tremendous technological talent and research and development capabilities, they lacked a real understanding of how to build companies, how to assess risk and how to manage”.

It was the Israeli government who spearheaded the revolution, Senor said.

Senor also spoke of the need for an emerging innovation-based start-up economy to accept failure as part of the journey.

“The one question you need to ask about an economy which will determine whether it can be a successful, entrepreneurial start-up economy is this - what is that society’s attitude towards failure? What do I mean by failure? I mean accepting entrepreneurs who may try something, fail, but then try, try, try again and get it right”.

Senor urged the Arab world to reach out to its diaspora community, which brings with it global market expertise – “is this part of the world reaching out to its community sufficiently?” he asked.

“Immigrants are the ultimate entrepreneurs, and a nation of immigrants is a nation of entrepreneurs. They are the ultimate risk takers, they know what it’s like to be in a place that’s foreign, to deal with adversity. Newcomers are hard wired to build start ups, and  deal with the friction of different cultures”.