Building An Ecosystem: Startup Oman Managing Partner Sherry Colbourne On The Sultanate's SME Sector
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Sherry Colbourne is the Managing Partner at Startup Oman, an organization that aims to bring Oman's entrepreneurial ecosystem "together as one community." During her time in the Sultanate, Colbourne, a 25-year veteran of the Canadian high tech sector who then became a serial entrepreneur, has mentored several young Omani entrepreneurs and worked alomgside many of Oman’s SME sector stakeholders.
Excerpts from an interview:
Can you give us an introduction to Startup Oman, and what it aims to do?
Startup Oman is, first and foremost, a community for entrepreneurs. We exist to inspire an entrepreneurial movement in the Sultanate. We are the only platform in Oman that has been created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs with the goal of bringing SMEs together, growing the community and facilitating commerce. We do this through our online community, monthly meetups and the almost continual celebration of local and regional entrepreneurs. We feature success stories of international and local high achieving entrepreneurs as a way of benchmarking performance (definition of success) and increasing the aspirations of Omani entrepreneurs. We feel this is what makes Startup Oman different from other stakeholders in the Omani ecosystem. We want to infuse Oman SMEs with a flavour of the international marketplace, and get them plugged in to the world scene.
What’s your personal take on the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Oman?
The entrepreneurial ecosystem in Oman is building capacity and many resources exist to help Omani SMEs. The challenge lies in making resources accessible, easy to understand and responsive to the needs of SMEs. We feel the opportunity lies in creating a community of entrepreneurs that are capable of economic impact. Entrepreneurs and startups are the engine of economic impact and diversification. The government and private sector organizations here in Oman are providing much support, in fact, one could argue too much. It is not the government’s responsibility to create entrepreneurs. It is the responsibility of government to fulfill the needs of entrepreneurs for knowledge, market data, favorable policies, minimal bureaucracy, access to capital, etc.
What are your tips for aspiring entrepreneurs in Oman?
I can’t say enough about the need for SMEs to understand their business, target market and financial model. I see too many startups tackle businesses that have been done 500 times. And they do it without understanding the pitfalls of entering a saturated market. This is a time of great innovation and disruptive ideas. But ideas are a commodity. Only those that know how to implement will be successful. The best approach to starting a business is simple. Read, ask, compare. Voraciously read about the market you want to enter, read about startup business models, read about competitors, research market data, go-to-market strategies, etc. Google is your friend. Tap into the world’s collective knowledge via Google. Ask anyone who will talk to you about your idea. Use their feedback to dig deeper and convince yourself that you’ve got a winning idea. Don’t get ‘married’ to your idea too soon. Give yourself time to research every aspect of it. Reach out to industry associations, search for industry experts on LinkedIn, connect with people or leaders who may have expertise. Allow yourself to formulate multiple ideas. Then, compare: who is already doing it or something similar to it. Look at potential competitors, collaborators, and strategic partners. And most importantly- surround yourself with people who understand what you are going through and can support you. That’s what Startup Oman aspires to be- the place entrepreneurs call home.