Here's How MENA Companies Can Find Opportunity in the United States
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While many of tech’s top disruptors are born, or raised, in Silicon Valley, there are a myriad of others across the globe looking for a way into the booming growth of new tech in the United States. With the Middle East establishing itself as a major player in technology through projects like Smart Dubai (led by IBM and global blockchain specialist firm ConsenSys), it is fast becoming an area where disruption is becoming commonplace.
Yet there is still a disconnect between MENA and the world capital of innovation. Successful companies in the Middle East find it challenging to enter the U.S. market, navigate it, and nurture relationships in its ecosystem. But by taking a few steps in the right direction, you can possess the right tools and relationships that will help to open windows of opportunity in the west.
To give you some context, our California-based firm, Avant Global, helps its clients and portfolio companies by culling its network of CEOs, potential investors, and power players-a vast global system built through years of working in Silicon Valley, and the ability to astutely recognize needs before the client does. The firm advises its clients in a non-traditional way, coupled with the added exclusive benefit of getting to know an industry's movers, shakers, and investors.
Through our business dealings, my team at Avant Global has found that often there are inefficiencies in markets like the Middle East which act as headwinds to entrepreneurs and billionaire businessmen alike who want to invest and diversify. Clientele that includes both legacy companies and startups are looking to develop strategic and symbiotic relationships in the U.S. As trusted scouts in the Valley, we have these tips for you on how to do that.
1. Identifying innovators (and understanding how the VC community evolves) It’s not easy to identify what areas will become the next big disruptors in technology. When you do come across an interesting, innovative, and fast-growing startup, you may find that it’s hard to gain access to certain pieces of information in particular accurate financials. If you have the opportunity to invest in what might likely be the next Facebook, Google, or Amazon, requiring cumbersome or expensive amounts of materials can hurt you. Yes, you should always do your due diligence. While the financials of a company are important, equally as crucial to its success is the team running it. You could have all of the information about a company in writing, but ultimately that won’t tell you whether the drivers of the vehicle can navigate and execute the ups and downs of building a sustainable company. It’s all about the people. In fact, they’re the reason why Silicon Valley has done so well. The area houses a uniquely diverse and talented community from around the world, creating solutions that can be scaled fast on a global magnitude. It’s hard to compete with that, and it’s one of the biggest contributing factors to how Silicon Valley has established itself as a premiere tech hub.
2. Finding early access to strategic investments Ambitious investors may find that it’s not easy to invest in earlier stage startups, often paying inflated valuations later on.. A no-fail way to gain access before it’s too late is to build your network of active early stage investors. As you begin developing relationships in the early stage community, the more the roots of your ecosystem grow. Making introductions and offering to review deal flow of your peers allows others to be aware of your activity and how you think. This activity will only compound itself and serve as nodes of connection that can help you gain exposure to the right people in high quality deals early on. Let those connections know what you’re interested in, and actively work towards it. Travel, go to incubator events in your community and in others. The value of a phone call is one that’s often overlooked, too. By not limiting yourself to the platforms and channels of traditional communications, you can find yourself standing out in a crowd that’s more often than not hiding behind screens.
3. Enabling new technologies at old legacy companies While investing in startups is one way to engage with Silicon Valley, another is to invest in new technologies so that your company can remain competitive. The Middle East has many well-known legacy companies, the majority of which are in banking, financial services, and industrials. Companies that have seen huge success for decades are often the last to recognize the value of new technologies until it’s too late, and their competitors have risen to equal ground. It’s crucial to identify the competitive gaps that your company is losing out to, then actively backfilling those with strong partnership opportunities, or investments in technology, which support those weaknesses. For example, banking and financial services companies have benefited greatly from investing in the fintech space.
Finding ways to build a figurative bridge to Silicon Valley can be challenging, and making the wrong moves can quickly turn into missed opportunities. By understanding the priceless value of a potential investment’s leadership team and building a strategic network, you can forge ahead of the crowd in finding, and securing, successful investments. Business owners in the Middle East can also benefit from Silicon Valley by enabling new technologies that are created by the California region’s innovators. It’s a region that has more than just plentiful sunshine. It’s a land of enormous opportunity to which investors in all corners of the world continuously turn.