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Here's How MENA Companies Can Find Opportunity in the United States 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.

By Demetri Argyropoulos

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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.

Related: Energizing The Ecosystem: The UAE's Saud Al Nowais Sees Your Startup As The Next Big Thing

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.

Related: Arab Angel Fund Closes $25 Million Fund To Help US Startups Enter And Grow In MENA Market

Demetri Argyropoulos

Founder and CEO, Avant Global

In the role of Chief Executive Officer, Demetri leads strategy, performance, implementation and corporate governance of Avant Global.

Demetri is highly regarded in the global business community for his proven track record in building successful relationships. By establishing value, commonalities and rapport, Demetri creates an atmosphere of trust that enables relationships to flourish. Demetri performs a vital role in helping to succinctly negotiate and close deals between parties.

Since founding Avant Global, Demetri and his partners have been involved in forging relationships, creating opportunities, and generating over $15 billion in value creation across a range of projects and businesses. He has been the catalyst for successfully originating, co-founding, or seeding over 50 new companies, across a variety of industries ranging from medical devices to Internet advertising.

Demetri is a co-founder of Owl BioMedical (recently acquired by German multi-national Miltenyi Biotec) and on the advisory boards of Juggle Labs, Sword Diagnostics, bSpot, TGZ Capital, and Ripple.com.

In addition to his business interests, Demetri’s has raised tens of millions of dollars for charity working with numerous multi-national foundations, charities and non-government organizations including the Clinton Foundation Global Initiative, Promitos, the Santa Barbara Historical Society, 1199 Foundation, Lotus Land Foundation, American Lung Association, Muscular Dystrophy Foundation, Westmont College, CALM, Unity Shop, United Way, Habitat for Humanity, Marymount School, Santa Barbara Symphony, American Hellenic Institute, and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. He is a member of the National Hellenic Society, YPO-WPO International, Milken Institute Young Leaders Circle, Tiger 21, L100, the Harvard Business School Alumni Organization, and the California Republican Advisory Council. He is also serving as an Engagement Officer on the Executive Committee of the Global Diplomacy Network.

In 2016 in recognition of his achievements and humanitarian actions, Demetri was inducted into the Order of Merit of Savoy, an order of knighthood bestowed by the Royal House of Savoy, the last Kings of Italy. Demetri was also the recipient of the 2010 Gusi Peace Prize for achievements, ideals and values. He is an honorary Naval Aviator, has been recognized as one of the ‘Top 40 business leaders under 40’ by the Pacific Coast Business Times, and was named as one of ‘Greek America’s Forty Under 40 Class of 2014.’ He was also awarded the 2003 National Leadership Award and the 2003 Business Man of the Year Award by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Demetri graduated from Westmont College, studied at the American University in Washington, D.C. and Georgetown University ‘s American Government and Foreign Policy program, as well as being a graduate of the Exponential Technologies Executive Program at Singularity University. He is also an alumni of Harvard Business School, where he graduated from the three year Owner/President Management program (OPM) and is a current member of the Harvard Business School Association of Southern California.

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