Rama Chakaki was in her mid-20s when she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that builds scar tissue around her heart. Determined to make the most of her life, she sought to promote the concept of corporate social responsibility in the region. Nearly two decades later, she has a leadership role in the Middle East's entrepreneurial landscape, helping innovative social enterprises through her firm, Baraka Ventures. "There's always a way to break through and do things the right way," Chakaki tells Arabic Knowledge@Wharton.
Published: November 27, 2012 The Kids Behind the Picture: Young Gulf Filmmakers Seek an Audience
Students across the Gulf are turning to film and video with dreams of making the next blockbuster or Emmy-winning documentary. It is partly because of the events of the Arab Spring and the dramatic images that have been central to the revolutions. But it is also because many want to tell their stories and feel there is an audience that is willing to watch. They are also benefiting from new resources available to them, including film companies and institutes developing local talent, and regional film festivals that will showcase their work.
Published: November 13, 2012 Click to Checkout: Namshi.com Sets the Trend for Online Fashion Retail in the Middle East
The Middle East fashion retail market features some of the wealthiest and most demanding customers in the world. But the region has never had an online retailer targeting the market. That was the opportunity Muhammed Mekki and Faraz Khalid hoped to exploit with Namshi.com. The startup gained enough momentum to attract US$20 million in funding this past September. In an interview with Arabic Knowledge@Wharton, Mekki and Khalid discuss the challenges for online retail in the region and the strategies that have led to their success.
Published: October 31, 2012 A Night of Inspiration: Aspiring Entrepreneurs Gather in Dubai For Lessons on Risk
Dubai Tech Nights brings together IT enthusiasts, aspiring entrepreneurs and industry mentors in a bid to emulate the creative spirit of America's technology center, Silicon Valley. Nestled in beanbags, attendees listen to stories of entrepreneurs who eke out a living following their dreams. Participants in the event are there to explore the entrepreneurship culture, learn how to avoid the pitfalls of launching a start-up and discuss the challenges of running a company. A key message for all: "The defining characteristic of an entrepreneur is the ability to handle uncertainty."
Published: October 31, 2012 Drawing from Tunisia's Rich History, a Wind Energy Innovation Sets Sail
At the TEDGlobal 2012 conference in Scotland, Tunisian entrepreneur Hassine Labaied presented Saphon Energy, a wind energy company named in reference to his country's past as a marine empire. The key innovation it promotes is its zero blade technology, which harnesses wind with a design inspired by sailboats. Speaking to Arabic Knowledge@Wharton, Labaied also discusses how the Arab Spring sparked his decision to leave an international banking career in Dubai to return to Tunisia to help reshape his country.
Published: August 21, 2012 Can Entrepreneurship Bring Change Where the Arab Spring Has Not?
Ambitious and talented, the next generation of Arab entrepreneur is readily seeking out opportunities to develop and grow, testing ideas in venues such as the MIT Enterprise Forum's Arab Business Plan competition. Yet they acknowledge that their efforts happen within a social sphere in disarray, and that traditional interests still dictate most of business and politics. Dissatisfied by the stalled promise of the Arab Spring, they tell Arabic Knowledge@Wharton that emerging entrepreneurship in the Middle East is another sort of revolution, one that can yield truly lasting and beneficial change for the region.
Published: July 10, 2012 Diary of a Google Finalist: Do Arab Entrepreneur Tournaments Help Startups?
Sarah Wali left U.S. media and returned to Egypt to establish a citizen journalism platform for the Middle East. Within months of its inception, that platform, CitJo.com, joined a Google competition for Arab entrepreneurs seeking funding and mentorship for their startup companies, and ended up a finalist. Wali reflects on the experience for Arabic Knowledge@Wharton, particularly what she learned from the process. She also examines the phenomenon of entrepreneurship competitions in the Middle East, which have filled the regional gap in angel investors and mentorship.
Published: July 10, 2012 Moving On from Oil: Asia's Lessons in Adaptation and Innovation for the Middle East
Gulf governments have put millions into cultivating innovation and developing future alternatives to fossil fuels-based economies. The region can learn much from Asia's transition from imitation to innovation, says James R. Lee, a Wharton fellow and the youngest graduate to date of the U.S. Army and Naval Academy. In an interview with Arabic Knowledge@Wharton, Lee says that bringing the world's best products and institutions to a region isn't enough; eventually, local abilities have to be expanded and an emphasis placed on developing regional innovation.
Published: July 10, 2012 Cosmic Questions: Searching for Galaxies, but Exploring Human Curiosity
The strands of human belief and human discovery have long intertwined in the work of astronomer Robert Williams, who has spent a career literally peering into the stars to learn their secrets. Among his accomplishments, he has discovered over 3,000 galaxies with the aid of the Hubble Space Telescope. He provided Arabic Knowledge@Wharton his perspective on science and faith, the need to support pure scientific research, and how science can do a better job of selling itself.
Published: July 10, 2012 A Good Deal: Dubizzle Seeks to Dominate the Middle East's Online Classified Market
Like the thousands of expats who find their way to this glitzy sheikhdom, Sim Whatley and J.C. Butler came to Dubai several years ago seeking jobs. But what they found instead was the opportunity to create an online classified website for the region, Dubizzle.com. Starting as a website for Dubai bargain hunters, Dubizzle now covers almost the entire Middle East. The pair tell Arabic Knowledge@Wharton that a constant process of refining ideas and business strategy helps the site evolve, while keeping Dubizzle's classified ads free for the non-professional seller maintains its popularity.
Published: June 12, 2012