Coffee, tea, orange juice, Apple juice and water. That was the only liquid fuel needed at yesterday’s Meydan launch at Amman’s Zara Expo yesterday. The energy of the event was provided by an enthusiastic crowd, fired on by non other than Jordan’s Chief Disruption Officer, Maher Kaddoura.
The idea behind Meydan is to be a startup factory. It stems from the idea that the only thing that will move Jordan forward is innovation and productivity. Jordan is already known for its relatively active startup culture. What Meydan wants to achieve is to take this to a whole new level. Let a thousand startups bloom!
The global financial crisis and the end of the Gulf real estate bubble has been a blessing for Jordan’s startup and entrepreneurial scene. Around a year ago, we had the Global Entrepreneurship Week. Earlier this year, Jordanians dominated the ArabNet web business conference in Beirut. We now have Geekfests and TechTuesdays. Meydan’s launch was the next step in the evolution of Jordan’s startup scene. Zero BS, new faces mixed in with some of the “usual suspects”, great content, a new conference format, enthusiasm and passion.
After a great speech by Maher Kaddoura and a hilarious movie on the life of the entrepreneur by Kharabeesh, the real action started. First there were 5 simultaneous speeches on five “speakers corners” on the subjects of creativity, financing, exit strategy, overcoming challenges, and happiness. Then the startups presented their ideas on whiteboards distributed around the hall. There where web startups, an energy startup, a hardware startup (a guy who want to make a $70 iPad) and so on. These startups will go through a rigorous selection week. Five will survive. The companies’ ideas and models will be evolved in 9 weeks at Meydan’s incubator and then kicked out, to allow the next batch of companies to come in.
The experiment of Meydan is new and disruptive. But I believe it is one of the the best thing that happened in Jordan this year. We need a heavy dose of positive thinking and action, urgently: the other effect of the global financial crisis is an ugly rise in societal violence and unity-threatening politics. In other words, negative disruptions.
I am a self proclaimed “critical optimist”. So here is my take away from Meydan’s launch. What Maher and his team are showing us is that:
1. You don’t need to over-think and spend months of “getting ready to start”. Just start. Fail fast and small. Correct course and move ahead.
2. That there are energies in this country that need unleashing.
3. That we need to embrace our reality, our smallness, our constraints, and do something creative with them.
4. That we need to stop waiting for help from daddy and become self reliant, as fast as possible.
These are important lessons, not just for the business world, but also for the social and political spheres in the Kingdom. It’s about time we took some courageous steps forward.
Good mixed crowd. Boys and girls. Suits and jeans.
Maher fires up the crowd
“A part of the audience” (This caption is a homage for the favorite caption in the Jordanian press: Janeb Min Al 7udoor!)
Khaldoon Tabaza talk finance on the speakers’ corner.
Akhtaboot’s Mohammad Haj Hassan explains his social entrepreneurial idea: the Mentor Bank.