At a recent forum on Entrepreneurship and Digital Transformation for Sustainability and Innovation organized by Insead, Noor Shawwa, Managing Director, Endeavor UAE pointed out the different types of entrepreneurs and the common challenges they face.
According to Noor, there are four types of entrepreneurs; the Rocketship, the Diamond, the Transformer and the Star.
“The Rocketship is the strategic thinker who builds companies that make things faster, better and cheaper,” he explains. This type of entrepreneurs usually has managerial backgrounds and relentlessly focuses on efficiency. Being tech oriented and having a clear revenue model, they can tweak a proven model to fulfil a certain gap in the market.
“Visionary entrepreneurs leading bold, disruptive ventures are categorized as Diamonds,” he says. “They are tech-savvy dreamers who start innovative and disruptive tech companies that create new way of solving problems. They share an unpredictable growth that can lead them either to become game-changers or to fail fast,” Noor adds.
Entrepreneurs considered as “transformers” are ambitious change makers who energize steady businesses or old industries to turbo-charge growth. “Those people are forward-thinking leaders that reinvent a traditional business or industry through innovation and differentiation. They also create significant number of jobs often with social impact.”
As for the Star-type entrepreneurs; “those are big, charismatic personalities, often consumer-focused and creative. They inspire deep customer loyalty through differentiated design or experience and brand awareness,” Noor elaborates.
Although they differ in types and objectives, entrepreneurs share the same challenges. “Access to talent, access to markets and access to capital are the three main impediments that entrepreneurs encounter throughout their journey.”
Entrepreneurs in the UAE are no exception to these encounters. However, “what might be a bit unique for them is the access to markets as opposed to the US or Brazil where they can grow to a sizeable business before they look at expanding into another country, they have to do it sooner here before going into different countries. The Middle East tends to be more laborious than other regions due to different regulations and obstacles,” he clarifies.
Since access to talent is universal and everybody needs good talent, Noor doesn’t think that talent in this region is less capable than talent elsewhere. “But, the unique thing about the UAE,” he says “is that expats have a lot of talent, so it’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is difficult because one needs to manage different cultures but on the positive hand, there is a bigger pool of people who actually want to come and work in the UAE.”
He continues, “As for the access to capital, in the later stage financing tends to be more difficult because only few pass the series A and many entrepreneurs find it difficult to find series B and later investors because there is less of them. But, that is improving over time.”
When asked if entrepreneurs are getting the proper support, Noor smiles and responds, “I think so, otherwise I would not have my job. I think mentoring should not be underestimated because entrepreneurs must show a very brave face to their employees, investors and to the outside world. However, many of them are full of doubts and really need advice from somebody who has been through it before to tell them ‘you are on the right track’ or ‘watch out for this and watch out for that’. So, it’s a like going through a dark tunnel with a flash light and the mentoring process is like turning on flood lights for them, which means they can avoid obstacles and move on faster.”
Noor advises entrepreneurs that are still at the beginning of their journey to approach their business in a very iterative process rather than forcing themselves to make it perfect right away. “A lot of entrepreneurs who achieved success have had a lot of missteps but kept making adjustments and almost treated their business as a scientist would treat an experiment where they test and keep adjusting it and once they pass it, opportunities will come their way. An opportunity will not come if you sit back and wait for it to happen,” he concludes.