• Hani W. Naguib

Mentor Journey: The BIG fish Paradox!

Clayton Christensen, the famous Harvard professor of innovation and one of my personal heroes, talked about the theory of jobs to be done. He stated that people do not buy products or services. They instead hire them to get a sense of progress. People hire products or services to get a job done. Now let us apply this concept to incubation or acceleration programs and ask: why do entrepreneurs in Egypt hire those programs? What kind of progress does it offer them? Well, from my interactions in the field, most of the local entrepreneurs hire entrepreneurship programs for one or all of the following reasons:

  1. These programs offer them free business education that is relatively higher than anything they can possibly get from the traditional channels available to them.

  2. These programs offer them repercussion-free money to fund their businesses and, in some cases, their personal lives.

  3. These programs also offer them the opportunity to travel (that was posted COVID-19 era) and meet many people that they can only see online on social media platforms. And yes, it is an excellent chance for selfies, but also for discovering and learning.

  4. Finally, because most of the programs brag about how difficult it is to get in the programs, the bragging rights and the prestige that comes with actually getting accepted are sought after.

But if you noticed, I said most of the entrepreneurs and not all. So what happens to the remaining entrepreneurs? They build their startups in silence and in patience, capitalizing on their personal work/life experience, combined with their own personal resources. Those I like to call the die-hard serious entrepreneurs. And yes, they do not hire the ecosystem to start!! They actually go forward with their ideas until they reach a certain point where the ecosystem actually notices their success and begins to seduce them in with all those fancy branded talks, prominent editorials, and special events with well-known figures in the country. Think about it this way, our ecosystem is a tiny pond with big fishes (relatively to the pond only, they are not really big). They take most of the space and the resources. Because of that, they are too big, too heavy, and too demotivated to actually do any kind of activity. Serious entrepreneurs seek more extensive ponds with more motivated big fishes to move, inspire and guide them. Ones that allow them to grow and move to even larger ponds and perhaps oceans. It is no wonder that most of them are actually dreaming about getting accepted into YC or something similar to it in prestige or level of learnings. Our ecosystem is actually pushing the talents away and guiding them to other ecosystems. It is primarily creating entrepreneurs without any ambitious imagination. At the end, we will be stuck with more small fish, wanting the pond to be even smaller, so that they feel larger and bigger. Thank you for reading, you are one of the very few... Goodwill and Respect…

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