One of the most fascinating parts of entrepreneurship is how fast it is spreading across the world. Different countries are now trying to boost their own startup ecosystems in a variety of ways. One of the people who is leading this charge in their country is Qais al-Khonji. Al-Khonji is a board member of Sharakah, a fund for development of youth projects. He is also one of the leading pioneers of spreading entrepreneurship in Oman. I interviewed al-Khonji about what methods he's been using to improve the startup community in his country. Oman has started making massive improvements using these strategies, and I hope they can work for you as well.
1. Teaching entrepreneurship in the classroom
A large problem facing entrepreneurship in Oman is that it is still not thought of as a realistic option for a career. In part, this is caused by the lack of education about startups being taught in schools. As opposed to the U.S. where entrepreneurship is "cool", the social culture in other countries is different.
Al-Khonji is looking to win this battle in Oman by having entrepreneurship taught starting in high schools. To do this, he wants to install programs where students in grades 10-12 can take classes about starting a company. By the time they graduate from high school, they are then required to have a final project that is their startup company. The idea is that if students become more aware of entrepreneurship, it will become more acceptable. For countries that have a more conservative nature, education is a great way to start moving in the right direction.
2. Increasing funding options for startups
For startups to be successful, often there must be access to capital from outside funding. The problem al-Khonji is aiming to fix is the mentality of current investors in Oman. For one, there aren't many angel investors. There also is a serious lack of venture capital. For a country like Oman, most people who have money aren't looking to make high-risk investments. Because of this, al-Khonji is working hard to increase funding entities in his country. One of his greatest challenges is teaching investors the idea behind venture capital. Current investors are looking for safe bets, but al-Khonji is pushing to fund earlier stage startups. Currently, this has been an uphill battle. While Oman still has a long way to go, al-Khonji is working ridiculously hard to increase awareness. Within the next few years, we may see 3-4 more angel funds in Oman.
3. Pushing the government to help
Government support can do wonders for countries looking to boost their startup community. Tax credits for investors and free office space are just two examples.
Right now, al-Khonji is looking to boost government support for industrial business in specific. Also, he believes his country needs to play to its strengths by having entrepreneurs focus on Oman's advantage in oil and gas. There are many experts on natural energy in his country. Another benefit is that these types of businesses have major contributions to the society in Oman.
When looking at this strategy, al-Khonji is relying on his countries' unique resources. In the U.S., we have major advantages in technology and funding with places like San Francisco. In Oman, they have major expertise in oil and gas. By centering on what his country knows best to start, al-Khonji can prove some early wins with startup companies. Overtime, those examples can be the catalyst for a shift in the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Oman.