At Endeavor Jordan‘s annual DealMakers event in Amman last month, entrepreneurs and potential investors were brought together for one-on-one speed networking sessions that aimed to give promising young companies a chance to pitch their ideas in a less formal setting than usual.
This format has been used at Endeavor Investor Trek events around the world, leading Endeavor to bring the concept to Jordan. “We are facilitating for them the creation of relationships that can eventually lead to investments,” explained Executive Director of Endeavor Jordan Rasha Manna.
Events such as this are important, according to Manna, in order to establish relationships between potential investors and entrepreneurs. “Investors invest in lines and not dots. With each encounter you have with that investor you create a dot and you need a series of dots to form that line,” she said.
A host of Jordanian entrepreneurs took part in the day, including liwwa, Social Dice, and Kharabeesh. The youngest were brothers Amer and Mohamed Yaghi who at age just 15 and 16 have developed Chillax, a service that combines social networks into one private community.
Endeavor supports entrepreneurs who they see as scale-ups, rather than startups looking for seed finance. Scale ups are established businesses with a certain level of traction, a proven business model, and existing customer base that have the potential to reach the next level. In order to make a significant difference in terms of job creation, it’s these businesses in particular that need to grow, Endeavor argues. The organization aims to give them the access to the tools to do so through events such as this.
With fundraising being one of the biggest challenges facing entrepreneurs in Jordan, DealMakers aims to provide entrepreneurs with much needed leg up. Generating excitement amongst international and domestic investors about Jordan’s tech sectors is one of the main aims of DealMakers. “We had the Minister of ICT talk to them over dinner about all the changes to the regulatory environment, the new taxation laws, and support from the Central Bank towards the ICT sector,” Manna explained. She added that while not all international investors are actively investing in the region yet, many are open to listening and meeting Jordanian companies, something which bodes well for the future.
The event also featured an opening talk and question and answer session from Ronaldo Mouchawar, founder and CEO of souq.com, who spoke about how the online marketplace established itself. He gave advice to the entrepreneurs in attendance, particularly emphasizing the importance of mobile sites for businesses, noting that 60 percent of traffic for souq.com comes from smartphones and mobile devices.
In addition to this, entrepreneurs attended a range of expert-led workshops, covering marketing, fundraising, product design, and legal processes. Allen Kinsey Taylor, managing director of Endeavor Catalyst ran a session which offered attendants an insight into what investors look for, and stressed the importance of obtaining “smart capital” from investors who can offer something to the business. Meanwhile, Mike Keriakos, cofounder of everydayhealth.com emphasized the importance of embracing data in marketing, and using ad tech to build scale.
Endeavor Jordan is an affiliate of the international non-profit organization, which focuses on supporting job creation through helping entrepreneurs to scale their businesses. By providing access to markets, talent, and networks, the organization seeks to help entrepreneurs overcome growth challenges. There are 26 entrepreneurs in Endeavor Jordan’s network currently, while its Board of Directors features high profile success stories of Jordanian entrepreneurship such as Amjad Aryan of Pharmacy 1.
In order to join the Endeavor program, entrepreneurs are assessed for their business’ potential, and also their own potential as role models. Manna cites the example of Samih Toukan and Hussam Khoury, the founders of Maktoob. Since selling the successful company to Yahoo in 2009, Toukan and Khoury have become among the most active mentors of Endeavor, and some of the main investors in Jordan. The concept is that their entrepreneurs today will all become board members eventually, continuing to support and give back to Endeavor that way, she said.