Middle East

Entrepreneurship Up in Arab Nations

But bureaucracy, bankruptcy laws a big barrier.


THE excitement in the colourful offices of Seeqnce, a business incubator in Beirut, is palpable. In one room disembodied entrepreneurs pitch their ideas over Skype to a three-judge panel. In another Fadi Bizri, one of Seeqnce's founders, scrawls business plans on a wipeable desk. So far Mr Bizri and his colleagues have considered 433 applications in their hunt for eight winning teams that will spend six months in the incubator creating internet and mobile companies.

Seeqnce is part of another Arab spring. Incubators are trying to do for Cairo (Flat6Labs) and Jordan (Oasis500) what Seeqnce is doing for Beirut. Private-equity firms such as Abraaj Capital and Citadel Capital are investing in high-growth companies. ArabNet helps techies to network. New ventures are popping up everywhere. Cinemoz, in Beirut, allows access to the Arab world's biggest online library of films and soap operas. Diwanee, in Dubai, provides online articles in Arabic for women. Ekshef links patients with doctors in Egypt. Linda Rottenberg of Endeavor, a networking group for entrepreneurs, says the Arab world resembles Latin America a few years ago when it comes to start-ups.