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Google supports female entrepreneurs with investor event
‘Women-led businesses make more money,’ according to research
April 16, 2014 2:10 by Nasreen Rasool
Five inspirational women were given a platform to pitch their start-up companies to potential investors at an event hosted by Google at Dubai Internet City on April 14. The event, entitled Women, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, was the first of its kind for Google and was held in partnership with Global Thinkers Forum and Oasis500.
The women, all from Jordan, were selected by Oasis500 and given five minutes to pitch their business development plans to angel investors. Each of them had existing online start-up companies that needed a further investment boost to grow their businesses to the entire Mena region. Some of the ideas presented included an online gallery of stock images with a very local flavour, an online store for musical instruments and a free ‘how to’ video database for Arabs all over the world.
“Google began as a start-up company in a garage,” says Maha Abouelenein, head of global communications and public affairs for Google Mena. She says the event’s main objective was to help build the ecosystem and create a conversation to see what entrepreneurs need and how it can facilitate.
“We want to see more businesses on the internet,” she claims, adding that only three per cent of tech-led companies are run by women, yet according to research, women-led companies achieve 35 per cent higher returns than male-led companies.
Why in the Mena region?
“There is huge opportunity in the region; 100 million jobs need to be created in the Middle East region by 2020 to fill the employment gap,” says Abouelenein. She says only three per cent of content on the internet is in Arabic and 25 per cent of the youth are unemployed. She expressed the view that with most of the youth being tech-savvy and having access to the internet, they could have economic power, if they just had the right funding and support.
“A lot of people can get seed capital and late stage investment, but they can’t get that middle part,” says Abouelenein, referring to start-ups that need half a million and more.
Some of the greatest challenges facing women in the region, according to her, were access to funding, understanding how to navigate business issues (like shipping transactions) and banking procedures. “Women in the region don’t realise the economic benefits of the internet,” she says, but on the flipside, adds that women are doing more online than ever before.
“That’s the beauty of the internet, it allows them to do things they couldn’t do in person. Arab women are doing things that they really care about, such as creating online cooking channels, ‘how to’ videos in the home and sites on children’s education,” she explains.
In response to a possible bias towards e-businesses in the Arabic language, Abouelenein says there was plenty of content in English and it was the Arabic sector that really needed to be promoted.
Elizabeth Fillipoui, a former journalist of Greek origin and now the founder and CEO of the Global Thinkers Forum, added that inspiration is not enough, but that action is required.