Despite the world's elation at the Arab Spring, shockingly little has changed politically in the Middle East; even frontliners Egypt and Tunisia continue to suffer repression, fixed elections, and bombings, while Syria descends into civil war. But in the midst of it all, a quieter revolution has begun to emerge, one that might ultimately do more to change the face of the region: entrepreneurship.
As a seasoned angel investor in emerging markets, Christopher M. Schroeder was curious but skeptical about the future of investing in the Arab world. Travelling to Dubai, Cairo, Amman, Beirut, Istanbul, and even Damascus, he saw thousands of talented, successful, and intrepid entrepreneurs, all willing to face cultural, legal, and societal impediments inherent to their worlds. Equally important, he saw major private equity firms, venture capitalists, and tech companies like Google, Intel, Cisco, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and PayPal making significant bets, despite the uncertainty in the region.
Here, he marries his own observations with the predictions of these tech giants to offer a surprising and timely look at the second stealth revolution in the Middle East-one that promises to reinvent it as a center of innovation and progress.
Christopher M. Schroeder
Christopher M. Schroeder is a Washington D.C. and New York City based entrepreneur and venture investor. He co-founded HealthCentral.com, one of the nation's largest social and content platforms in health and wellness, backed by Sequoia Capital, Polaris Ventures, The Carlyle Group, Allen & Company and IAC Corporation. The company was sold to the health media publisher, Remedy Health, in January 2012 where Schroeder remained a board advisor.
The Middle East is threatened by violence and war. Syria is devasted by bloodshed, Iraq continues to slip back toward sectarian violence and the democratic aspirations of Egyptians looks to be a Pollyanna.
Such descriptions and narratives fill the headlines coming from this region of the world, however, Christopher Schroeder sees a different picture. Social entrepreneurship is thriving in the region thanks to a vibrant collection of young minds. Behind the front-page stories of revolution and humanitarian crises lies a much more powerful narrative--filled with female entrepreneurs discovering new ways to spread solar power, thousands of bright, anxious students meeting at TEDx conferences in places like Cairo and the largest per capita consumer of YouTube videos lying at the heart of the Arabian peninsula.
For these great innovators and global players the Arab Spring happened online long before the revolutions of 2011 and is continuing to happen this very day.