Power vs. Vulnerability. Which is the behavioral framework to live by?

Power vs. Vulnerability. Which is the behavioral framework to live by?

In my previous posts In Egypt, Are we hypocrites? and From Good to Great, what makes outstanding performances I have highlighted how I have seen vulnerability as a source of inspiration, progress and beauty.

Furthermore, I have integrated that in a lot of aspects in my life, recently, I was invited to deliver a session to members of a student organization called SYS, they introduced me as former President of Cairo ToastMasters Club, da, da, daaah! and while everyone is waiting, this guy in sports wear to drop public speaking bombs, I told them the best way to make a great speech, is to embrace vulnerability.

A girl told me she has a problem with the Arabic letter R, it sounds funny and they ask her to avoid it. Well, I told her even to stress on it, to be proud of it. I guess, after my session, some of the attendees doubted that I had any qualifications to make this session or if they should take my 2 cents seriously!

I have also fully embraced vulnerability in my startup life, with my team, with my surrounding, I share myself openly and do everything possible to avoid power games.

Though, being sharp, open and transparent fires back I remember a Facebook chat with a friend of mine, who told me that naivety and failure to understand power games was the reason that Im still being hit and back-stabbed right and left.

For the few years in business I had been trying to understand the hows and whys of that, I have read The Art of War for Sun Tzu and The 48 Laws of Power for Robert Green, and more of which actually made a lot of sense to me, I would bite my lips while relating some of the ideas in these books with some real life situations in which I was used and taken advantage of.

In this interview with Robert Green, author of 48 Laws of Power he makes it clear starting minute 41 that the world has changed and that consistent practice of these principles is the only guarantee for Mastery, he makes a valid point that most of those who shine for a while and then disappear experience that because of failure to turn it into a craft.

Which very strongly supports the argument that Power is what matters most and that the conscious practice of power is what sustains and grows whatever you are doing.

With these two conflicting paradigms about living life and interacting with my surrounding, I think I was suffering from an intellectual dispute, or social psychologists call it, dissonance, should we interface with our society with the beauty and energy of vulnerability, or should we control or seek to control, predict and direct as much as we can.

In my quest to answer that, I finished 2 courses on Coursera Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence by Dr. Richard Boyatzis and Social Psychology by Scott Plous, I have also became a member of the social psychology network to keep myself posted with all knowledge and news in the topic.

Social Psychology as an experimental science didnt provide a direct answer to my question, though learning about principles like Obedience, Conformity, and Deindividuation provided basis to better understand authority, power and influence.

Obedience shows that human beings have the likelihood of blindly following anything that looks like an authority. They even ran an experiment on marrying strangers as below:

Milgrams Obedience experiment even makes this clearer, people would take it to extremes and even feel they havent done anything wrong as they were following what they though is an authority who takes the responsibility.

Furthermore, principles of conformity and group biases have shown that people are more likely to agree and join who they think is more powerful and who based on their judgement is more likely to win in any situation, disregarding whether they are right or wrong, good or bad, its a fact that people want to place their bids with the winner, no matter what.

In another experiment on Dissonance, it was found that students who were paid a good amount of money in exchange for a lie, didnt really feel dissonance or guilt, they felt that it was worth the lie. Those, who were not paid well felt strong dissonance and guilt, comparably, not for the wrong they have done the lie but for what they have got in exchange.

Though, Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence had been a fabulous resource in putting all the leadership lip service to the test, as I proceeded curiously with the course, I was stopped at the Sacrifice Syndrome and everything started to make sense.

The Sacrifice Syndrome assumes that leadership is not just a skill or a gift, its also energy, that fades away and gets exhausted if you dont initiate regular Renewal Cycles. Its regardless of how much of a great leader you are or you can be, if you run out of energy out of providing everyone around you with what they need and more, youll reach the point in which youll not be able to provide them with the minimum they deserve from your attention and compassion and everything you invested in, will eventually collapse.

As I take notes of the number of times, I dropped myself off on a bean bag without getting home, and invested more time on refining or often redoing everyone elses tasks, I wouldnt have the space and focus to do my own as well as it should be.

And I guessed thats why I have probably asked this question to start with, the consistent practice of inspiring leadership while allowing renewal cycles to get more fresh energy wouldnt make the practice of power and authority any necessary, though, people would continue being inspired by the vulnerability of the goals and dreams they are executing against.

But does this mean that understanding power is not needed or not important and that the understanding and practice of these principles wouldnt defend boost and maintain our focus and energy on our goals?

Well, I guess Im still experimenting so Im not sure, but what I became more sure of from this exercise is what I shared with the kids of SYS in my public speaking session, Is that vulnerability by far, is the most brilliant practice of power.

Here, tell these people something they dont know about me!

P.S. The 48 Laws of Power can be looked at as evil and hostile, I did look at it like that for years, though, watching the interview above will educate you with what the author meant by highlighting these ideas and the video at the end might help you understand how they can be ethically used in business, watch this video from here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ons-MA2PMGg

From Good to Great, what really makes outstanding performances?

From Good to Great, what really makes outstanding performances?

Alright,

A bit over a year ago, as I went through From Good to Great for Jim Collins, I was inspired by the topic to research more of what makes outstanding performances, the book talks to CEOs about building resilient companies, finding the hedgehog concept of their companies and flow in greatness..

It did want to digest the concept on a deeper level..

It turned out that what really makes great performance in life and in business is the truth..

Is passion..

Is the genuine expression of who you really are and what you want to make in the world..

This is perfectly described and clearly shown in this amazing performance by the beautiful Lara Fabian..

See what she says in the introduction

I truly believe its impossible to explain how to genuinely write a song something happens that I cant say with words, its like something crosses my body,  a melody comes out of me and this melody speaks, there is something magical about that, there is something that you cant explain that goes through, like a storm, like something blossoming..

She is speaking about the genius, the magical thing that takes over her existence and graduate performances like the above..

When was the last time you had been taken over by the genius?

You know, it doesnt have to be fancy, or perfect, or even socially acceptable..

It only has to be true..

Thats why this dude, nails it with true words, he is speaking shit about himself, but it doesnt matter

As he speaks the truth..

And he even get more love after it..

Do you know that the truth is also the core of the pursuit of happiness..

Rocky, couldnt stay away from what he really loves.. The stuff in the basement didnt let him..

And see how strong his statement here is:

People are capable of doing extraordinary stuff when they are most vulnerable, you know as an entrepreneur, you know this very well..

Everytime youre taking a pivot, making a new shift, calling for a new sale..

When you embrace this vulnerability for the sake of the truth you are living for, thats when great performance comes in..

Highlights from the World Bank Annual Meeting

Highlights from the World Bank Annual Meeting


I was invited to attend The World Bank/IMF Annual Meeting in Washington DC during October last year and participate in The Civil Society Policy Forum, you know me, I wouldn’t pass such an opportunity without leaving my mark so Egypreneur organized a panel discussion there entitled: Engaging Local Entrepreneurs on Solving Development Challenges, featuring, in order of the photo below, beside myself, Lana Newishy, Chris Schroeder, Hasina Kharbhih and Magdi Amin, will write more about it on Egypreneur Stories.

web_panel

I arrived to Washington DC with the government shutdown thingy, I’m glad that a lot of people have blue eyes there otherwise they would say it was mine that caused the disaster – In case you are not Egyptian, Egyptians consider blue eyes, the evil eyes, so if you’ve got bluish eyes like mine you gotta live with being an envious bastard everywhere you go 🙂

Landing from London I could notice the difference in scale and availability of “real estate”, though, Washington DC was very boring for my active taste, probably because we couldn’t move around given the shutdown, but I loved the underground, It seemed the same story, same faces and expressions in Cairo, London and Washington DC. People, real people are not any different after all.

Anyway, technically speaking I was invited to represent “Civil Society” in Egypt, I branded it as Civil Society/Private Sector, given that I have a for-profit + non-profit hats, as you are in Washington DC, you gotta start doing what everyone is doing, lobbying, the first day after arriving, my hotel room hosted the first civil society lobbying session with around 5-10 of Civil Society Representatives from Palestine, India, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Nepal – Hopefully, the room was big enough to comfortably host us all, which I didn’t mind as long as it’s paid by the world bank.

The world bank group is a large institution that has only one client, governments of the world, and oh boy, you can smell all the criticism and attacks, even my fabulous friend and mentor Dr. Claudia Gross, sent me some materials to make sure I don’t get lured with what I’m about to see, recommending that I’d read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, which sounded pretty attractive for my investigative taste, or call it conspiracy theories if you wish.

So, what’s the story of The World Bank?

And why is it relevant to Egyptian youth and entrepreneurs like myself?

After World War II, the war winning allies gathered at Bretton Woods and created what Wikipedia describes as: “Setting up a system of rules, institutions, and procedures to regulate the international monetary system” part of this system was creating The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a bunch of other institutions gathered today under the umbrella of The World Bank Group, The World Bank is the biggest institution at the group and its missions was stated as provides loans to developing countries for capital programs.

But who was controlling these institutions?

“World War II devastated European and Asian economies while leaving the United States’ economy relatively unharmed. As European governments exhausted their gold reserves and borrowed to pay the United States for war materiel, the United States accumulated large gold reserves. This combination gave the United States significant political and economic power following the war.” Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_United_States_dollar#History

After the war; Europe, Asia and of course the rest of the world was exhausted, yet the United States still maintained its economic power and influence, the US hosted all these meetings and had the boldest say in the creation and design of all these systems and institutions. The reason why Washington DC is the center of policy and influence in the world today is that it’s the center for all these powerful institutions with big funds and influence to mobilize, which is obviously dominated by the US government.

Since then, the reason of existence of The World Bank had been generally criticized of overloading poor countries, which was re-branded into “developing” countries with debit that the next few generations will have to pay off from their hard work, guaranteeing that poor countries will still be poor or even get poorer while rich countries who own majority shares at The World Bank would be increasing their economic and political influence over these countries.

The way the world bank functions is that it finances major government projects, usually developmental or infrastructure-oriented projects, some of these projects had been criticized by organizations that claim to be representing the people and beneficiaries of these projects, for different reasons including that these projects doesn’t take the environment into consideration and plenty of other reasons, they call these organizations the “Civil Society Organizations” or CSOs.

Also, allegations of corruption in the execution of these major projects were in the air, where monitoring organizations like The Bank Information Center (Independent Watchdog) says at some cases government officials strike deals to get projects executed by companies they own, resulted on being indirectly benefiting from these projects and accordingly caring less about the impact it creates on their people.

And you can imagine how much corruption can be built upon that, a corrupt government can indebit its own people while its officials are making tons of money through getting their affiliated companies to execute and profit from these projects, yet, among all this pressure and criticism, the World Bank seemed to take active steps towards transparency, that seems to be satisfying most pressing CSOs and monitoring organizations.

Today, you can download iPad applications that will include detailed information about projects they contracted, status of these projects and for the most part contracted entities and built quite strict guidelines on granting such contracts. You can play with some of these apps from here: http://apps.worldbank.org/

You can also check plenty of other information on the World Bank operation in Egypt from HERE, detailed list of these projects and status from HERE and also the watchdog organization (BIS) track, verify and republish these information, sample resource is here: http://www.bicusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/WB-projects-in-Egypt-Jan-20132.pdf

In the past, Civil Society organizations were overlooked in policy discussions and only had the external pressure paper to protest against The World Bank-funded projects, yet with increasing pressure, Civil Society Organizations seemed to secure more attention from the decision makers and governing bodies at these large institutions, bit by bit, The World Bank started hosting a Civil Society Policy forum in parallel with their main yearly meetings, you can check this page at The World Bank website for engagement with civil society and can even subscribe to a monthly newsletter from here.

I was surprised and quite delighted that the Chad Dobson, the Executive Director of BIS, the watchdog organization that monitors and criticizes the World Bank the most actually hosted a conversation with Civil Society representatives introduced by John, the team leader of The World Bank Civil Society Team, during the program we attended, which shows the development in the relationship between the Civil Society and The World Bank.

But still, beyond monitoring and criticism, starts an endless debate among activists and Civil Society Representatives, whether there is any actual value from engaging with such large institutions in development or it’s just a waste of time and effort, are the recent openness to host the civil society an actual realization of the importance of allowing the Civil Society a role to play or is it an effort to contain them and probably gain the loyalty of a few?

I went through these debates both in Cairo and Washington DC and I didn’t compose a final opinion yet, I only seemed to judge my next step based on the information that I have and previous experience dealing with the institution, I see that if the people can influence large institutions and direct them to serve their goals and solve their problems, that’s great, also given that Civil Society is not powerful enough to terminate the impact of The World Bank, not saying that it should, neither for the most part can permanently replace it, the government will still need this money to build Airports and conduct major projects.

The panel discussion Egypreneur organized on Engaging Local Entrepreneurs on Solving Development Challenges was seeking to explore any potential of a large institution like The World Bank group with all its arms to engage unusual entrepreneurial projects to achieve its objectives not only in reducing poverty through increasing employment but even in having unusual “entrepreneurial” development projects that the government can’t envision.

I don’t know, but it seems a bit odd to me to be speaking to an international institution about what I want my government to do, in some moments throughout the discussion I felt something is not right, as I should be having this conversation with the Minister of Investment, Finance, Youth, Development, but obviously these ultra important people don’t have time for kids like me, or the tribe of Egypreneur(s) that I belong to, as shared by fellow Civil Society representatives, their own government officials are more open to talk to them in Washington DC than at their own countries!

As I was attending one of the panel discussions with a fellow Egyptian lady, who is a program director for a human rights and economic development/monitoring institution in Cairo, who seemed to criticize an IMF Economist, who seemed to me to be only giving a direct systematic answers, this internal dispute flooded with a corny comment, stating why are we insulting an IMF economist for our own government’s lack of awareness and our own lack of ability to play influence on our own government and I suggested that the best solution out of this is to work on putting the Egyptian lady on the Chair of the Minister of Finance in 10 years or something.

Understanding how The World Bank works with hands on experience was the biggest gain from my participation, I get to understand that the whole structure of the world bank and its governing body is just the vehicle that maintains the capacities, knowledge and expertise to be driven by the 25 Executive Directors, where all the power and influence should be played, everyone at The World Bank including the president are just employees within a structure, the ones who really decide on where to take the organization are the 25 EDs supposedly representing all countries, with voting power according to the ownership of the bank assets, where obviously the US comes on top.

It was made clear to me that getting any influence around this institution can only be done through its Executive Directors especially The Executive Director representing your own government, in my case was the Kuwaiti Executive Director who represents majority of Arab countries.

Civil Society representatives were allowed a meeting with those who could make it from the 25 Execs, which showcased a great ability for diplomatic responses, except for the Swedish Exec who responded honestly on a remark on funding corrupt governments in Africa by saying: so are you suggesting that we stop funding these countries and let people die of poverty because of government corruption, is this what you want us to do?

Another thing I understood is that regardless of the scale, basic human behavior is the same, it was surprised to know that, it is an unspoken rule that the World Bank president will be American, the International Monetary Fund will be European and the MEGA group will be Australian.

IMG-20131011-00133

My favorite and most inspiring part of the trip was listening to the speech of The World Bank president who seemed to be an honest person seeking real change and as he mentioned that some years ago he was outside these building protesting against the policies of the world bank, he stand today on top of the organization and breach reform with a new strategy with more engagement to the civil society and lighter more efficient organizational structure, god knows whether this will land in success or not, but we will see.

I also had the chance to meet with vice president of The World Bank for MENA for the second time, and I also enjoyed a nice, diplomatic response on my comment about “The World Bank going Entrepreneurial”. Though after the meeting I made very critical remarks on a specific project The World Bank executed in Egypt, that I had negative experience with, you always expect executives in large institutions to act in a way representing the brand and institution but some times you get really disappointed, I wished that my comment would really be taken as an advice to mind local entrepreneurs while executing projects landing straight from Washington DC.

More importantly, I seemed to grow my lobbying muscles on the spot as I picked up a few minutes chat with Sara Aviel, the Alternate U.S. Executive Directory, technically the person representing the highest voting power in the institution, The U.S. Government seemed not to like The World Bank enough these days and left the Executive Director position vacant, yet Sara replaces the ED and presents the U.S. government in the institution.

Of course after an introduction of having 50,000 wild Egypreneur(s) following us on Twitter from Egypt, I was directly speaking of how large institutions should pay more attention to the potential of entrepreneurs, through some seriously solid financial empowerment programs and criticizing the scope of involvement in supporting SME development in MENA by international organizations and how most of their programs in this regard is superficial and ineffective, I landed myself a few minutes of serious attention and a business card. That’s what lobbying is about.

I even made use of the business card recently as I emailed my previous posts regarding Bamyan Media’s El Mashrou3 to the U.S. Executive Director office as a form of abuse to what we were talking about months ago about empowering youth in MENA, ending up wasting 10,000,000 EGP by an amateur on a single contract, among plenty more disasters they committed, on the name of promoting entrepreneurship by a US government body, while real entrepreneurs are struggling to survive.

Transparency requires these information to be revealed and for impact to be properly assessed, previous and upcoming whistle-blowing is an effective way to guarantee that abuse of resources will not be taken lightly. This is a critical point for youth of my generation, we already paid or paying for this Aid money, we do have the right to track and direct how it is being utilized. I will probably speak more about that in upcoming posts.

Anyway, I enjoyed the company of fellow 60-something Civil Society representatives from around the globe and a fabulous Civil Society team at The World Bank HQ who managed the organization and logistics of the whole thing, and I continue being well connected with The World Bank offices in Cairo through Nehal and Eman from the communication team, who had been doing a great job bringing representatives of the civil society together in frequent meetings in the past 2 years and channeling us to the right resources within the organization for better engagement.

Whether any of this will actually pay off in a partnership between large institutions and civil society/entrepreneurs is something that I don’t really know and have still to explore…

Sponsored CSOs Group Photo #1

Group photo with Civil Society Representatives from Around The Globe with the Civil Society Team at The World Bank HQ

So, who is really behind #ElMashrou3?

So, who is really behind #ElMashrou3?

Since my first post Among criticism from entrepreneurs, USAID-funded Bamyan Media Launches Egypts first reality TV Show for entrepreneurs I was contacted by a few people who worked closely with Bamyan Media and shared some insider stories about their experience which will be valuable in analyzing behind the scenes. Also, as four episodes aired, thats 1/3 of the show, that gives a reasonable amount of materials for analysis after the initial feedback and observations.

As the same feedback is repeated for the rest of the entrepreneurs who didnt catch up with the show early on, it became evident that the feedback of majority of actual entrepreneurs is merely the same, viewership rates getting even LOWER after first episode as most people lose interest! Formation of a circle of a few hundreds who are mostly involved with the teams behind the show for a basic form of engagement. And seems like the staff itself doesnt mind getting its hands dirty in feedback war as boiling criticism to a Shabi song they produced starts to surface, Asim Haneef, The show Executive Producer called it the best song ever. view it HERE

Though, a valuable debate also took place on the comments of the above song, with Peter Guirguis seemingly one of the song producers mentions an intellectual monopoly on entrepreneurship and captivating the concept from being commercialized and going mainstream, assuming that Egyptians are already practicing entrepreneurship on their own way from his point of view. Thats worth and intellectual debate on defining entrepreneurship and how it shall be transferred to mainstream audiences. You can view the conversation HERE

Also, as the investment on developing digital assets in the past 1+ year through aggressive advertising didnt pay off  in actual viewership, it seems like they decided to go guerilla marketing, they visit popular mainstream cafes like Downtown El Borsa, shift the channel to AlNahar and tried to encourage viewership, the funny bit is that in some of the photos shared in social networks form the exercise, it shows their team sitting to watch it, while people around paying absolutely no attention! They even called on their page for more people to join these campaigns!

As I wrote in my last post, feedback is only a factor in impact assessment, but an actual impact assessment should be based on identifying and analyzing variables, its about finding the variables that matter the most and digging deeper on analyzing them. The first variable of any Impact Assessment project is defining the background and motives of organization, entrepreneur and decision makers behind whatever project being done.

In this post well try to dig down to who is really really the decision maker behind the show, next post will get more into further analysis

So, who is really behind #ElMashrou3?

who_is_behind

If you check out their website or their social media profiles, youll see the who is behind El Mashrou3 is presented as TV network, production company, Bamyan Media and organizations working on entrepreneurship in Egypt such and such and such. Even my team noticed couple of channels where Egypreneur is still mentioned, which shouldnt be the case as we terminated partnership back in 2012, so as youre reading this fellows, take it off or would you like to get yourself a reminder?

ElMashrou3_Egypreneur2

Furthermore, in a communication they have sent to their subscribers and shared on their page labelled The Story behind El Mashrou3, they seemed to be doing everything possible to cover up on the reality of the ownership and funding behind the show and just mention that a bunch of Egyptian youth with a few Khawaga, Arabic word for foreigner who produced the show in Belad Barra which is usually used to refer to the west and developed countries to actually refer to Afghanistan.

egyptian_youth

So, why are they so keen on covering up on that and how truthful is the way they present themselves with? And what is the nature of involvement with these partners?

As I get back to my email archive April 2012 as Bamyan Media was starting its operations in Egypt, they presented other entrepreneurship-focused organizations with a basic partnership, I was only asked for approval on using Egypreneur logo on the brochure below and approved it, by then the way the partnership was presented was fairly professional and straightforward. Though, they have used this approval to post our brand in every possible channel without permission afterwards.

early_partnerships

Well, obviously Bamyan Media was gaining legitimacy by using these organizations brands, it is a straightforward market entry strategy, you want to befriend those already with good reputation and track record and get their support in what youre doing, a potential massive exposure through TV is a good point to start. Then use that to sell on others that you already have everyones support and that this thing is actually co-created and approved by everyone, which might not be the real case,  some of the visible feedback from my last post was from founder of entities presented as partner organizations.

What happened to partnerships afterwards was quite amateurish and superficial, when only numbers matter, even if you run a starting student activity you can get your logo as a show partner and you count as vote of confidence on the show. As its shared by Omar Aysha, I can understand the motives behind such a move as at some stage they were trying to hide the massive USAID involvement, as it might fire back as they go mainstream, they started sticking any logos they get their hands on, so if you want to, you cant find someone to blame!

The point is, none of these partners has any decision to take regarding the show, they might be invited to nice events and focus groups but its only done as much as it serves the objectives of the owning company, Bamyan Media, which hired a team to polish their image within the community and attract beneficiaries who, knowingly or not knowingly, will back their mission and even defend them in return for direct benefits. Add to it the fact that the community working on entrepreneurship support in Egypt still didnt reach the maturity to decide and the critical thinking to accept and reject, often no one will reject anything from anyone while struggling with finding their own next steps.

Truth is, the TV Network is just a TV Network that hosted the show and offered it a standard promotion package, the production company was just a production company hired to produce the show, partners except for USAID and Silatech are just a logo exchange and superficial involvement, mostly to gain legitimacy in front of main sponsors and strategic partners.

For critical analysis, we have to look for ownership, who has the power for decision making and influence.

Thats what matters and thats when we are driven back to where it started:

Anna_Afghanistan2Courtesy of http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com

In 2007, while David Elliot was working as a Senior Development Consultant for USAID in Afghanistan, his daughter Anna Elliot, 23 years old student at Hampshire University and part time Bartender came for a visit to Afghanistan, observing the popularity of Reality TV Shows at the time, with American-style Afghan Star and others. Anna had an interesting conversation with her dad regarding doing a similar show focusing on entrepreneurs.

As per his Linkedin Profile, at that time, David Elliot was managing a $54 million USAID project for Afghanistan Small and Medium Enterprise Development (ASMED). After the US-led war on Afghanistan starting 2011, the US government directed lots of Aid money into rebuilding Afghanistan, obviously, it seems that senior USAID consultant David Elliot didnt find it hard to secure $500K USD to fulfill his daughters ambition to launch an American-style reality TV Show for social entrepreneurs, probably at the least competitive and non-transparent market, Afghanistan. This Devex page explicitly shows USAID as the organization executed the show.

Surprisingly the only official videos from the Dream & Achieve TV Show produced in Afghanistan was hosted on the YouTube channel of the ASMED fund Mr. David Elliot was leading, showing even that the project might have been funded by funds he personally managed for USAID, checkout the USER NAME of the hosting channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/ASMEDInfo/videos

Anna Elliot seemed to postpone her studies and get involved with producing a Pilot series of her Reality TV Show, managed under the umbrella of USAID, the show was hosted on Afghanistans most popular TV Network TOLO TV Wikipedia shows a 41% of viewership market share while the owning company itself claims 59% viewership share HERE, the TV Network claim to have 17 Million constant viewers (NBCNews).

It is claimed that the pilot series attracted 7 Million viewers in Afghanistan, which while looking good for PR, technically speaking, even if the claim is true, given the hosting TV Network statistics, it means that 10 Million constant viewers to the channel has either switched off their TV or shifted to another channel as the show aired, comparably to another TV Show hosted on the same channel Afghan Star they are claiming 11 Million viewers per episode.

But anyway, relying on the pilot series a PR campaign was launched in Western media and the show seemed to gain coverage from media outlets like Fast Company and New York times.

Something here to note that at this time, US media companies, seemed to working on dominating the scene in Afghanistan, a virgin market created after the war on Afghanistan, according to this NBC News Article Why Afghanistans election campaign may look familiar to American TV viewers, it shows that Afghanistan has become a comfy bed for US media companies and aspiring media entrepreneurs.

 This entry on USAID website itself, claims that the show was a success story and promises a second season that never came to be and of course shows the muscles of the US development agency in creating entrepreneurial revolutions where it is needed the most: http://www.usaid.gov/results-data/success-stories/afghan-entrepreneurs-%E2%80%9Cdream-and-achieve%E2%80%9D

Though this KabulPress.org article seems to disagree, entitled American corruption and mismanagement threaten Afghanistan’s future under headline Suspect American AID projects in Afghanistan, it lists the TV Show by the Elliots as one of the projects USAID claims has created impact while its  not actually sensed on the ground. As per Wikipedia (KabulPress) is Afghanistans most read news site.

DreamAchieve

I found it extremely difficult to track any proper digital footprints resulting from the show in Afghanistan. I was even told by a producer Bamyan Media worked with when they came to Egypt that they didnt want to show him the produced show in Afghanistan, because it was very amateurish. Furthermore, on the tongue of Anna Elliot herself, she stated that the show was boring but 7 million people watched it before one of her team members intervene to mention that she is just not good at selling herself.

In 2009, Anna and David Elliot established Bamyan Media to take the concept further and launch the show in different countries, Bamyan Media uses a mix of a non-profit and for-profit business model to launch the same format of the TV Show in different countries with market for entrepreneurship, mostly developing countries in transition. 

But did Bamyan Media drop the USAID umbrella the project started through?

After launching the pilot season, Anna Elliot was being celebrated in western media as a hero who went to Afghanistan to empower its entrepreneurs and was even being hosted in a conversation at The While House 

BamyanMedia_WhiteHouse

What a second target after Afghanistan would it be other than Egypt post 25 revolution? Yes, that was it, Bamyan Media presented USAID with a proposal to move to Egypt with the backing of USAID funds and it seemed they were able to secure a big check to get their operation started, the deal is supposedly to cover 2-3 years of operating costs for Bamyan Media to initiate their TV Show and business in Egypt.

I can claim having insider information at this part, because at this time, I was working on a similar TV Show for entrepreneurs in Egypt through Egypreneur, that was not an idea or a hunch, but a production-ready concept with agreement with a TV Network and initial agreement with a major sponsor.

abdelsamad-estimation

The TV Network was sold after the revolution and I was left alone searching for alternatives, passing the 6 months mark in formatting the researching options to produce the show to trigger the entrepreneurial energy of Egyptian youth post 25th revolution and part of a strategy to setup Egypreneur as an independent institution that supports entrepreneurs in Egypt. I was approached by USAID employees who offered support and accordingly was given details about what Im working on.

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In the process of communicating with USAID around my TV Show project, I was forwarded an email that was sent by Anna Elliot March 17th 2011, which was a thank you note for USAID support an a promise of follow-up on next steps. I skipped it as the attached format targeting social entrepreneurs didnt seem close to what we have arrived at at that time. 

But it seems that it wasnt the case, a few months later, I heard that USAID contracted Bamyan Media to execute a Reality TV Show for entrepreneurs in Egypt, getting busy and overwhelmed with other initiatives we started at Egypreneur, I decided to learn from the experience and completely ignore the matter, but it didnt seem to want to ignore me.

The newly established Bamyan Media out of a spin-off from a USAID project, was able to secure a three years contract with USAID to initiate  and replicate their model in Egypt, Omar Aysha, former editor at wamda.com claims a $5 Million USD check was given for their project in Egypt, having no source to confirm or deny, what can be confirmed is that USAID was committed to providing the operating cost for Bamyan Media for 2-3 years, meaning you have 40 employees, 8 services contracts per month, USAID just pay the bills for Bamyan Media allowing them to get cozy while working on their project for two to three years?

Anyway, Bamyan Media created a for-profit company El Mashrou3 LLC through which it handle its operations in Egypt, well, some people might have issues with getting funded as a non-profit then using this money to create a for-profit business, but entrepreneurially speaking youre fine to do whatever you wish as long as you are not breaking the law or any business or personal commitments, I was told that Bamyan Media owns 99% of El Mashrou3 LLC.

ElMashrou3_Header

Accordingly the controlling element in all activities and actions related to #ElMashrou3 comes from Bamyan Media and El Mashrou3 LLC which received enormous backing from USAID, it seems that Bamyan Media are doing some PR efforts lately to present the involvement as an Egyptian company called El Mashrou3 LLC, which is nothing but an interface to Bamyan Media in Egypt to expand on its commercial benefit. According to their website, Bamyan Media seems to be working hard on expanding the operation of El Mashrou3 to be Pan-Arab reality TV Show for entrepreneurs. 

With very little impact and massively low viewership created by the show, added to a few cases of misconducted by Bamyan Media that made one of their former contractors mention to me in a private communication that they are the most horrid unprofessional scam bags I have ever worked with.

It seems that Bamyan Media have got very arrogant given the massive backing from their government money that they not only felt comfortable enough to screw up for two years, but they choose to violate interest and intellectual property of local entrepreneurs on their way to complete dominance on the MENA entrepreneurship landscape.

David_Yemen

The questions that comes to our mind as we analyze the leadership behind the show is, are they qualified with a track record to run this kind of thing? Do they have actual pressing desire to create impact through their TV Show, real one? Is the way in which they secured funding for the show and the way they dealt with their contractors and local entrepreneurs represents a social enterprise seeking to create positive impact? 

To be continued

In hindsight, Anna Elliot’s reality TV series might seem like a media mogul’s strategy to build market share in developing countries. Source: Milton Magazine

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Courtesy of Bamyan Media on Facebook

DISCLAIMER: Information provided is available on public channels, reference is provided for the most part, no personal offense was intended and no ones privacy was violated in the process of carrying out this research/analysis.

Talent Discovery TV Shows – Social Media Presence

Talent Discovery TV Shows – Social Media Presence

In the last 3 years with DSL connections going mainstream and increasing consumption of online video content and with YouTube being the hub for video content in the region, I interestingly tracked down some of the popular YouTube channels for number of subscribers and views, here I provide a quick comparison in numbers between some of the popular TV Shows for talent discovery in signing.

Definitely these numbers is a reflection of the success of every show, plus, I’m trying to dig deeper on the campaigns conducted as a part of every show and how much did it affect these numbers.

See you next post with more in depth analysis

The Entrepreneurial Revolution in Egypt, an Ecosystem Approach

The Entrepreneurial Revolution in Egypt, an Ecosystem Approach

Okay, this is a piece of old writing that I ran by which was the original script published afterwards in an Article at Business Today, HERE, I didn’t publish it by this time as an better edited version was hosted on Business Today, but I found it among my files and used it in a study about the ecosystem in the last couple of years.

Below information is outdated, I just didn’t feel like posting it on the past, so, so that was in May 2012. I will be publishing updated about how I see the ecosystem today and the shift in Egypreneur approach, why, how and till when.

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We all remember the entrepreneurial stories of current Egyptian business leaders who started with little resources with the absence of any structured support and they successfully grew their businesses to a national and international scale. There is no doubt that the previous generation of Egyptian entrepreneurs who were able to assemble the ecosystem necessary for their ventures to survive and grow have positively influenced the state of the Egyptian economy.

While eyes are still gazing at the generation of the Egyptian revolution and speculations about the future of Egypt and its economy is in the air. The current rate of unemployment and lack of productivity in the economy keeps a pessimistic view about the short-term effect of the political change on the economy, yet an active community of youth entrepreneurs in Egypt is still being boldly hopeful and optimistic about the future.

Economic studies and examples of countries that pursued entrepreneurship successfully shows dramatic increase in employment rate, economic growth and GDP. Entrepreneurship presents an opportunity for the Egyptian economy to flourish and for the country to start a new era pursuing the post-revolution more free and open mentality in becoming a startup nation.

We have every right to think that a new generation of entrepreneurs is being born right now, the increasing number of events, competitions, activities, NGOs and private sector entities getting involved in entrepreneurs support shows a positive movement towards a more entrepreneurial new Egypt. While others have a different view:

“As entrepreneurship has grown in Egypt as a concept; with better social acceptance, a host of training courses and even the government jumping on the bandwagon, successful entrepreneurial ventures have not grown as fast as the number of organizations that claim to promote entrepreneurship. I suppose that’s the price of being fashionable” Eric Zoetmulder

Eric Zoetmulder, a Cairo-based management consultant and close observer to the entrepreneurship scene in Egypt argues that these activities had only contributed to building a society of “entrepreneurship entrepreneurs” a small society of those attending, involving and showing enthusiasm towards becoming entrepreneurs and while an increasing numbers of activities is taking place, the practical output in successful startups had not been up to the expectations and might not present the opportunity to ignite an entrepreneurial movement just yet.

More people argue that fostering entrepreneurship and providing outcomes from all these entrepreneurship-focused activities can only be done by a holistic approach and proper mapping and analysis to what’s happening and what needs to be done and assembling a coherent set of entities its objective is to serve entrepreneurs at different stages in different sectors, clusters and geographical areas.

By then the entrepreneurship ecosystem can be defined as a naturally assembled set of entities with interest to serve entrepreneurs at specific stage of development in a specific sector, cluster or geographical area. The word ecosystem implies being naturally assembled which guarantees sustainability as interest and benefits was the factor to initially get involved in the cycle of supporting entrepreneurs.

In a rapidly changing sector with potential for innovation like ICT, we can see how initiatives from Microsoft, Intel, Nokia, Orange and others tapping into the community of entrepreneurs to promote their technologies and expand the use of their products have participated in building a more developed ecosystem in ICT.

The climate, environment or ecosystem entrepreneurs are operating within will have the biggest influence in inspiring more entrepreneurs to jump in and will decide on the rate of successes and the possibilities of growth for existing startups. By then the future of entrepreneurship in Egypt is determined by the ability of current stakeholders to assemble themselves in a way that maximizes the benefit of entrepreneurs and to support and even “guard” their work.

In his Harvard Business Review Article – How to start an entrepreneurial revolution, Daniel J. Isenberg, mentions 10 factors to be taken into consideration while building an entrepreneurship ecosystem with potential to empower a new generation of entrepreneurs and really start an entrepreneurial movement:

  • Stop emulating Silicon Valley
  • Tailor an ecosystem around your own particular characteristics
  • Engage the entrepreneurship stakeholders early on
  • Support the high potential entrepreneurs
  • Get some visible successes, even by “brute force” if necessary
  • Change the culture head on
  • Stress the roots: don’t provide easy money
  • Pave the footpath
  • Remove bureaucratic obstacles for entrepreneurs
  • Experiment relentlessly and holistically

Daniel argues that what really ignites an entrepreneurial revolution is a holistic approach to the entrepreneurship ecosystem and engaging all stakeholders in supporting entrepreneurs at different stages, in different sectors and clusters. Trying to replicate other models like Silicon Valley would take a generation 30-years to start showing practical results, while it might take a few years if the entrepreneurship ecosystem is analyzed and addressed correctly.

With this logic, then Entrepreneurial renaissance in Egypt can only be accomplished through an ecosystem that provides entrepreneurs with all needed support at different stages of growth from ideation, business model generation, team building, seed funding .etc. That’s when analyzing and growing the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Egypt becomes a serious matter for the growth of the economy at a new stage Egypt is entering.

Egypreneur, a project I started back in 2008 as a young entrepreneur to explore possible opportunities to meet fellow entrepreneurs and find out more about what’s out there for them, developed with time to take the lead in inspiring entrepreneurs in Egypt and support their startups by connecting them with opportunities already available from the ecosystem.

At Egypreneur we fully believe in the importance of having enough intelligence about the ecosystem and understanding who is doing what to support entrepreneurs. We initiated a project through which we were able to identify and analyze 350+ organizations that’s involved in supporting entrepreneurs in different ways from ideas generation and innovation support to shared workspaces to funding sources .etc

We believe that availability of the information of who’s doing what in the ecosystem and using it to influence what comes next will have a positive impact on Egyptian entrepreneurs who we’re here to inspire and support. The outcome from the current phase of the mapping project will be available online at (www.ecosystemmap.me) and long term work on analyzing the ecosystem at different sectors, clusters will be sustained and presented there as well.

From an entrepreneur’s perspective the focus on getting the support needed to succeed and passing his/her current stage to the next, at Egypreneur we’re launching a network just for that purpose. (www.egypreneur.com) is planned to gather both our expanding community of entrepreneurs and the 350+ organizations interested in supporting them to serve as a platform providing entrepreneurs with all what they need at all stages.

Exploring the current state of entrepreneurship ecosystem in Egypt through different examples can be a good start to assess what happened, what’s happening and what needs to happen to scale the effect of entrepreneurship and to start really showing results on economic growth and employment rate.

Culture plays a major role in creating an ecosystem for entrepreneurs; most Egyptian entrepreneurs state that our culture doesn’t tolerate risk and failure. Entrepreneurs quitting their jobs or ignoring their academic studies to pursue a business opportunity are not expected to be faced with tolerance and support from their families.

In the co-working space he started in Maadi, Mazen Helmy is experiencing a smaller version of the ecosystem in Egypt. Entrepreneurs setting up their companies and in need of a workspace and either can’t afford or don’t need a separate office space at an initial stage use The District not only as a place to work but more importantly to be a part of a community and ecosystem with varied expertise, backgrounds and service to offer.

In the co-working space a small ecosystem gathers itself to help everyone involved; results from a three months of operations starts to show, May GahAllah just moved to Nubai executing a development project and starting a foundation, May found The District and its ecosystem a suitable place to initiate her project while staying in Cairo.

Mr. Ahmed Dakrouri, do have an interesting story, as an MIT graduate with years of professional experience, after the loss of his father who had been leading family’s developmental work in their home town in Minya. Mr. Dakrouri was left with a hard decision to make, whether to end the development work carried by his family for three generations or decide to head to the south and dedicate his time to leading it.

Mr. Dakrouri has chosen to continue his family’s path and currently focusing on promoting entrepreneurship and creating an ecosystem for entrepreneurs in Abu Korkas, Minya to start and scale successful businesses through Abu Korkas-Minya Association for Economic, Social and Environmental Development.

In a confident tone, Mr. Dakrouri states that he could see serious opportunities for growth in a few clusters in Minya if only stakeholders who’re operating very well in Cairo can expand their activities there providing support to the association work, the power of entrepreneurs can be unleashed and we can sit and watch new clusters and Egyptian products getting exported from there.

In an effort from the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology through its Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (TIEC); Hayiy initiative launched last March, an initiative stimulating the local ecosystem in different Egyptian governorates and allowing local entrepreneurs to step up and get involved in solving problems of their society.

Being a part of the promotion campaign for Hayiy in around ten Egyptian governorates, I could obviously see the level of energy and desire among Egyptian youth to pursue the entrepreneurial path, still the ecosystem in each of this governorate needs a lot of effort to stimulated and effectively support the ambitions of young potential entrepreneurs.

Flat6Labs is another example of an accelerator that built and ecosystem around itself to guarantee the quality of experience entrepreneurs who join it will have. In partnership with the American University in Cairo, Sawari Ventures provides seed funding for startups accepted to be accelerated through Flat6Labs, last round, entrepreneurs received mentorship from CEOs of industry leading companies and gained media exposure.

In the final presentations graduating last round, Hany El-Sonbaty, co-founder of the VC firm financing Flat6Labs invited other investors to get aboard in investing in graduating entrepreneurs. The network of entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and business executive created around Flat6Labs is a good example of supportive ecosystem to entrepreneurs.

INJAZ is another NGO who was able to foster the ecosystem for the benefit of entrepreneurs getting involved in their “company program” seeking to give students the experience to start and run their businesses at a sensitive stage at college when everyone is thinking of a career track to pursue. Last year, INJAZ were able to tap into private sector entities to provide seed funding and mentorship to successfully graduating startups from its program.

Now, a graduating startup from INJAZ can tour around a large corporate like Mobinil preparing their marketing strategy with the help of Mobinil marketing team and learning how to project and take care of their finances from their finance department, while being initially seed-funded through it. This model of collaboration between NGOs and Private Sector entities interested in supporting entrepreneurs can provide a leap to a lot of the efforts being carried out to inspire and inject new qualified entrepreneurs into the market.

At Egypreneur we firmly believe in the effect a homogenous, balanced and synergetic ecosystem can provide to entrepreneurs in Egypt who remain the ones with the keys to the future development of the Egyptian economy through their startups.

For entrepreneurship to flourish in Egypt and really start showing results and output in the economy, it had to be approached holistically. Mapping the ecosystem and keeping an updated presentation of who is doing what and possible forms of collaboration, synergy that’s possible between these organizations is an essential step to reach the desired outcome of a more entrepreneurial new Egypt.

Brand Positioning in Football @EtisalatMisr & @VodafoneEgypt

Brand Positioning in Football @EtisalatMisr & @VodafoneEgypt

As an entrepreneur, having marketing and branding going through my veins, I like taking a deeper look at the billboards around the city. The slick design and fancy look of Etisalat Ads grabbed my attention since its introduction in the Market.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Yet, I could observe a marketing battle between Etisalat & Vodafone after Etisalat launched Al Ahly Football Campaign. Etisalat closed a three years sponsorship deal for Al Ahly Football Team T-Shirt for a full 135 Million EGP (Read More) and launched a campaign after that.

As you might know, branding is about fighting for a position in the customer’s mind, its a battle that takes place in customers’ minds as they associate a brand with a specific word. The Etisalat campaign was clearly associating the quality of Etisalat service with key points of strength in Al Ahly team.






After Etisalat campaign Vodafone Egypt launched a Football campaign associating its brand as the official sponsor of football in Egypt, being more general and inclusive I thought it was quite a wicked hit for Etisalat’s campaign.




The last photo shows players dressed up in different T-Shirts, coming from different teams probably playing for the national team (including Al-Ahly) — when you think about this from a branding and positioning stand point, I think Vodafone was successful in retaliating to Etisalat campaign by being more general and inclusive, what do you think?

And branding campaigns around the city still grabs my attention and I love analyzing what’s behind the designs, locations and messages there…

Google Ebda2 – Project Management Tools

As a part of Google Ebda2 Crash Course to entrepreneurs who passed the competitions initial phase, I would like to share the resources I mentioned during the presentation and chat more about project management and available tools.

I wanted to strengthen on the fact that project management for entrepreneurs should be approached as a very simple subject to get stuff done, by then project management for a startup entrepreneur is not a complete body of knowledge to educate – at this stage – but it’s only about deliverables.

By then project management is simply about who is doing what, when. We’ve used the example of four individuals came up with the idea of an iPhone App and moved on with the example through different stages.

Here are some important resources that I mentioned:

Short link to access this is http://bit.ly/Ebda2_PM

Alternatives to Basecamp: http://bit.ly/PMAlt

Following presenting is interesting as an extension to what you’ve learned from today’s session:Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

View more presentations from Wrike com

Enjoy! If you have any question about project management for startups, feel free to post here and let’s discuss it together!

Tweet: http://j.mp/L8WXzK

After #CoE2010 I feel inspired, empowered and connected

Back from the stunning event in Dubai by Abraaj Capital. Oh, you should know it by now it’s The Celebration of Entrepreneurship and yes, it was more of a celebration than a conference, I had awesome time and met awesome people including being mentored for a total of 60 minutes by Mr. Arif Naqvi and Mrs. Linda Rottenberg.

I’m just waking up and having the chance to write, of course I have dozens of ideas and anecdotes to share, but now, I should go get my projects back on trackand will be coming back here and on abdo.me with details. will tease you now with this awesome video from Karabeesh introducing the event.


Watch on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfugMoZNkhQ

The good news is, that’s not it, that was just the first spark launching a framework in which a lot of entrepreneurial activities will take place. If you missed the event, register at http://wamda.com stay tuned for the videos from the event and interact with the event attendees and more entrepreneurs in the region through Wamda.

Warning: The amount of energy and inspirational can make you go out of your mind ..


Watch on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7BQRGXFLJs
(Inspired by Karabeesh CoE2010 101 video)