Oasis 500! The real Arab Spring!

Oasis 500

Blog #4 in a special series for the 2012 Youth Economic Opportunities Conference
September 11-13, 2012 | Washington, DC
www.youtheconomicopportunities.org

 

This blog post was written by Marwan Juma, Vice Chariman of Oasis 500, an ICT venture capital fund based in Jordan. He will present at the Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference Tuesday, September 11, 2012 within the enterprise development track. Other tracks at the conference include youth inclusive financial services, workforce development, gender, and monitoring and evaluation.

I am speaking as the Vice Chairman of Oasis 500, an ICT fund that is creating jobs, but more importantly breaking down barriers and offering hope to the youth of our region and in particular in our country, and this is how…

  • Our only resource: With Israel to the West and Iraq to the East, Jordan is jokingly referred to as caught between Iraq and a hard place! And unlike our Gulf neighbors, we have no natural resources below the ground, but we do possess the most valuable above-ground resource, the human talent! Still…
  • Entrepreneurship was a foreign word in Jordan: Risk taking and acceptance of failure was against our culture. For those with ideas, friends and family would support you only if you wanted to buy property and banks often shied away from project-based financing.
  • As a result, ideas remain simply ideas: Many IT entrepreneurs didn’t have a chance to see their ideas come to life due to the above, and as a result their ideas remained simply that…ideas!
  • A desert of funding: And even for those who risked it all and started their own businesses, often their start-up capital would dry up quickly and as a result they went bust at very early stages.
  • In comes Oasis 500! As the name suggests, our fund came to address the desert of funding. Oasis 500 hit this gap, and hence our name with the mandate to support and establish 500 companies in 6 years.
  • The set-up: Oasis is a full-fledged for-profit fund, in addition to a parallel training and capacity program up that is funded by many sponsors, including the US government. This combination has been the secret of our success so far! 
  • What do we do exactly?  Still, we are much more than a fund. We filter, build capacity, train, mentor, accelerate, and fund start-ups in a three month span. This is incubation on steroids; nothing like it exists throughout the Middle East!
  • We change lives! Even those who do not get funded become better employees, managers, and individuals, and they often come back more prepared and ready the next time around. People are accepting initial failures but more importantly are learning from their mistakes.
  • A national impact! The impact so far goes far beyond the 55 entrepreneurs we invested in over an 18 month period. We have trained 1,000 Jordanians and Arabs and created over 300 high-paying jobs. More importantly, we are changing mindsets and breaking down barriers  that have existed for many years in our part of the world...
  • The real Arab Spring! This is the Arab Spring we all want and aspire to! In a region that must create 100 million jobs over the coming 10–12 years, this is the only way toward achieving those goals. This is the future of our region…

Youth Economic Opportunities2012 Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference
September 11-13, 2012
Inter-American Development Bank's Conference Center
1330 New York Ave. NW | Washington, DC
www.youtheconomicopportunities.org