Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Big Business Idea Competition

This is a copy of the speech delivered by Mohammed Al Maskari, Director General, Knowledge Oasis Muscat on the ocassion of the TKM - Ernst & Young Big Business Idea Competition Gala Dinner, held at the Muscat Grand Hyatt Hotel on the evening of Tuesday 13 October 2009.


Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

It gives me the greatest pleasure to welcome you to the final of the 2009 TKM – Ernst & Young Big Business Idea Competition.

May I say first of all what a privilege it is to be here this evening and to speak before such a large audience of people who are changing Oman’s business community both by what you do individually and collectively.

It is now four years since Knowledge Oasis Muscat, in partnership with Ernst & Young, launched the Big Business Idea Competition. And I firmly believe it is initiatives like this that are helping introduce and spread awareness of the enterprise culture amongst the nation’s youth.

Indeed, it is clear from the quantity and quality of competition entries we receive each year that the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship is flourshing in Oman.

However, the challenges we face today are by no means small. Climate change, population growth and tougher global competition require adjustments on many fronts. Moreover, the world is experiencing the worst economic slump for decades. But despite this, innovation and entrepreneurship continue to thrive in Oman and drive the nation’s economy forward.

We need people who can identify a business opportunity, find and motivate the right people, and organise the production process. And these are exactly the people you will see tonight. Innovation and entrepreneurship in action.

I cannot stress strongly enough how determined an entrepreneur has to be as the road to success is neither short nor easy, as the following global statistics reveal:

Only 1 in 6 million hi-tech business ideas become an IPO;

Venture capitalists fund fewer than 1% of the business plans they receive;

Founding CEOs of hi-tech firms typically own less than 4% after an IPO;

60% of hi-tech companies funded by VCs eventually go bankrupt; and

It takes 3 to 5 years after their IPO for most hi-tech companies to finally succeed.

Clearly, it is not easy to be a successful entrepreneur. Many will fail at some point, and you must learn to overcome heavy doses of frustration, burnout and disappointment along the way. Chances are, the problems you encounter will also be faced by others and the more people impacted, the greater the opportunity. This is how new entrepreneurial businesses are formed - by searching for problems that currently lack solutions.

All of tonight’s finalists are in their twenties – and young people have an important role in taking Oman’s enterprise culture forward. Bear in mind that Google was founded by students; Facebook was started by a student; and even Microsoft was created by Bill Gates as a student.

Today’s new economic realities and changes are profound. No one can claim to know what the future might hold. But one thing is sure. The ones who will win from the new realities will be those who see them as opportunities and not threats.

And if I could give the start-ups presenting this evening some advice it would be this:

Learn how to network;

Don’t chase money, chase opportunities; and

Don’t be afraid of failure – it’s probably your greatest teacher.

Let me end by expressing my gratitude to Ministers Maqbool bin Ali Sultan and Sheikh Abdullah Al Bakri as well as to Mr. Philip Stanton and his team at Ernst & Young for their continued support and guidance. Indeed, without this important input, we would not be here this evening.

Thank you.

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