Entrepreneur says Dubai needs to harness its own success

A former Apple executive believes Dubai has built a brand as viable as the multi-billion-dollar tech giants he used to work for – but then challenged the emirate to make its impact felt globally.

Don Strickland, former vice president of imaging and publishing at Apple, said: “I think Dubai has done a great job on investing and importing but now it’s time for the city to create its own brands, its own companies and its own products.

“There’s no reason why Dubai should not be producing the Googles and the Apples of the world. They have set up Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City – big companies take up office space here – but where is the big winner that’s created a multi-billion-dollar company?”

Strickland, who serves as a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at Imperial College London, spoke to 7DAYS at the UAE Chapter meeting of the Entrepreneur’s Organisation. He said the time has come for Dubai to export and suggested: “Don’t just have everybody else come here and set up. Don’t just make money from people that come to Dubai – take what Dubai sells to the rest of the world.”

Strickland said that Dubai should be courting entrepreneurs. However, he warned, that part of the challenge is recognising a true entrepreneur.

“The meaning of the word entrepreneur in Western Europe is to buy a chain of cleaners and run it better,” said Strickland.

“In the US, the idea of an entrepreneur is ‘I’ve got nothing, I have no money, I’m going to mortgage my house, I’m going to risk everything and jump off the cliff and I’m going to make a billion dollars or be right where I was before’.

“Here [Dubai] it’s more following that Western European model – part of which is not really taking that risk.”

Strickland added: ”The second thing is that in the US – failure is good.

“So if I’m a venture capitalist and you’re interviewing to be CEO of a company, the first question I ask you is ‘what have you failed at lately?’

“If you say, oh I’ve been successful at everything, I say I don’t want to consider you because people learn more from failing.

“In Western Europe, and a bit of the Middle East, once somebody has done something and they have failed, it’s almost like they can’t be considered. So, at the end of the day, you don’t get the right people to run
the companies.”

Strickland believes that Dubai has what it takes to change these perceptions and put new ideas into practice.

“Dubai has the ability to make the rules and regulations for companies that want to set up here,” he said.

“It’s totally under the control of the government to say ‘you have earned an entrepreneurship sponsorship from Internet City’ or maybe even to have an Entrepreneurship City where companies can get started.

“Why they haven’t already done it, I don’t know but I think the time has come. If Dubai wants to be a centre that exports – they can do that.” Strickland further threw down the gauntlet when he added: “I would just point out that Finland exports more goods and technology products than Dubai. Finland!

“They have a GDP that’s tiny compared to Dubai and a government that’s tiny compared to Dubai. So now it’s up to Dubai – what does Dubai want to do?”

megha@7days.ae

Entrepreneur says Dubai needs to harness its own success

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