Mexican Food and Entrepreneurship for Lunch in Dubai

Amy and I are spending the week in Dubai on the annual Wellesley Art Trip. I’ve been doing some of the art stuff, visited one of our LPs, and have been getting together with local entrepreneurs and investors.

Yesterday, I had a magnificent two and a half hour lunch with three guys from BECO Capital – Dany Farha, Amir Farha, and Sorusch Amiri. It started ten days ago with an email from Sorusch in response to a tweet I wrote asking for a recommendation of a book on the history of Dubai.

“More than 3 years ago, we had this brief email exchange and to this day I’m telling friends and colleagues what a kind and responsive person you are. Since then I ended up at a venture capital firm in Dubai called BECO Capital.

Now it turns out that you are visiting Dubai and looking for a history book. I may not have a good recommendation on that but we at BECO would love to tell you all about this city’s history in person because the family of our founders have been living and working here for four decades.

If you have the time, we would absolutely love to take you out for lunch. :)”

We met at my hotel at 11:30 and rode over to Tortuga. After a few days of Italian and Middle Eastern food I was desperate for some TexMex. Dany, Amir, and Sorusch indulged me.

They then spent the next two hours answering questions that I had about Dubai, its history, entrepreneurship in the region, and the geopolitical dynamics with other UAE states, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran. Each answer begat several more questions as a I wandered into a wonderful new area of discussion I knew almost nothing about.

Magically, in addition to English, we shared a common language – entrepreneurship. At some point, I realized I had a huge grin on my face as Dany was talking about his family history in Dubai and how his own entrepreneurial journey has unfolded. While we touched on plenty of specific investment-related things, what was most fascinating to me was the energy, inspiration, and forward looking vision around entrepreneurship embodied in Dany, Amir, and Sorusch.

The region is tightly connected. On Monday, I had breakfast with Fadi and Fares Ghandour who run Mena Venture Investments and are co-investors with us in littleBits. Dany spoke fondly of Fadi, especially of his success and generosity around the current new generation of VCs like the team at BECO. My philosophy of inclusiveness and #GiveFirst was front and center in this conversation, and Dany, Amir, and Sorusch felt deeply aligned with my approach to investing and company creation.

At the end of lunch, Dany gave me three books.

  • Rashid’s Legacy: The Genesis of the Maktoum Family and the History of Dubai (Graeme Wilson)
  • Poems From The Desert (Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum)
  • Those Were the Days: Journals of Dubai (Shahnaz Pakravan)

Without knowing it, Dany, Amir, and Sorusch gave me the gift that I most treasure – knowledge. I learned more in two hours about Dubai and entrepreneurship than I could any other way. I have a lasting gift of a hand selected set of books that I’ll use to learn more. I had two hours of intense conversation with three guys I expect I’ll have an ongoing relationship with. I have a new thread of inquiry into a part of the world I know very little about.

Most of all, I had yet another moment of reinforcement of the power and importance of entrepreneurship around the world.

Dany, Amir, and Sorusch – thank you for the time today. I hope to see each of you again soon.

  • I enjoy (as a Brit) close family ties with German friends of my father. We have discussed how cultural exchange is key to tolerance. And how we in the EU are rapidly forgetting the value of the peace premium post WWII.

    By making ties around the world in every field of endeavour (eg art VC as the Felds of endeavour) both cross cultural and religious boundaries (which may be illusory) – You take an active part of serving a greater purpose – Well played to you and the Dubai team.

  • Ed Roberto

    Great that you are enjoying the trip! We have lots of notes to compare on your return.

  • BSchildt

    I enjoy your blog posts for many reasons, but this one stood out. You had an amazing opportunity, made the most out of it, learned many new things, and deeply appreciated your experience. What more could anyone ask out a travel experience?

    • Thanks. This has been a fascinating trip. I love that I get to do stuff like this.

  • David Parker

    I don’t normally chime in, though I frequently enjoy your blog.

    What are your thoughts on UAE and Dubai as a whole. I used to want to go there, but after hearing about their laws / etc on women’s rights (and certain foreigners), I decided I’d rather not ever go there until they catch up to the 21st century.

    Do you have any thoughts on that? Glad to hear you’re having a good time!

    • I’ve spent most of my time in Dubai so I can’t talk to Abu Dhabi. But the country feels very welcome to foreigners – both male and female.

  • JLM

    .
    Pro tip: When eating TexMex in foreign places — even in Tulsa — never try the salsa until AFTER your drinks come.

    You know why.

    JLM
    http://www.themusingsofthebigredcar.com

  • RBC

    Brad – somewhat late in replying to this post, I was in Dubai not that long ago and one of my clients told me about a drone festival. $1m prize, and the end result was a drone that can bounce off walls and confined small spaces. Check out the description and winners videos here: http://www.dubaicalendar.ae/en/event/events/the-uae-drones-for-good-award.html.

  • Brad, recent blog follower and avid art collector really enjoyed this post, learning a regions history like you have is rare indeed. Very curious about the art you viewed while in Dubai, any great discoveries? Thanks, Mark

    • We saw a number of private collections. I don’t remember the names of most of the artists, but we saw a lot of contemporary art, including a bunch from Iranian artists that was very political (and powerfully critical of Iran).