On my vacation a few weeks ago, I read Chris Schroeder‘s book Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East. It was outstanding.
I had dinner with Chris recently in Boulder. We were introduced by our joint friend Ben Casnocha. Chris made the effort to come visit me in Boulder, which I always appreciate as it’s a way for me to be completely in the moment for an extended period of time when meeting someone new. We met at Wild Standard around 7pm and left when they closed the restaurant.
It was one of my most enjoyable conversations so far in 2016. I immediately felt a kinship with Chris. While we’ve wandered different paths, we’ve overlapped a lot including on this a16z Podcast about How Innovation Ecosystems Grow Around the Globe. I had a copy of Startup Rising on my Kindle from a while ago but had never read it. Our meeting, dinner, and long conversation inspired me to move it to the top of my infinite pile of books.
Chris goes extremely deep on the state of entrepreneurship in the Middle East. His travels through the region are extensive and his story telling, interviews, and examples are as well done as any that I’ve read in a book about entrepreneurship. It’s all prose – he doesn’t take the shortcut of just telling standalone examples or having others write segments about what they are doing. The people he spends time with – along with the businesses – come to life as he paints a rich picture of things that are actually going on and the people behind them.
But the book isn’t just storytelling. Chris creates a framework for how to think about the different participants in the Middle East startup community. He describes various challenges in different countries along with how entrepreneurs work around or through them. And he isn’t afraid to address difficult subjects, like religion and geopolitics, as he explores what was going on at the time.
Chris wrote the book in 2012 and it was published it in 2013. While it stands the test of time and is an excellent introduction to entrepreneurship in the region, I’d love to see a second edition updated for the current reality of 2016. But, for now, I view this as the definitive guide the entrepreneurship in the Middle East.