Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Small Circle Jerk

This is NOT another dig on startups, small businesses and the entrepreneurship world.
We are close to the point where complaining, mocking and belittling the entrepreneur is becoming more annoying and obnoxious than the entrepreneur himself - something that was once scientifically proven to be impossible.

It’s nobody’s fault. This ‘business model’ is part of the system, just like any other job or occupation. And everyone is joining in the entrepreneurship (back) stroking ring: governments, big corporations, public figures, college dropouts, conference organizers, made-up awards festivals, programmers, gamers, anyone who has ever used a computer, pharmacy-chain owners, kids of government officials, ex-government officials and philanthropists.
Everybody has the right to play the lottery, and everybody who has ever played the lottery had a formula to win it. So we need to accept theoe people who are just trying to make a living, like everyone else. 

However, someone sneaked in between the entrepreneur and his beloved investor to form a small circle within the circle, a party that was supposed to be factual and impartial compared to the delusional world of the above: The content generator!

[Entrepreneur starts a marginal project. Attracts investor. Reporter looks for a feel-good business story, features start-up from a positive perspective hiding and spicing up some facts, entrepreneur shows article to investor, investor shares article, and journalist shares big-time investor’s share. More investors invest. More reporters report. Project grows, hypothetically. Everyone is satisfied.]

 How do you go from being a massive multi-platform game-changing super-innovative unprecedented project to complete disappearance in less than three years?(Company's Akhtaboot profile is the only remaining evidence that it once existed). 
Well, that’s what happens when the whole thing had been a scam from the first minute till oblivion. It was beyond obvious to any moron who has invested five minutes to learn anything about the project that this is where it was heading! There was absolutely no doubt that it was a facade with nothing behind it.
But, let’s not ruin a good story, even if the story is full of holes, inaccuracies, and blatant lies. That particular project managed to attract investment from a governmental body, using public money, and everyone who has participated in polishing up that project, and every reporter who took every word that the man behind it had said as a fact, is a sad contributor to the scam.

Foreign journalists are not much better. They may be even worse, sensationalizing every marginal project with an outdated and overrated sense of astonishment: “Wow, I can’t believe these people in the Arab world know how to use a computer, let alone make Youtube videos!”. Everything that happens in this part of the world is a courageous miracle from the perspective of an Ohio University journalism grad, who would use his free time in between Zaatari trips to throw in a cute little “entrepreneurship” story. 

Take this for an example:

"With war taking the lives of thousands just across the borders, Yaseen Yacoub aims to give a new perspective to the concept of creating life. The first company of its kind in the Arab world and the Middle East specialized in producing condoms... with a local flavor. In an area where premarital sex and birth control are still considered taboo subjects, an innovative and fearless project is literally, born. “This project is a thin shield that helps take our mind of the violence ravaging our region,” says an emotional Yeseen, “and we hope that what we look for in the sense of protection, safety and, most importantly, love is transpired through it.”

Wait there is more:

"Yasseen, founder and CEO, explains how the idea of “Balaleen” came up to him: “I was in line at a pharmacy when I noticed that all the condoms on display had things like “strawberry” and “cherry” flavors, and it just occurred to me that none of these flavors is Jordanian! Where is the local flavor? Where are our beloved Zaatar and Jameed aromas in OUR contraceptives?”." 

And, of course, no internationally-acclaimed story can be published without this part:

As we sit at Amman’s most famous downtown restaurant, a modest Hummus shop regularly frequented by the royal family itself, Yisin looks at the plate of Fava beans drenched in Tahini known as Fool Masri - a Hashem specialty, he looks at me, then looks down with deep eyes penetrating through the clay bowl, he exhales with a smile: “I think the world should get ready to receive the gift of the Fool-flavored fellatio.”.

And the closure with a “bang”:

For the future plans, Yasin ( sees unlimited growth potential with a solid end. “We are currently working on the Oud-scented condom line that would open the market for us in Saudi Arabia, an essential market. Next, the Arabic-calligraphy-inscription line featuring funny sexual puns from colloquial Jordanian to old classical poetry. This should be a great hit with the teenagers and the 25-35 age group of ‘Westernized’ Ammanis, who has suddenly discovered their cool Arab cultural roots.We have also signed a deal with three major Bangkok brothels to be their exclusive providers.”
From Bangkok to Istanbul this seems to be a start-up ready to stretch and expand, as it seems that it has developed some sort of a cult following, oddly enough, within the transsexual prostitution community in Turkey. “We got a brand acquisition offer from OK, the market leader in Turkey, but we prefer to blow up on our own terms.”
At any part of the world, that would be a nice little pun. But in this part of the world blowing up can take a whole new definition, and we just hope that it is always blowing up the Balaleen way, not the other way.”
Bam. That’s how you write a Middle Eastern business story, folks.  All boxes checked. Now cut my check.

So, as a reporter, you are not exactly asked to be delve into investigative journalism every time you want to write a 800-word mini feature. But if someone claims they sold one million anything, make sure you know at least one person who owns the product. If someone is pushing a copy of a popular app with localized feature, just download it and make sure it is at least semi functional. If someone is launching a “portal”, check the website and make sure it is not just another copy-paste "news agency", and as a rule of thumb, never put too much weight on Alexa rankings. For someone claiming to be covering business and economy, there are way more important numbers that you are just ignoring to to focus on jolly narrative and empty rhetoric. 

As an entrepreneur, again, it is everyone’s dream to buy an Aeron chair and hire 5-12 fresh graduates for 250-400JD a month to occasionally yell at them, while travelling around for free. Great. Everybody is wishing you luck, and nobody is jealous of your empire in the making, yet.

It is just that if you take it a little bit easy on the continuous (to quote the great Magary) self – aggrandizing masturbatory act. You will be much more lovable and gain more support. Unless this is exactly what your brand happens to be, self-promotion, without any real project to back it up, then congratulations, your mission was accomplished.(PS: Also, make sure that the reporter above spelled your name consistently throughout the disjointed 800 words, before shoving the article in everyone’s face.)As for the the investor, we just can’t complain. Rich people have expensive hobbies and we are just grateful that some chose this thing as theirs.
So if any of you  is reading this, let me introduce you to an idea for a mobile device application destined to end religion-based conflict in the world forever. 
And no I don’t mean a condom 
مكتوب عليه بخط النسخ 
وتكبر في عين الصغير صغارها 


Tallouza said...

First I am so glad that "Blogger" and blogging are still alive. second I am even more glad that you are still blogging – I thoroughly enjoy your blogs. They remind me of the long scrapped Khalaf's "What's up in Jordan?"
The small circle jerk is the product of much bigger individual and institutional jerks. It is a parasitic model where egos get fed while pseudo unsustainable employment is created

Haitham Jafar said...

Firstly, welcome back!

As u said, everyone needs to make a living, so ..

It, -not yr mobile app., I'll pass on that one- sounds like a project to be born born[e] indeed! Who needs a business plan (wait, what?) a couple of viral-potentiality stories, I mean business reports, and there u go. Not even any sky is the limit.

*Did u say "occasionally" yell at them? Just checking

** In yr detox'ing 2nd paragraph u dropped the food-critics (the ones with fancy cameras) & "some" bloggers! :)

Anonymous said...

Great piece.. you have me laughing in the office like a fool. Lol.

Firas Al Kafri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anon said...

I can't believe we still have awesome bloggers! I got this absurdly feeling of satisfaction after reading it, totally speaks my mind and I absolutely agree with you!