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What Egyptian Entrepreneurs can learn from France, USA, and Russia

For many young Egyptians, starting their own business is a promising option to beat high unemployment rates. We describe which skills are important.
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For many young Egyptians, starting their own business is a promising option to beat the high unemployment rate. We describe which skills are important and what can be learned from founders from other countries.

A successful entrepreneur should have a variety of qualities. These are the eight most important:

Passion and commitment
A successful business founder should be passionate and committed to driving his business forward. He should be willing to work long hours, overcome setbacks and be persistent.

Creativity and innovativeness
A successful business founder should be creative and innovative to come up with new ideas and stand out from the competition.

Willingness to take risks
A successful business founder should be willing to take risks and make unconventional decisions. He should be able to recognise and seize opportunities, even if they involve risks.

Goal orientation
A successful business founder should have clearly defined goals and remain focused in order to achieve these goals. He should also be able to adapt and change his goals when circumstances change.

Leadership skills
A successful business founder should be able to lead and motivate a team. He should also be able to communicate effectively and resolve conflicts.

Financial management
A successful business founder should be able to manage his finances effectively and keep an eye on the cash flow of his business.

Flexibility and adaptability
A successful business founder should be flexible and able to adapt to the changing needs of the market and customers.

Self-confidence and perseverance
A successful business founder should be self-confident and believe in his abilities and his business. He should also have stamina to overcome setbacks and keep going.

France: Entrepreneurs are profit vultures

Entrepreneurs are an enemy image for many in the country. Making money? Not like that! However, the unpopular also do little to improve their reputation.

Macron is the first president with significant professional experience in the free economy and has set out to break down the hardened fronts between employers and employees, but since the yellow vest movement at the latest, the prejudices against company bosses are as present as ever. The French have a difficult relationship with economic success. It is common for the brightest minds to go first to a "Grande École" and then to high state administration. In France, the idea is widespread in many places that one should have money but better not earn it as an entrepreneur.

Company directors do not appear on the talk shows of the big TV and radio stations, and almost no one talks about entrepreneurship anyway. The common term is patronage, and the patron - classically depicted with a top hat and cigar - is still a profit vulture for many. This perception dates back to the time of the Industrial Revolution. 

After all, patron means protector in the Latin sense of the word, not exploiter. There were some initiatives: the state failed for months to procure protective clothing for its medical staff, companies formed buying syndicates to provide it for their workforces.

More than one in two textile companies began producing millions of face masks instead of fashion. Despite closed venues, restaurateurs in Paris and elsewhere came up with creative ideas to make outdoor springtime aperitifs possible.

Entrepreneurs are trained from an early age to think of business from the cost side rather than the investment side. Instead of encouraging people and bringing them along to revive the economy, they think first and foremost about costs.

Americans revere founders

Americans revere entrepreneurs. When you tell someone that you have turned their idea into a business, their eyes light up. But that's mostly because few people know how hard it is to quit your job and try something new. They project their unfulfilled desires onto you. There's someone living his or her dream - wow! It seems to be part of the US mentality: people pitch in - or love to watch others pitch in.

There are a lot of freelancers in the US. According to the IRS, 26.5 million Americans reported in 2018 that they earned at least $1,000 a year from self-employed work, often on the side. Close to 42 000 people even earned more than a million dollars during this period.

Over the past decade, this category of "entrepreneurs without employees" has grown steadily - three times as fast as the number of conventional employees.

This by no means only includes people who want to develop revolutionary technology, but above all legions of self-employed freelancers and craftsmen. From Uber drivers and designers with their own webshop to hairdressers and pastry chefs for fancy cakes.

"The enormous importance of small entrepreneurs is often overlooked because we've been trained by Silicon Valley to only notice tech founders," says Elizabeth MacBride, who has been observing entrepreneurship in the US for decades as a reporter and is currently writing the book "The New Builders* about it. She celebrates small entrepreneurs as master builders of the American economy and wants to make their voices heard more - by potential investors and politicians alike. After all, companies that are less than a year old created more than three million jobs in 2015 - the most recent year for which figures are available.

For Elizabeth MacBride, solo entrepreneurs are also important because they sometimes become medium-sized employers. "Only one in 100 businesses gets venture capital. Most founders have much more modest goals - to make a decent living." Those who always look only at the big companies and IPOs miss the reality, he said.

Russia "Bisnesmen" is an attractive profession

Entrepreneurship is considered a double-bottomed profession in Russia. According to a survey by the Russian Chamber of Societies, a dream job, 38 percent of schoolchildren want to become "Bisnesmen" (Russian pronunciation). What boy doesn't dream of speeding through Moscow in an expensive car with premium credit cards in his pocket? 

However, only 20 percent of parents want their children to have this career. And in reality, according to a study by the Russian Savings Bank, no more than three percent of the population are entrepreneurs.
Russia is not a traditional entrepreneurial country. Even the pre-revolutionary poet Ivan Krylov mocked the merchant who taught his nephew to cheat others and was cheated himself in the process. Under Soviet power, speculation was considered a criminal offence, and to this day even Russian trade journals doubt that their compatriots are suitable as entrepreneurs. They lack "self-confidence, initiative, the willingness to take risks and the urge to make a difference", writes the journal Kontur.

The daredevils in the state television series don't found start-ups either, they hunt enemy spies or economic criminals and work for the security services. Yet there are also charismatic movers and shakers in Russia's business world. The powerhouse Mikhail Khodorkovsky, owner of the oil company Yukos and the richest man in the country, only became world famous when he ended up in court and then in prison. Like him, the mega-married Pavel Durov has since emigrated abroad, Russia's Mark Zuckerberg, creator of the social network and the messenger service Telegram. Both face criminal charges at home.

"People with talent and entrepreneurial spirit," says a German businessman with long experience in Russia, "go to California." According to a survey by the Lewada opinion research centre, 53 percent of Russians under 24 want to emigrate. This is also because almost all important positions in their home country are reserved for relatives and close friends of the establishment. Instead of ideas, relationships lift young Russians into the comfortable sphere of Russian state capitalism, which, according to the rating agency Moody's, controls up to 50 per cent of the gross domestic product.

Free enterprise, on the other hand, is seen as a tough struggle for competition, if not survival, mostly in the service sector. And hovering over it is the permanent risk of being categorised by the state as a tax dodger or fraudster. As in Soviet times, many "Bisnesmeny" flee into the shadow economy, which according to official figures produces about 13 percent of GDP; a study by Swedish economists puts the figure at almost 45 percent.