Five key skills needed to work in start-ups in the MENA region

By: Amy Butler / Gulf Business


SOURCE: Gulf Business - Five key skills needed to work in start-ups in the MENA region

With the region encouraging entrepreneurship, more jobs are expected to be available for graduates in start-ups

The start-up market continues to thrive in the Middle East, with over 3,000 small businesses calling the region home and $650m in investments flowing into the sector.

Looking ahead, it is predicted that there will be 250 fintech start-ups in MENA by 2020, with a growth rate of $125m a year.

Startups are also being encouraged by government investment: Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision aims to encourage entrepreneurs to work in the region, while the UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Innovation Fund is designed to support local companies that offer innovative ideas.

All of this spells good news for jobseekers, especially graduates.

But when it comes to finding a role, working in a start-up requires a unique set of skills and attributes. The small and often-intense environment of these types of businesses means an employee’s attitude and approach needs to be slightly different than in a larger company.

I have noted several core personality traits that are being sought out by the region’s entrepreneurs. They include-


Often, a start-up will run on a few core staff, so employees must be comfortable showing initiative and helping out wherever possible. There isn’t a lot of budget for outsourcing, so you need to be open to ‘mucking in’ wherever possible. No job should be too small – if data needs to be entered, or envelopes stamped, you should be getting involved, working with your team to get the job done.

While some tasks may be more boring than brilliant, the other side of this coin is that you will receive exposure to every part of the business, collaborating with senior decision makers and developing your understanding of best business practice. Unlike a larger corporate business, you will receive access to experienced professionals who can act as guides or mentors, dispensing helpful lessons along the way.


No two days are the same at a start-up, so it’s vital that you can handle change in your day-to-day role. From responding to urgent situations as they arise, to adapting processes as you figure out best practice, you need to be comfortable working in a fluid, versatile and sometimes ambiguous environment.

Smaller businesses usually don’t have the established procedures and processes of a larger company, so if it’s structure you’re after, this type of experience may not be for you.


When starting from the ground-up, everything is a learning curve. It’s no different in a start-up, where there are infinite possibilities to acquire new knowledge or skills. Natural curiosity bodes well in this environment – the most successful start-up employees will be constantly asking questions, looking for new ways to create and add value and throwing out new ideas in order to improve the business.

This way of thinking can also benefit you later you in your career – if faced with a complex problem, this intellectual curiosity can assist in finding left-of-centre solutions.