Tunisia: Exploring Entrepreneurship in Emerging Markets

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Downtown Tunis

Tunisia has often graced headlines in the past few years for its foundational role in the Arab Spring and subsequent path towards political and economic stability. Beyond the headlines, what makes the business environment in Tunisia unique? Our course so far has focused on learning about the nuances of entrepreneurship in Tunisia. We’ve had the opportunity to learn about the unique conditions facing new ventures in emerging markets from guest speakers including Columbia University Professor Safwan Masri and Columbia Business School Professor Marco Viola.

We also had the opportunity to work with Tunisian graduate students who are participating in Open Startup Tunisia, a startup competition in partnership with Columbia Engineering and Business School that supports Tunisian youth eager to open up to the world. Six finalist teams in this competition have been paired with teams of Columbia Business School students to further build out their proposed business models. In working together to develop financial models and refine our Business Model Canvas, our class has received a window into market opportunities and consumer demands in North Africa.

This class has pushed us to challenge what we think we know about entrepreneurship and apply our knowledge to an ever-evolving business landscape in an emerging market. While we’ve learned to build financial models and fine-tune our Business Model Canvas in other courses, what happens when a key part of your device hardware is held up at customs? What about when an innovative idea may have social implications that could be controversial with local populations? How can these proposed ventures think about building a business model that can scale both within and beyond Tunisian borders?

The finalist teams are listed below – check out the YouTube links to hear more about their ventures. Our time in Tunisia will be spent both continuing our work with these Tunisian entrepreneurs, as well as site visits to expand our understanding of doing business in the region. The trip promises to teach us more about topics ranging from artificial intelligence to consumer goods and introduce us to CBS alumni along the way!

Stay tuned for updates from our trip and from the Open Startup Tunisia pitch on Friday, January 18th!

Open Startup Tunisia Ventures

  • Athena-io: mixed reality for corporate training
  • Farcha: shoe insole generating heat from recyclable materials
  • Co-health: device to detect early stage cavities
  • Hapi: device to save and control water flow
  • Bechawet: application facilitating recycling
  • Tun-up: extraction of pepper seed to produce oil

 

Katie Tsantes is an MBA Candidate at Columbia Business School (’19).

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