[symple_box] Idriss Benarafa is a political analyst and Editor-in-chief of The Moroccan Times. Follow @IdrissBenarafa
Frankfurt, Germany (TMT)- On the sidelines of Moroccan Startup Omniup Ads luring the “Best Woman Entrepreneur” of the year award in Lausanne, Switzerland, part of the prestigious startup competition for emerging markets Seedstars World, The Moroccan Times picked up the startup’s iron lady Loan Duong for an interview in the fascinating locals of the SwissTech Convention Center in Lausanne.
[symple_box color=”white”] The government has to build a real program for entrepreneurship. They have to make partnerships with big companies. The Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP) is doing already a great job when it comes to financing startups. I think that other big companies should come on board as well. [/symple_box]
The Moroccan Times: What is Omniup Ads all about?
Loan Duong: In one sentence, it would be “Internet Free in all public places in Morocco.” People will only have to watch a 10 seconds advertising video. Very simple idea, but in behind there is a strong and reliable technology. We have already big customers like Maroc Telecom, L’oreal, Coca Cola, etc. We already have made around US 500 000$ sales in 2015, our first year.
The Moroccan Times: As a self-made startup, How do you value the startup ecosystem in Morocco?
Loan Duong: It is still small. It still needs to grow. Some actors like Startup Your Life with Kenza Lahlou and Startup Maroc are doing tremendous work in this regard. Still, we need to really train and educate all entrepreneurs. Many do not know how they could take their statup to the next stage. A lot of startups are lacking visibility, vision, and training.
The Moroccan Times: This bring us to another question. As you may know, unemployment in Morocco is rocketing these days. A chunk of Moroccans, maybe a majority, think that it is the government’s role to provide them with jobs. Another chunk, a minority I guess, believe that they, as young people, are responsible for going out and creating their own startups, hiring people and systematically alleviating the issue of unemployment. Which line of reasoning do you subscribe to?
Loan Duong: I do subscribe to the second one. However, right now in Morocco there is not much structure to help you as a startup. The structure is currently in its embryo phase and that is a challenge. Right now there are a lot of people who are trying to get together and train the youth to foster their talent. We do find great talents, but you still have to dig for it yourself.
[symple_box color=”white”]Morocco is a fantastic country. I believe in Morocco. There is a lot of talents there. Let us do it together. [/symple_box]
The Moroccan Times: What kind of mechanisms do you think the Moroccan government should adopt to help startups?
Loan Duong: I can testify the following. We won the reward of “innovative startups” organized by the Center of Innovation of Morocco. It is a grant of only around 5000$. But imagine how this money can help you when you just start and try to break out of your egg shell to flap your wings for the first time. We won one year ago and we still did not receive anything from them. So first, before promising anything, they should stick to their commitment. I know this will change as I do perceive that some members of the government are willing to make a change. The government has to build a real program for entrepreneurship. They have to make partnerships with big companies. The Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP) is doing already a great job when it comes to financing startups. I think that other big companies should come on board as well. This leads me to say that one of the government’s roles is to build partnerships with Morocco’s big companies, those that have the means to help entrepreneurship. It is a top priority thing. The government has another job also, which is to look for the best mentors in Morocco and around the world and invite them to come to train our young entrepreneurs. I hope that tomorrow, we won’t have just 5 or 6 successful startups in Morocco, rather thousands of them. Morocco is a fantastic country. I believe in Morocco. There is a lot of talents there. Let us do it together.
[symple_box color=”white”]We have already big customers like Maroc Telecom, L’oreal, Coca Cola, etc. We already have made around 500 000 U.S. dollars sales in 2015, our first year. [/symple_box]
The Moroccan Times: You may be right now the first Moroccan woman to win such a great prize, “Best Woman Entrepreneur” in Emerging markets, especially taking into consideration the notoriousness and credibility of Seedstars World. Do you look forward to be an inspiration for many Moroccan women to come out and start their own businesses?
Loan Duong: I have to say that I am very very proud to win this prize. I sincerly hope that in one day I’ll be Moroccan. I am really attached to Morocco. I am very emotional right now. I am talking to you with my heart. Morocco means a lot to me. There is indeed a lot of things to do for Morocco and a lot of opportunities for Moroccan women in entrepreneurship.
The Moroccan Times: We know that there is a lot of bureaucracy in Morocco when it comes to handing the Moroccan citizenship. We hope that this amazing prize will trigger the authorities to grant you as quickly as possible the Moroccan citizenship.
Loan Duong (with a large smile): I really hope so.
The Moroccan Times: Thank you for you time. We wish you all the best in the future.
Loan Duong: My pleasure. Thank you very much.