Mexican Food and Entrepreneurship for Lunch in Dubai

Amy and I are spending the week in Dubai on the annual Wellesley Art Trip. I’ve been doing some of the art stuff, visited one of our LPs, and have been getting together with local entrepreneurs and investors.

Yesterday, I had a magnificent two and a half hour lunch with three guys from BECO Capital – Dany Farha, Amir Farha, and Sorusch Amiri. It started ten days ago with an email from Sorusch in response to a tweet I wrote asking for a recommendation of a book on the history of Dubai.

“More than 3 years ago, we had this brief email exchange and to this day I’m telling friends and colleagues what a kind and responsive person you are. Since then I ended up at a venture capital firm in Dubai called BECO Capital.

Now it turns out that you are visiting Dubai and looking for a history book. I may not have a good recommendation on that but we at BECO would love to tell you all about this city’s history in person because the family of our founders have been living and working here for four decades.

If you have the time, we would absolutely love to take you out for lunch. :)”

We met at my hotel at 11:30 and rode over to Tortuga. After a few days of Italian and Middle Eastern food I was desperate for some TexMex. Dany, Amir, and Sorusch indulged me.

They then spent the next two hours answering questions that I had about Dubai, its history, entrepreneurship in the region, and the geopolitical dynamics with other UAE states, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran. Each answer begat several more questions as a I wandered into a wonderful new area of discussion I knew almost nothing about.

Magically, in addition to English, we shared a common language – entrepreneurship. At some point, I realized I had a huge grin on my face as Dany was talking about his family history in Dubai and how his own entrepreneurial journey has unfolded. While we touched on plenty of specific investment-related things, what was most fascinating to me was the energy, inspiration, and forward looking vision around entrepreneurship embodied in Dany, Amir, and Sorusch.

The region is tightly connected. On Monday, I had breakfast with Fadi and Fares Ghandour who run Mena Venture Investments and are co-investors with us in littleBits. Dany spoke fondly of Fadi, especially of his success and generosity around the current new generation of VCs like the team at BECO. My philosophy of inclusiveness and #GiveFirst was front and center in this conversation, and Dany, Amir, and Sorusch felt deeply aligned with my approach to investing and company creation.

At the end of lunch, Dany gave me three books.

  • Rashid’s Legacy: The Genesis of the Maktoum Family and the History of Dubai (Graeme Wilson)
  • Poems From The Desert (Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum)
  • Those Were the Days: Journals of Dubai (Shahnaz Pakravan)

Without knowing it, Dany, Amir, and Sorusch gave me the gift that I most treasure – knowledge. I learned more in two hours about Dubai and entrepreneurship than I could any other way. I have a lasting gift of a hand selected set of books that I’ll use to learn more. I had two hours of intense conversation with three guys I expect I’ll have an ongoing relationship with. I have a new thread of inquiry into a part of the world I know very little about.

Most of all, I had yet another moment of reinforcement of the power and importance of entrepreneurship around the world.

Dany, Amir, and Sorusch – thank you for the time today. I hope to see each of you again soon.