Guest Post: Dr. Hemin Latif

Addressing Three Societal Misconceptions About Starting Your Own Business

University graduates have been dreaming, planning, and working for the day they graduate almost all their life. The day that they are ready to get that dream job and start a different chapter in life. Yet, sadly, they face the harsh reality of the economic crises that Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan are experiencing when they start looking for a job and cannot find one for month after month. Government employment is no longer an option as it used to be for decades. Private employment is getting more and more competitive and only few find positions that closely resemble their dream jobs. 

The solution then is starting something yourself. Something that puts your skills into great use, gives you the work experience that you have been looking for, and challenges your capabilities to know your strengths and weaknesses. Something like a business of your own so you do not have to apply for jobs and wait for interviews any more. But can you do it? Is it easy or is it impossible? 

I often encounter three misunderstandings about starting your own business among the youth that I get to meet and greet. I believe it is important that we clear up these misconceptions and make sure people have the right knowledge to be successful rather than jumping in blindly and failing harshly. So here are the clarifications:

1. A business is more than just an idea

Many people believe that they have a business just because they have an idea. They consider this idea their own, new, and marketable but have not made the time or effort to validate, develop, or even study it further. People can sit down and come up with ideas all the time. People can keep talking about an idea all the time. But not any idea can be considered a business.

Although I keep emphasizing the value of an innovative idea for starting a good business, it is very important to know that a business needs more than just an idea. A business needs an innovative idea, but one that can also be engineered, marketed, and scaled. More importantly a business needs someone who turns the idea into a sellable, scalable product or service. That is why we hear investors saying that they invest in the entrepreneur more than the idea.

2. Starting a business is not easy

I am with taking risks and being adventurous, especially when you are still young and your social responsibilities are limited, but I am totally against creating false hopes. If we believe that entrepreneurship is the future for a healthy economy for the region and country, then we need to bring in the right people into the system. We need people who have the right expectations and are well prepared to go through the journey. 

We know that starting a business is not easy. This is a reality and it is true all around the world. Having your own business has many advantages, but it comes at a cost that you must be prepared to invest. And by investment I do not mean only financial. You will have to invest your time, your energy, and sometimes even your social life. It is hard intellectually, emotionally, and physically. 

Yes, you will face many challenges, but that is all part of the experience. That is what differentiates you from your colleagues at a later date. It is your capability and willingness to overcome these challenges. And it is these challenges that make many people around you quit before they finish building a successful business. 

3. Starting your own business is not impossible
I believe some people are overemphasizing the excuses. Starting your own business is not easy, but it is not impossible either. There is clearly an ecosystem, including the entrepreneurship mentality that is building up slowly, thanks to advocates inside and outside of Kurdistan, educators, and entrepreneurs. The youth are more and more moving toward entrepreneurship and business startups. If you are in it for real, then you can make it.

There are now online platforms that provide a big help in finding resources, mentors, and connections. In addition to the more international platforms, Bite.Tech and MyeDream are focused on covering the ecosystem of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. There are many local business incubators to help you with your startup, for example FikraSpace, Science Lab, and more recently Five One Labs. There are many local events around entrepreneurship and business startups, for example the Social Innovation Hackathon and the Startup Weekend series. By simply getting involved you get a lot of help and support.

Unfortunately, we have all been experiencing the harsh economic realities of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan for quite a few years now regardless of our economic and professional status. Some might say government employees have been affected the most given their relatively low and limited income. Others might say contractors have been affected the most given their large investments and debts. None of these opinions are far from reality. But I believe the segment that is suffering from it most is the young, university graduates. Therefore, we need to help them. 

We need to educate them and lead them into a new ecosystem; an ecosystem where they can survive and thrive and where they can serve the future of the society’s economic stability and growth, an ecosystem of business startups and entrepreneurship.


About the Author

Dr. Hemin Latif is an educator, an administrator, and an entrepreneur. He holds a BSc in Civil Engineering, a BSc in Computing and Statistics, a Graduate Diploma in Computing and Informatics, and a Ph.D. in Interaction Design and Robotics. He is an Assistant Professor and Chair of the Department of Information Technology at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), the Founding Director of the Center for Informatics and Data Analytics (CIDA), and the co-founder of TeraTarget for Digital Intelligence and IT Innovations.

In his own words, he is a proud, an accomplished, and a happy person. He feels proud as an educator, accomplished as an Administrator, and Happy as an Entrepreneur. He is focused on IT Innovations & Entrepreneurship, Creative Coding & Computing, and Physical Computing & Robotics. He wonders if that is even considered "FOCUS"?