enpact is an international mentoring and market expansion program for startups. Given that our top level mentors and experts are mainly from the European entrepreneurship scenes, and our HQ is based out of Berlin, Germany, it soon became clear that our program already had a hook and a niche here in Jordan. German institutions have been here for over forty years, and Germany’s flagship University (the so-called German-Jordanian University) sends hundreds of students to gain professional experience in Germany every year. What’s more, on a monetary level, the Kingdom’s exports to Germany were valued at around JD 29.4 million, while its imports came in at a stunning JD 637 million in 2014!

our mentoring arrived in Jordan in 2015 and picked up a truly inspiring selection of fellows for its 2015 cohort

These were well-networked entrepreneurs working across Green Technology, Education, Health, Finance, IT, Food, and eCommerce sectors, and they became our biggest ambassadors. As our fellows made deeper connections with their mentors and with other startups across our six other regions; as they enjoyed visiting new places during our three international training camps; and as they importantly found success in their startups, their enthusiastic testimonials for the enpact program spoke loud enough to cover our small but growing track record in Jordan.

My work in Jordan started by attempting to understand the entrepreneurship ecosystem here, and through conversations with dozens of key players, learning what the barriers to mentoring were and how best to penetrate the ecosystem with enpact’s Unique Value Proposition – as an access channel to international expertise, trade and cooperation for local startups.

International influence here is strong – though sometimes bittersweet for many Jordanians – and mentoring is common in the corporate and entrepreneurship sectors particularly

That being said, the dynamics between an international project and Jordan are often uni-directional, and not flexible, innovative or iterative. Co-learning opportunities and non-hierarchical, horizontal (or “flat”) learning experiences are few and far between. Whereas, in contrast, enpact actively seeks to create peer-to-peer exchanges and cooperations at any level of our operation. Similarly, where mentoring in Jordan is usually informal, unstructured or internalised, enpact adds value by following a structured mentoring approach, which we publish on our website and regularly track, adapt and measure.

It is important to say that enpact is not the first mentoring program in Jordan – Endeavor and Mowgli Foundation are first to mind – but our target groups and our approaches vary just enough for all of us to happily exist alongside each other and learn from the mission we all share to support and scale Jordanian entrepreneurs.

In December 2015, we celebrated our fellows and partners at the 2015 Closing Ceremony

The ceremony took place in a beautiful local venue in Jabal LWeibdeh called Sakeyat Addaraweesh. Over 100 strategic, financial, community and media partners of enpact in Jordan were invited, representing multiple levels and sectors from finance to policy, mentoring and investment, private and public sector, arts and academia – and these contacts all came from about six months of very enjoyable and dedicated networking on my part. We were graced with Mr. Ralph Schröer, the Deputy Head of Mission for the German Cooperation, and our organisation’s co-founder and director, Mr. Sebastian Rubatscher. I closed the event with a very humbled note marveling at how impressively open, willing and committed Jordan has been to the enpact program; and I outlined our strategic vision for 2016.

Next year, we intend to engage more with private sector partners, to move into the research space with our Startup Meter, to engage with areas outside of Amman as well as with the student population, to bring more international attention and activities to Jordan, to work on providing more physical spaces for Jordanian startups, just like we have in the form of StartupHaus Tunis, and as always, to reinforce the importance of mentoring in all discussions around entrepreneurship and economy in the country and region.

Here’s to Jordan! Here’s to entrepreneurship! Here’s to 2016!

by Josiane Smith