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Tunisian adventure

Posted by Sean on 17 December 2006

Img_0830_3I’ve just come back from my trip to Tunisia, which you may have read about in my last posting. The trip was excellent, and really exceeded my expectations. Ashley (fellow researcher and classmate) and I dragged ourselves out of bed at 5am after the Santa Claus Pub Crawl to make it to the only direct flight from London to Tunis on the 10th. It wasn’t easy but what we encountered was worth the early morning pain. The dreadfully early flight time at least allowed us to use the afternoon for some touristy things in the area. After we arrived, we spent the rest of the day with a private taxi driver going to all of the sites in nearby Carthage. It was pretty cool to see civilization dating back thousands of years.

We had a full agenda lined up for the week, and got started with our research at 8am on Monday. On Monday we visited with one of the largest Private Equity firms operating in North Africa. They told us about their business, the challenges that they faced in the region, and their plans for growth. They were one of the pioneers of the market when they started in 1994 and have seen it evolve tremendously since then. After that quick meeting, we hit the road to check out some of their portfolio companies. First, we saw a company manufacturing computers intended to be affordable for the average Tunisian household. Their entry level computer package runs for TND 700, which is about £280, and affordable for the country’s large and well-educated middle class. After that we hit the road to Sousse, for a visit to a mattress manufacturer.

Our second day was even more of a whirlwind. We met with a seed stage venture capitalist named Alaya, who has an amazing level of energy and passion for entrepreneurship in Tunisia. He shuttled us quickly from company to company (6 different companies in one day), and enthralled us with stories of his life’s work of developing Tunisia through funding new businesses. If you’re an entrepreneur, and interested in launching your business in Tunisia, let me know and I will get you in touch with this great man.

On Wednesday we spent more time visiting companies, and interviewing firms. We were able to get some free time in the afternoon and went to the old central Medina in Tunis to visit the Suuq, a traditional market for Tunisian wares. Ashley and I practiced our negotiation skills and came away with some good deals on interesting Christmas gifts for our family and friends. Here's a picture of Ashley in the suuq. Look out vendors.Img_0976_one_way

Overall, we had a wonderful trip. It is always fascinating to step into a totally different culture. I was completely amazed by the accommodating nature of the Tunisian people. Everyone we met went out of their way to welcome us to their country. We were hosted like old friends, taken out to dinners and shown local treasures. Now we need to work on the sponsors to let us check out the Venture Capital market in West Africa… Stay tuned.

Comments

Hi Sean, I've been reading your posts and enjoying them! I am applying to LBS this year, and it looks like we have a similar passion: Brand management.

I'd love to hear about some resources that you use at LBS in the area of Brand Management (clubs, speaker series, trips, etc.) I've found a lot of good resources for marketing, and was curious if there were any specifically related to Brand Management. Any thoughts you might have would be very helpful.
Thanks!

Josh

Hi Sean,

I enjoyed reading your blog as I'm trying to get a feel for LBS from NYC. I'm applying in the next round.

A dear friend is a freelance journalist in Dakar. I wonder if she could help you before/ during your visit to West Africa? If nothing else it can be nice to have a friendly contact when exploring new territories.

If you're interested, send me an email and I'll put you in touch.

Best wishes,
Jennie Zeiner

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