After a series of ventures he founded failed to gain traction, Ghassan Halawa finally found success with an innovative consulting firm that offers help and advice to budding entrepreneurs, Parachute16.
By Nada Atieh
Photography by Ala’a Al Sukhny
Ghassan Halawa’s Parachute16 is a consulting and edutainment company specializing in developing entrepreneurial ecosystems and innovation. It now works in communities in Jordan and the wider Middle East.
Before he founded the firm, Halawa spent a few years setting up a diverse array of businesses in other sectors, including education and real estate.
How did the idea of Parachute16 come about?
For three years, I ran two animation companies, as well as a student newspaper. They all eventually failed. I had no mentors or supporters, nor any money or resources. But I did have connections, knowledge in starting businesses, and passion. I went online and started researching about entrepreneurism in the Middle East. I found a video that said we needed consulting firms for entrepreneurship and innovation in the Middle East that support startups properly. In that moment, I realized I have the connections, knowledge and willingness to sacrifice to make that a reality. I realized I jumped with a parachute and hit the ground. You should have the skills, resources and network to open up your parachute when you jump. You need someone to help you and connect you to the right opportunities and resources to open your parachute.
What services do you offer and what distinguishes you from other consulting agencies?
Parachute16 is an agency that helps leaders become equipped, build innovation and entrepreneurship labs. We give startup entrepreneurs and NGOs their own “parachute,” metaphorically speaking. We work with more than 65 mentors and 50 consultants from business modeling, social media, online marketing and supply edutainment to help entrepreneurs, NGOs, and organizations build their skills through games, activities, and tools. We empower people who want to be entrepreneurs but don’t know where and how to develop their ideas and move from the design stage. We also help entrepreneurs who have already started to expand their operations through marketing. We built models to help NGOs and the private sector work with employers, attract youth and train them. We encourage companies to build an innovation and entrepreneurship culture within the company. For example, within Zain, we built an internal business incubator. That means Zain invested in its employees by training them in entrepreneurship and innovation. Employees come up with new product ideas, and Zain takes them into six months of incubation within the company. After that, they’ll invest in their employees’ ideas. One of our values is to create as many change makers as we can so we partner with NGOs and startups to build supportive communities and create events that bring NGOs, governments, and community leaders together.
How many entrepreneurs and companies have you worked with?
Parachute16 is a bootstrapping company, meaning the founder pays all the money and the company pays for its self. We have worked directly with more than 20,000 people across Jordan. We make money from innovation and entrepreneurship hubs, and from edutainment. For example, an NGO has a fund to build an innovation lab in Zarqaa. They come to us to build the model and pay the cost. That’s how we secure revenue. We don’t make money off of the startup services we offer. We have been through a very tough journey and know the opportunities do not come easily to startups and entrepreneurs, which is why we offer entrepreneurs investment sourcing and mentorship at no charge. Startups in Jordan are different from, say, startups in the Silicon Valley. In Jordan, until now, there is no round series A investments. That’s why if we say that we love what we do then we shouldn’t make money from this. Many business opportunities are being made here but we don’t charge for them. We give technical advice and prefer to create opportunities for other startups.