Announcing this week’s Coffee Meetup + Scrum Talk

Everyone,

Just like last week, this week’s Coffee Meetup will be held at the VIVA Coded Academy. For you who aren’t familiar with our Coffee Meetups, they are a casual get-together for local entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts to meet, network, share ideas and collaborate over some good coffee.

This week, there’ll be a talk on Scrum Methodology following the meetup immediately (at the same place). The talk is part of the Google Developers Group weekly meetup.

We think this talk is a MUST for anyone who wants to start a tech startup or is currently involved in one! One of the biggest challenges startup founders face is how to best manage a software project. Often, founders make fatal management mistakes that kill their startups early.

Whether you’re a technical or non-technical founder, this talk will help you understand the principles of running a tech project, and avoid very critical mistakes.

The talk will cover “Scrum” management methodology. “Scrum” is an agile software development approach that greatly minimizes the risk of failure. It is a great framework for building and managing a startup team.

The talk will be presented by Hamad Mufleh, founder and CEO of YallaWain. He is a product designer and developer who’s been on all sides of software projects; as a client, manager, developer and ui/ux designer.

Details:

When: Wednesday, August 26.

Schedule:

7.15 pm- Coffee Meetup

7.45 pm- Scrum Talk

9.00 pm- Discussion, Network, and Pizza!

 

This is an open invitation. See you all there!

The 500Startups Army

We just finished 500Startups accelerator program. Demo day was great, but so stressful! I probably need 10 posts to write about the program, but I’ll focus on one thing today. Something that many people neglect to mention when talking about accelerators. It’s probably the most important element when selecting your program. The people running the accelerator program.

Everyone knows Dave McClure, but there are an army of more than 20 people working in a daily basis with the startups.

When we first started the program we got assigned to 2 POC’s (Point of Contacts), one for funding/strategy and the other for distribution (Marketing and sales). 500Startups team is a mix of entrepreneurs (Entrepreneurs in Residence EIR), marketers and investors. 500 team is split between Mountain View office and San Francisco office.

You’ll have the privilege to reach out to any of them to help you with your startup. You are not limited to your POC’s. The trick is to know what each one of is good at to go and get their advice. It took us a while to get to know them and thought to share what our batch (amazing batch#13, Mountain View Office) think of the strengths of each one of them.

So I did a survey and here is what our batch think of each team member (ok only 5 filled the survey, but still not a bad insight!):

 

1- Elizabeth Yin (Program Manager):

Elizabeth-new

Strengths:

Fundraising, personal advice and B2B sales.

Elizabeth went through a lot building her startup and she can really relate to our problems, pain and stress. She used to be a 500 startup then managed to build a company and sell it for millions. She is humble, sincere and intelligent.

Background:

Elizabeth was running the whole show, and she did excellent. She was the co-founder and CEO of LaunchBit.com, a 500startup company from batch#2 that got acquired.

Linkedin profile>>

 

2- Chris Nolet (EIR):

Chris-Headshot
Strengths:

Product, UX and founders well-being

I actually didn’t know that Chris is a product guy until I saw the survey responses! I should’ve met with him more often. What I know, is that Chris is like the nicest guy in the office.

Background:

Chris is one of the co-founders of App.io, a successful startup in San Francisco. App.io was also part of 500Startups batch#5. So Chris also knows what are you going through and how stressful life is for founders.

Chris Linkedin Profile>>

 

3- Robert Neivert (Venture Partner)

124704-medium_jpgStrengths:

Fundraising, strategy, pitching, sales and anything really!!

If there is one person I won’t mind to replace me as CEO is Robert. This man is just brilliant! Whatever you need help with he is there for you. And not only that, the answer he gives you is clear and logical. You can always feel from his answers that he has lots of experience and been through a lot. Check his background and you’ll know why.

Background:

Was the CEO of a couple of two venture backed startups. Moreover, was working in a venture capital company. In addition to that worked in operation, marketing and sales position. A super man advisor.

Rob Linkedin Profile>>

 

4- Poornima Vijayashanker (EIR):

avatar-539b7cb86b156a382dd295f1-250x250Strengths:

Growth and pushing you to do better (sometimes she even screams at you! But, that means she loves you)

Poornima is one of the hardest working advisors. She will give you the honest feedback that few will tell you, but she will also tell you how to improve. It’s exactly what you need after entering 500startups. You think your startup is awesome because you got into 500, she will bring you back to earth and you’ll start working your ass.

Background:

Poornima founded two successful startups BizeeBee and Femigineer. She also worked at Intuit and Mint.com. She knows the in and out’s of a building a successful startup.

Poornima Linkedin Profile>>

 

5- Tanya Soman (Principal):

tanyasomanStrengths:

Pitching and pitch decks  

I only worked with Tanya while preparing for my pitch. She spotted all of the mistakes in my slides right away even though I show them to 3 other advisors before her. Every pitch and pitch deck should go through Tanya, she will help make your pitch deck look perfect.

 

Background:

Coming from Social Media and sales background.

Tanya Linkedin Profile>>

 

6- Sean Percival

seanStrengths:

Marketing, Social Media, PR, connections and HAIR (lol I think I know who wrote this!)

 

Background:

From a janitor to a successful CEO. An extremely funny and smart guy. Background in marketing, getting media exposure and building startups.

Sean Linkedin Profile>>

 

7- Matt Ellsworth (Distro team):

matt-elStrengths:

Growth hacker, B2B marketing, web scraping, drip campaigns and super funny guy!

 

Background:

Matt is part of 500 Distribution team, his job is simply to grow the startups. Worked in sales and marketing with startups in the Bay Area. Matt is also a fantastic standup comedian.

Matt Linkedin Profile>>

 

8- Andrea Barrica (Venture Partner & EIR – SF Office):

avatar-54c19712fec38f0b0ca4bada-250x250Strengths:

Pitching, sales and intros

I never pitched to Andrea, but heard she was the best in how to improve your pitching style (voice, attitude, how to use your hands).

 

Background:

Well she is the co-founder of inDinero.com, a successful company which was part of Y Combinator and also funded by 500Startups. Worked in operation, sales and basically everything during the early days of inDinero.

Andrea Linkedin Profile>>

 

9- Susan Su (Distro Team):

avatar-53b206e250510cea47412f55-250x250Strengths:

Email Marketing and Content marketing

One of my favorite distro team. Susan is a big believer in email marketing, as she says “Email = Money”. I just wished we could spend time with her in the office.

Background:

She worked at Google, hi5 and AppSumo, working mostly on content and email marketing.

Susan Linkedin Profile>>

 

10- Richard Speakman (Office Manager):

richStrengths:

Well organized and our loving mom!

Try to leave a dirty dish in the sink, you are a dead person. Rich keeps things in order and without him sometime you find yourself without a desk (looking at you AJ)!

Background:

Worked in plenty of Silicon Valley startups in HR and administrative roles.

Rich Linkedin Profile>>

 

11- Christine Tsai

avatar-535fc1e1c21e3757256506c6-250x250Strengths:

Fundraising and intros to investors

 

Background:

Christine is a founder partner at 500 and the number 2 person after Dave McClure. Christine worked 7 years at Google as Product Marketing Manager.

Christine Linkedin Profile>>

 

12- Zafer Younes (Venture Partner – SF Office):

zafer-250x250Strengths:

Strategy, planning, fundraising and honesty

Zafer was my POC. Most of the big improvements in our startup during the program is because of this guy advice. It’s true it was problematic that he was in San Francisco office and I was in Mountain view (1.5hrs away by train + Uber), but in the few meetings we had we made some major decisions.

Background:

Zafer is famous for his company The Online Project. He built one of the earliest marketing agencies in the MENA region and very well. Zafer is one of the early tech entrepreneurs in the MENA.

Zafer Linkedin Profile>>

 

13- Mat Johnson (Head of Distro team):

avatar-53abc12baa7031353f006671-250x250Strengths:

SEO, Adwords, Email marketing and growth hacking in general

Mat was our Distro POC.. He helped us with rethinking many of our marketing strategies specially our SEO and email marketing. I wish we had more time to spend with him to dig deeper, but we already benefited a lot from his experience.

 

Background:

Mat is the head of 500 Distro team and also a partner at 500. Most of his background is on marketing and growth hacking. He did marketing for several companies and startups including his own company LeadGenCo.

Mat Linkedin Profile>>

 

Sorry if I missed anyone. If you have any questions about the program follow me on twitter @a_alshalabi or connect with me in Linkedin and shoot me your questions. Hey and don’t forget to follow our amazing startup @fishfishme.

 

Announcing Coffee Meetup + Basics of Digital Marketing Talk

This Wednesday, the StartupQ8 Coffee Club Meetup will take place at The VIVA Coded Academy, Kuwait’s first coding school. The meetup is a chance  for local entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts to meet, network, share ideas and collaborate.

This week, the Coffee Meetup will proceed a talk on the Basics of Digital Marketing by Abdulaziz BuKhamseen as part of the VIVA Coded Academy’s speaker of the week event.

Abdulaziz is the creator of Kuwaitiful.com, one of the top blogs in Kuwait. He has worked as head of digital marketing for payment startup Next Payment, and is currently handling major parts of online marketing for the Al-Babtain Group.

The talk will be most useful for those who want to understand how to best utilize paid online marketing via search engines and social networks. These basics are a must for anyone involved in a startup, so don’t miss it!

 

Here are the details:

When: Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Schedule:

7.15 pm- Coffee Club Meetup (More info here)

7.45 pm- Basics of Digital Marketing Talk (More info here)

9.15 pm- Networking and, of course, pizza!

Where: The VIVA Coded Academy in Al-Tjaria Tower 35th floor (Al-Soor Street, downtown Kuwait)

 

See you all there!

RECAP: StartupQ8 Monthly Event (August ’15)

Every month, StartupQ8 hosts two speakers from the startup world to talk to the Kuwaiti startup community about some of the lessons and experiences they’ve went through, and talk about the startup they’re currently working on. Last night, the event took place at The VIVA Coded Academy. The two speakers were Ali Abulhasan, co-founder of goTap, a new payment ecosystem for Kuwait, and Saleh Almusallam, co-founder of Prodesign IT, the makers of FanScan (Instagram based app that has over 3 million downloads).

The two topics of discussion were mirrored around how a technical founder deals with the business side of a startup (Saleh’s part), and how a business founder manages a technical project and a development team (Ali’s part).

Both speakers offered valuable insights on their respective approach. For Ali, he admitted having initial trouble bridging the gap between himself and his technical team. One of the ways he mitigated that was by educating himself on some of the fundamentals of software as related to his field (payments) in which he already had previous experience. The other way was for him to board on developers who had the right mindset for a Tap’s philosophy of focusing on user experience. Ali admits that he would love to have more developers on his team, but that a lack of coding talent has restricted him greatly in that sense (we hope our Coded students can solve that problem!). To combat that issue, he tries to work with freelancers who might have the potential and intention to become full-timers at Tap.

As for Saleh, he faced a different dilemma. Saleh is a technical founder, and has had experience launching a few applications and websites. In his talk, he discussed the importance of learning on how to stay “lean”. He warned that the biggest pitfall for a technical founder was not in disregarding the business side, but rather the need to perfect a product before launching. Saleh advised the audience that “done is better than perfect”, alluding to the importance of launching a product early to gain feedback and data on usability. As for dealing with the business side, Saleh is a believer in first making something people love, than backing that up with venture financing and a strong business model that comes naturally with the product. He did, however, warn against sticking to a single revenue stream or remaining inflexible when it comes to changing the business model.

 

Stay tuned for more of our monthly events to hear more from startup founders and entrepreneurs! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Instagram @startupq8

Announcing StartupQ8 Event for August 2015

We’re back! After a quiet summer we are organizing a couple of events for the startup community, and we’re hosting them in a new location (more below). This week’s event will try to answer two questions that many of you have been asking:

  • I have an idea for an app/website but don’t have technical skills. What do I do?
  • I’m coding an app/website but I don’t know if it is a good idea. What do I do?

The first subject will be addressed by Ali Abulhasan, co-founder of TAP Payments. He is currently managing a technical team that will roll out new features for TAP. The second subject will be addressed by Saleh Almusallam, founder of FanScan, which has been downloaded over a million times since its release.

The event will start on Tuesday August 11th at 7:30 PM. It will be held in collaboration with our friends at the VIVA Coded Academy in AlTijaria Tower, 35th floor. You can find the Google Map location here.

Here is the schedule:
7:30 – 7:35 Welcome
7:35 – 8:15 Managing software projects for non-technical founders
8:15 – 8:30 Networking break
8:30 – 9:10 Analyzing business feasibility for technical founders
9:10 – 9:30 Networking pizza

As always, the event will be in English and it is open to everyone (no need to register). Join our Meetup.com page for more details on our upcoming events.

See you there!

Internet Security and Tech Entrepreneurship talk by Dr. Yaser Alosefer

Everyone,

Instead of our usual weekly coffee meetup, we’d like you to join us for the following talk:

The VIVA Coded Academy is hosting Dr. Yaser Alosefer this week for a talk on Internet Security and tech entrepreneurship.

Yaser is the region’s foremost expert in Internet Security, holding a PhD in the subject from Cardiff University. He is also the founder and CEO of Musbah Technology (Riyadh), one of the region’s leading startups in innovation. He is also the co-founder of several other successful initiatives and business ventures.

The talk will cover topics on electronic wars, ethical hacking, secure coding and software development. Yaser will also touch on his experience as a startup founder and entrepreneur.

 

Here are the details:

 

When: Wednesday, August 5th. Doors open at 7.30 pm, talk will start at 8 pm.

Where: The VIVA Coded Academy HQ, Al-Tijaria Tower (35th floor), Kuwait City.

 

Yaser is here for a few days from Saudi, so it’ll be a great chance to meet him and hear his thoughts.

 

See you all there!

 

The Science of Passion: Finding Lasting Motivation for Entrepreneurs

This article appeared in Khaleejesque Magazine, SCIENCE Issue, published JULY, 2015. A PDF version can be found here. It is published on this blog with the consent of the author and magazine. All credits and copyrights are reserved to Khaleejesque, 2015. Click here to subscribe to Khaleejesque, or follow them on Instagram @Khaleejesque 

Author: Hashim Bahbahani

Print Artwork: Rami Juma

5 min read.

Consider the following experiment in psychology: a group of randomly selected students are asked to try two cups of coffee from two different coffee stands set up purposely by the experimenters. The cup of coffee is identical at both stands. However, Stand A sells only coffee, while Stand B sells both coffee and sandwiches. Stand A clearly advertises itself as a “coffee specialist”, while Stand B identifies itself as a “coffee and sandwich shop”. After tasting a cup of coffee from each store (and nothing else), the students are asked to rate the overall quality and taste of the coffee.

 

From a strictly rational perspective, there should be no discrepancy between the ratings, as both beverages are in fact identical. However, the results show that the students clearly thought that the cup of coffee from Stand A, the coffee specialty seller, was substantially better than the coffee from Stand B.

 

This experiment is a variation on several tests ran by prominent University of Chicago behavioral science professor Ayelet Fishbach to prove a theory she calls “Goal Dilution”. In short, Goal Dilution theory states that people are more likely to perceive something that does one thing, and only that thing, as better than something that does that same thing plus something else. This has been tried and proven time and again by Fishbach and her team.

 

Although Goal Dilution theory has mostly been used to explain consumer behavior and irrationality, I think it has an equally important application on self-motivation, especially for entrepreneurs.

 

We’ll get to that in due course.

 

One of the most important steps that many founders are afraid to take towards startup success is dedicating themselves to their business on a full-time basis (the optimal term being “full-time”).

 

Founders believe that full-time dedication to their startups is a matter of time management. However, I consider it a matter of mental and psychological dedication. Let’s go back to Goal Dilution and think of how it would apply in terms of self reflection for a dedicated startup founder versus a part-time startup founder. For the “full-timer”, he or she will perceive himself/ herself as a startup specialist in their relative field. They consider themselves a cup of coffee from Stand A. The “part-timers” are unlikely to hold themselves in the same esteem.

 

The point being that full-time dedication has an intangible psychological effect on how confident a founder is in his/ her ability to be successful. This is not conjecture, but rather a factual statistical likelihood.

 

That is the first part of the motivation puzzle.

 

Now consider the following question: is passion predisposed within us?

 

It is certainly the assumption people make when they give the advice “follow your passion”. As a startup founder, this was the main advice I received from mentors; and most people interested in entrepreneurship will hear it as well.

 

It’s very bad advice.

 

Georgetown University computer science professor and best-selling author Cal Newport puts forward the idea that no person is born with predisposed passion, and that passion is in fact conceived through effort and focus.

 

My interpretation of Newport’s idea is that passion is not something to be followed, but rather created. That is a fundamental distinction.

 

According to Newport, studies show that passion is created by believing you are especially good at one specific thing. It is a two part equation. The first part is related to self-perception, which is where the previous discussion of Goal Dilution and dedication becomes relevant. The more dedicated you are to something, the more passionate about it you will become; not the other way around.

 

The second part is related to actively developing an extraordinary skill set through effort and devotion. That effort is rewarded with consistent improvement, which pushes a person away from mediocrity and closer to excellence. The closer a person is to excellence in a certain activity, the more passion they will feel for said activity. That passion is translated into motivation to dedicate even greater effort, which leads to further improvement, and so on. That is the flow of the “passion cycle”.

 

In practical terms, this means that a prospective startup founder is better advised to empower themselves through education and training with the tools necessary for them to explore a market opportunity they believe is feasible, scalable, and attainable.

 

I like to think of the passion cycle as a massive boulder that requires a lot of grit and push to get it rolling, but once it does so it gathers unstoppable momentum.

 

That is part B of the motivation puzzle.

 

Finally, consider the following behavioral experiment: Three groups of students are given the same challenging cognitive tasks to perform. The only variable between the groups is the level of reward promised for completing the tasks (Group A will be rewarded highly, Group B moderately, and Group C the least). The rational model of economics will have us predict that Group A will perform best, followed by Group B, then C. But the results show the exact opposite. The group with the highest reward expectation performed worst, and the group with the lowest reward expectation performed best.

 

This is a stripped-down summary of a series of experiments done by Duke and MIT professor of behavioral economics Dan Ariely form which he concludes the following:

 

For highly cognitive tasks, monetary reward often has no effect or an adverse effect on performance. But applying meaning to the same tasks had a very positive effect on performance.

 

That is the key word: meaning.

 

While monetary reward should be taken into deep consideration, it cannot be treated as a factor of motivation. This notion doesn’t stem from a utopian portrayal of what startups are meant to achieve. Rather, attaching some underlying meaning to your business activity is a strategic decision that will reflect positively on performance.

 

Meaning doesn’t have to come from a grand objective. It can be something simple, but ultimately impactful. A videogame startup can strive to “immerse users in a different reality”; a media platform might aim to “provide an outlet for people’s creativity”; an e-commerce website could plan to “connect people to the things they love”.

 

A sense of mission is the most valuable intrinsic motivator for a startup founder, and it trumps any extrinsic reward. Once again, this is not conjecture. It is a fact of behavioral science.

 

That is the third and final piece of the puzzle.

 

It is undeniable that true motivation stems directly from a passionate pursuit of a goal.  But we have contextualized passion as an elusive holy grail to be searched for and, ultimately, stumbled upon by a lucky few. In this article I tried to challenge that fundamental assertion. It is my conviction, based on factual findings in psychology and behavioral science, that passion is created methodically, no matter how oxymoronic that may seem. Passion is a result of dedication to systematically and purposefully developing an extraordinary skill set in pursuit of accomplishing a meaningful mission through a type of venture. Such is the science of passion: demanding, systematic, and unconcerned with chance.

 

This article appeared in Khaleejesque Magazine, SCIENCE Issue, published JULY, 2015. A PDF version can be found here. It is published on this blog with the consent of the author and magazine. All credits and copyrights are reserved to Khaleejesque, 2015. Click here to subscribe to Khaleejesque, or follow them on Instagram @Khaleejesque 

REMINDER: The First Full-time Coding Bootcamp in Kuwait + Instructor Bio + Scholarships

Disclaimer: the author of this post is a co-founder of "Coded".

 

A few weeks ago, we posted an announcement about “Coded”, the first coding bootcamp in Kuwait started accepting applications for it’s summer full-time full-stack bootcamp. 

 

The program aims to take students with little to no coding background or Computer Science experience and turn them into junior level professional developers within 8 very intense week.

 

We meet a lot of ambitious people in Kuwait who have great ideas for startups but don’t have the technical background to execute on those ideas. If you’re one of those people, the Coded Bootcamp would be a great way for you to quickly acquire the basic technical skills you will need to either build the product yourself, or have a good enough understanding of the technical aspects to be able to communicate with a technical co-founder or team.

 

Coded recently announced that there are scholarship opportunities to fund the entire program fee for selected students. More scholarship opportunities will be added this coming week as well. So if you’re really interested in joining the program but the fees are too expensive, try to apply for a scholarship so you can join the bootcamp for free.

 

The instructor for the course comes directly from Coded’s affiliates in the US, Coding Campus. His name is Charles Stauffer. Charles is an enthusiastic software developer who has specialized in web applications. Charles has a wealth of experience working on both large and small teams. He also loves training students and new employees. Charles has a degree in Digital Animation & Computer Science from Brigham Young University. He has over 10 years of programming experience, and has notably worked as a PHP developer at Bluehost, one of the largest web hosting companies in the world. Charles’s specialty is in Python, JavaScript, and PHP.

 

Charles Stauffer- Instructor for Coded

Charles Stauffer- Instructor for Coded

 

The deadline for applying to Coded is July 10.

 

For more information and to apply visit http://www.joincoded.com

 

Good luck everyone!

 

 

 

Smart City App Hack – Dubai

Been a while since I wrote a post and I was supposed to write about more about my experience in 500Startups, but Mijbel suggested we do an event about that since I’ll be in Kuwait 2nd week of June (more about that later).

One of the most people I respect in Dubai and a person that helped us a lot during our 2 years journey in Dubai (Rekha Setpal) recommended that I post about a great event happening in Dubai. The event is called Decode Dubai Hackathon and it will held for 48- hours between 11-13 June (which is our office, so you might actually end up using my desk!!).  Ten winning teams will have an opportunity to get free mentorship and acceleration at in5 Innovation Centre and compete for the final awards in Barcelona during the Smart City Expo 2015 in November

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 1.59.33 AM

The five themes are:

1- Shopping

2- Tourism

3- Mobility

4- Energy

5- Collaborative city

For more info and to signup check below links:

http://dubai.smartcityapphack.com/

http://www.dic.ae/decodedubai/

A Khaleeji View on Work-Life Balance

This article appeared in Khaleejesque Magazine, WELL-BEING Issue, published May, 2015. A PDF copy of the article is available here. It is published on this blog with the consent of the author and magazine. All credits and copyrights are reserved to Khaleejesque, 2015. Click here to subscribe to Khaleejesque, or follow them on Instagram @Khaleejesque 

Author: Hashim Bahbahani

Print Artwork: Anjana Jain

5 min read.

 

From underneath the warmth of his blanket, Abdulrahman Al-Terkait, eyes half open, stretched out his arm to tap “snooze” on his smartphone screen to silence the incessant nagging of the alarm clock app. It was 4:07 a.m., which meant he was already seven minutes behind schedule.

 

By 4:30 a.m., Al-Terkait was in his car, driving on an empty street with the windows down in the hope that the chill of the brisk December air would awaken his senses. His usual cup of coffee (double cream, no sugar) awaited him in his newly opened breakfast diner, The Breakfast Club. By 4:45 a.m., he was at the doorstep of the restaurant. As soon as he opened the door, the clucking of the kitchen clutter crashed the short lived silence he had enjoyed so far.

 

For the next nine and a half hours, Al-Terkait would have time to sit down for a total of fifteen precious minutes (on a light day) before the final order came in at 2:30 p.m. A quick pop into the kitchen to help with the cleanup was the final task of the day, and by 5 pm or so, Al-Terkait was driving back home. A snack preceded the daily phone conference with his partners, which was seldom kept brief. Before it was even 7 in the evening, Al-Terkait was already lying in bed, his alarm clock set to 4:00 a.m.

 

Such is the typical day in the life of a startup founder: hectic, overwhelming, and uncompromising.

 

It appears that the sixteen hour work day has become the paraded mantra of successful entrepreneurs. Work hard, work smart, and work some more. An entrepreneur must not let superfluous luxuries such as relationships, hobbies, or even sleep obstruct the unremitting march towards success. In the startup ethos, a balance between life and work is a myth: unattainable, nonexistent.

 

It is a philosophy driven by pressure. The startup world, especially in technology, moves at a relentless pace. Everyone wants to be first to market, fastest growing, highest selling, most downloaded, most engaging, and so on. It is competition at its most ruthless; blink, and you might find yourself behind the pack and obsolete. The pressure never ceases to accumulate, and it pushes founders to sacrifice every aspect of their lives in the quest for success and validation.

 

But that philosophy is fundamentally flawed. The most common and yet most unaddressed reasons startups fail is founder burnout. Founding a business is a marathon, and working eighty hour weeks is ideal for a sprint, but detrimental in the long run. A quick glance at startupanonymous.com (a support community that allows founders to post and ask question anonymously) is sufficient to grasp how common the “burnout and crash” problem truly is in the global startup scene.

 

In the Khaleeji world, however, there is a natural remedy for this problem. Khaleeji culture places high value on participating in social events, sustaining close relationships with family and friends, and being part of the community. It is a culture unbefitting to host the 80 hour work week philosophy championed by Silicon Valley et al. But it is that aspect that makes the Gulf a healthier setting for both businesses and their founders.

 

This has proven to be the case for The Breakfast Club’s founders, the Al-Terkait brothers and Bader Al-Omar, who exemplify an almost perfectly struck balance between life and work. I caught up with Abdulrahman Al-Terakit at The Breakfast Club’s downtown branch a month after his wedding to find out how he and his partners have been able to arrive at work-life equilibrium while continuously growing their venture.

 

“Three years ago (December, 2011), we, the founders, were working fifteen hour days, from 4 in the morning to 7 at night. It was exhausting. We started going on long stretches without seeing family or friends, and our social lives were quickly diminishing,” began Al-Terkait. “We therefore set and executed a plan around hiring and delegating to create a structure that allowed us to retain control without compromising quality. Building that structure effectively is what has allowed us to balance work and life.”

 

According to Al-Terkait, the cornerstone of an operative delegation structure is a strong and “synergetic” partnership.  In the early days of a startup, founders (often without a partner) might be tempted to bite off more than they can chew in order to retain as much equity (defined as stake or share of the company) as possible. It is a common founder cognitive bias to overestimate the amount of work that can be accomplished during a single day, which is often the catalyst that gradually pushes the work-life scale in the “work” direction. Hence, the burnout cycle is initiated, and such founder will often end up owning a very large stake in a startup that has crashed towards a value of zero; in other words: a large ownership of nothing.

 

To avoid such seemingly inevitable fate, an entrepreneur is best advised to seek, at a very early stage, partners that offer valuable complementary skills and expertise. Beyond the business benefits of having a diverse and multitalented team, a well-delegated partnership allows each founder to avoid the pitfalls of over-working. And upon that partnership foundation, founders can build a structure that allows them to delegate more duties as the company expands. Hence, the burnout cycle is avoided, and the founders might end up owning a significant stake in a startup that is growing towards a substantial value. (For advice on choosing the right partners, I strongly recommend reading Noam Wasserman’s “The Founder’s Dilemma”.)

 

Back at my meeting at The Breakfast Club with Al-Terkait, I asked him what he thought of the sacrifice-all, work-around-the-clock entrepreneurial approach.

 

“Forget the unavoidable burnout, and let’s assume that there exists an entrepreneur who can work 18 hour days without ever tiring. Even in that case, I still maintain that failing to have a social life is detrimental to a business, especially in the Gulf.” He pushed his half full cup of cappuccino to the side and leaned in before continuing, “Khaleeji culture is all about tightly knit communities, where everyone knows everyone. That in itself is a fantastic marketing tool for any business. As such, a healthy and active social life can immensely help a founder publicize their business, and I doubt that there is a place in the world where that is truer than the GCC. But if a founder works 24/7 on a business, they’ll end up killing their social lives and ultimately sacrificing a powerful publicity tool.”

 

That opinion, however, is not entirely shared by Kuwait based technology entrepreneur Mohammed Faris, who believes that attending to the Khaleeji social lifestyle is incompatible with the level of dedication required to start a thriving technology venture.

 

Faris, who is currently the lead programmer at mobile payment startup Next Payments, comments, “At some point, for an entrepreneur, the strain and time commitments of having a social life (to the Khaleeji standard) start to outweigh any tangible business benefits. I fully agree that there needs to be ample time allocated to close friends and family, and perhaps some recreation. But beyond that, real sacrifices must be made.”

 

“In technology startups, you are live 24 hours a day. It’s different; there is no time when you are truly “off”.  Regardless of how much work is delegated, startups in certain fields require a relatively higher level of dedication,” continued Faris, “The problem here [in the Arabian Gulf] is that people want to start a tech startup while still going to “Diwaniyas” five nights a week. That lack of dedication is the main reasons technology startups fail here; not founder burnout.”

 

It is valid that Khaleeji culture does create a social environment that can act as tempting (and rational) distraction for entrepreneurs. On the other hand, through societal and familial pressure, our culture works hard to prevent entrepreneurs from dedicating every minute of their waking lives to their businesses, no matter how strongly those entrepreneurs believe it will help them. In reward, our culture has set itself perfectly to allow business owners to enjoy a healthy work-life balance that is ultimately beneficial to the owners personally and to the business itself.

 

It is an advantage of building a business in the Gulf that is often mistook for a hindrance.

 

This article appeared in Khaleejesque Magazine, WELL-BEING Issue, published May, 2015. A PDF copy of the article is available here. It is published on this blog with the consent of the author and magazine. All credits and copyrights are reserved to Khaleejesque, 2015. Click here to subscribe to Khaleejesque, or follow them on Instagram @Khaleejesque 

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