Week 3 in Dubai: Video Interview With Me!!

My friend Mohammed MJ suggested to do a video interview with me instead of the regular posts. I said OK, let’s give it a try. I realized I talk a lot, but Mohammed did a great job editing the video and make it look professional. Hope you like the video and thanks Mohammed for everything.

music by audionautix.com

Get Rich or Die Tryin: An introduction to Multi-Sided Platforms

As I wrote in an earlier post about Monday’s StartupQ8 Monthly Event, the phrase “multi-sided platforms” (or MSP’s) might  sound dense and technical. However, some of the most successful ventures to come out of Silicon Valley are MSP’s, and with good reason. But before we get into the “why”, let’s establish the “what”.

Rather than focusing on a single customer group, multi-sided platforms bring together two or more customer groups. This is not the same as having two or more customer segments. EBay has two customer groups (buyers and sellers), and many customer segments (companies, home businesses, individuals, etc.). It’s about having multiple uses for your platform, not multiple user types. To illustrate the point let’s compare a multi-sided platform to a reseller. For this example, we’ll use eBay and FYE.

Let’s say I want to buy the album Born to Run*. If I search for it in eBay, I’ll find something like this:

born to run - ebay

As you can see eBay isn’t selling me the album. I am using eBay as a platform to buy a product from someone else. Note that the seller is a “Top Rated Plus” seller and eBay offers “buyer protection”. These are measures of what is called “quality certification” that eBay does to help you in your purchase decision. Yet eBay is not ultimately responsible for the product’s quality.

When I search FYE, I’ll find this:

born to run - fye

I am buying Born to Run directly from FYE. They’re ultimately responsible for making sure the product is delivered and in good condition. It comes from their inventory.

So how do the business models of MSP’s differ from resellers? There are three key differences:

  • Resellers typically keep inventory. MSP’s don’t keep inventory, their sellers do. As such, the capital required for MSP’s is much lower, and the potential return on invested capital is much higher.
  • Resellers have more control over their profit margins. They get discounts on bulk orders and set their own prices. MSP’s have less control over their profit margins. They typically get a 5-10% margin on the transaction, but they also don’t lose as much if the product turns out to be low demand.
  • Resellers are responsible for the product they sell. They must ensure the product’s quality. MSP’s are a platform for sellers, so it’s the seller who is ultimately responsible for the product’s quality.

MSP’s are both extremely challenging and rewarding. It is very difficult for startups to successfully become the best platform for whatever product/service it wants to sell. However, once you’re established as the industry leader, it becomes very difficult for a newcomer to replace you. Think of all the successful examples of multi-sided platforms, such as eBay, Airbnb, Facebook and Google (the customer groups for the last two are users and advertisers). Once they’ve established themselves they’re hard to displace. While they got rich, many of their competitors died tryin.

If you’d like to learn more about creating multi-sided platforms, join us at the StartupQ8 Monthly Event this Monday, May 27th. Details and registration can be found here.

*Before you guys point it out: Yes, I later realized it would have made more sense to use the album “Get Rich or Die Tryin” as an example 🙂

The price you pay: A quick interview with the co-founder of Next Mobile Payments

We’ve had some insightful, fun interviews at our StartupQ8 Monthly Events. Next week’s event will be no different. We’ll be having a no holds barred, ask anything you want interview with Sayed AlMohri, co-founder of Next Mobile Payments, one of Kuwait’s hottest mobile startups. If you’ve ever used Next to pay for your meal or coffee, you’ll know how simple and friction-less the process is. If you haven’t, chances are you will soon.

logo

We did a quick Q&A to give you guys a flavor of what to expect at the event. Here’s what he had to say:

Give us the elevator pitch for Next Mobile Payments.. Go!

Next is a mobile payments system, it allows two parties to conduct payments without the need for any additional hardware, only smartphones with an internet connection. Plus, it’s a free app!

How has Next’s business model changed from its earliest days until now?

Next’s is continuously evolving its value proposition. One of the biggest contributions to our business users was the improvement done to our settlement process. We have successfully reduced the amount of settlement time from three business days (t+3) to the next business day (t+1). Basically, what ever you collect as a Next Business user in a 24 hour period, will be posted into your bank account the next business day, as simple as that!

Also, we are working on a huge new project that will make collecting payments for Next Business users even easier. We will announce it soon.

Walk us through the user experience.

The user experience can be divided to two main parts: Interface design and technological performance. The design started with series of sketches and digital iterations, to provide a simple yet pleasing interface. After that, we developed a deep sense of an intuitive, fast, and smooth payment experience. The locations of buttons, colors, and overall view designs are all done with extensive user-centered considerations. We believe we have done a magnificent job in the design side that delivers the best user experience.

As far as technology goes, we focus on improving the speed and performance of the system, with our aim being to significantly reduce the time for conducting a payment transaction. With the use of modern methods and the existence of valuable human resources at our hands, we have successfully built a system that is able to perform operations in a split second.

You’re presented with the classic chicken-and-egg problem all multi-sided platforms are faced with. How did you approach it?

Next is solving the chicken-and-egg problem by robust technology and intuitive design. For example, we designed the product to give the user an incredible experience that drives them to spread the word about Next. This way we get some free and organic growth. Likewise, we have seen many Next Business users promoting Next by themselves because they felt the need for it, and actually experienced its quality.

You can ask Sayed about his journey as an entrepreneur or his product strategy for Next. Join us for the StartupQ8 Monthly Event this Monday at 7:30 pm.

Next StartupQ8 Event: Monday the 27th of May

So, the focus for this month is Multi-Sided Platforms, and here’s the agenda for the event, to be held Monday May 27th at Global Tower:

Start at 7:30PM

7:30 – 8:10 What’s a Multi-sided platform? by Mijbel AlQattan

8:10 – 8:20 Mini-break

8:20 – 9:00 Interviewing with the founders of Next Mobile Payments – Sayed AlMohri

9:00 – 9:30    Networking

Ends 9:30PM

Click here to register.

We’ll be posting more information about multi-sided platforms and an interview with Sayed in the coming few days. In the meantime, why don’t you share the event with your friends?

StartupQ8 agenda

So this month in our StartupQ8 event, we are focusing on multi-sided platforms.

I thought the name sounded dense and technical. So I looked it up on Wikipedia, and multi-sided platforms are defined as “economic platforms having two distinct user groups that provide each other with network benefits”. Not much help.

But when you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that multi-sided platforms are everywhere. If a company has two distinct customer bases, and creates value by enabling them to interact, then it’s a multi-sided platform. For example, Facebook had to cater to users and advertisers, while Ebay had its buyers and sellers. It gets interesting when you consider how these companies have to grow one user base to attract the other.

PS: As always, the event will be in English.

PPS: For those who would like to pray, we’re arranging for Isha prayers to be held during the mini-break.

Week 2 in Dubai: My New Home is Called In5

As I promised in my 1st post about Dubai, I’ll talk in this post about the incubator that we were lucky enough to get accepted in, its called In5 (part of Dubai Internet City). In5 is an incubator that provides you with office space, mentorship, company registration and exposure to potential investors. In5 selects 10 Tech startups and supports them for a duration of 3 months. In5 doesn’t provide funding similar to Y Combinator and Tech Stars, but they also don’t take any equity. So yes they are an incubator and not an accelerator (I actually always confuse between the two, but you can find the best answer for the difference between an accelerator and an incubator here)

 

In5

Let’s dig deeper into details of the things they provide:

1-    Office:

So we get a nice villa (for work, not to live in it) which is supposed to be shared for the 10 startups.  It’s awesome, we have meeting rooms, a lounge (with 2 huge TV sets, PlayStation, an X-Box), a terrace and a free wifi connection. Check the photos below (the photos probably need some editing, but I’m sooo tired right now, so my apologies):

The office is not completely free, they still charge us 1,000AED per month (US$270), which is very good deal for us. The parking is still an issue, we have many universities next to us and you can’t find a parking. They promised to solve this issue and I’m sure they will do soon.

Playing room

2-    Company registration:

That was a major issue to us, registering a company is not that cheap. Usually it will cost you between 9,000AED to 15,000AED (US$2,500 to US$4,000) to register the company in Dubai Free Zone. But, with In5 we only need to pay 1,500AED. I didn’t finish registering the company, but it should pretty easy. I just need to sign the papers then open a bank account, transfer the minimum amount of capital (which is around US$13,500) and I should be done.

3-    Learning from other startups:

We are currently only two startups in the villa, us and doctorized.com.  I know that doctorized was part of In5 for a while now, and they are really doing an impressive job. I’m learning a lot from these guys, since they are offering a booking solution, but for doctors instead of boats. There are some other startups that I know that they got accepted, but didn’t move yet  (they are moving soon or already have other offices) www.travelervip.com/ and www.snapp.ae/.

 

4-    Mentors:

We didn’t get any mentors yet, but we know that we will have access to many great mentors and advisors. Dubai Internet City (or DIC) is the house for many huge tech companies such as Google, Oracle, Facebook, IBM and many others. Many of these companies are happy to help the small startup community and share their knowledge. So for this part we are still not sure who we will end up with.

5-    Funding:

As I said, In5 don’t give us money, however they’ll help us raise money. At the end of the 3 months program they will do a demo, so that all startups gets the chance to get on stage and pitch their company in front of investors (maybe around 20-30 investors).

You can still apply to In5 by visiting their website here.

That’s everything, see you all next week.

1st week in Dubai: What’s your cost moving to Dubai?

Ok so we made the decision to move our startup (fishfishme) to Dubai. First things need to get done is logistics. If you know me well then you’ll know that I don’t care much of how good my apartment, car or office looks like. I just want a place to sleep and a place to work (I spent 1 year in Hong Kong sleeping in the floor after finding that my bed is too short, and spend 4 months in Barcelona sleeping in a sofa!) Yet the apartment and office where two major concerns because they are extremely expensive in Dubai and a huge cash burner.

Office

So let’s start with the office, if you are a tech startup then you’ll have 4 options in my opinion:

1- Apply for an incubator like InFive or Seedstartup….(thats what I did, and was lucky to get accepted in In5, now I only need to pay 1000AED (270USD or 80KWD) for my office and 1,500AED (410USD) to register my company) – Note: More about In5 in my next post

In5 incubator

2- Work in coffee shop co-working spaces (Make Business Hub or The Pavilion )


3- Rent a small office (not recommended because it’s still expensive)
4- Work from home (never do this, you’ll feel depressed very soon, unless you have a swimming pool or something)

You really don’t need an office, unless you have 20 employees or something. I actually just met a Dutch guy that works in a startup that is based in the Netherlands that just raised X$ million, and opened their office in Dubai, yet they don’t really have an office, he was working in Make Business Hub during the last 6 weeks. So never rent an office in the early days (will talk about registering your company in a later post).

Apartment

Next, is your apartment. Well after knowing where you want to be close too (your office, your customers or the beach) then you need to decide on where you are going to stay. Of course you need to decide on your price range and type of apartment. Lets take my case, I was searching for a studio apartment with a cost range between 3,500- 5,000 AED (950 – 1,250 USD) for a two months lease. I wanted to rent it for a short period because of two reasons:
1- Jose and the rest of our Spanish team might join me later to Dubai so we’ll need a bigger apartment.
2- I’ll probably find better deal or a better place when I spend more time in Dubai and get tot know the area.

Ok, then you need to find the apartment, the good thing is you don’t really need to visit many websites or property agencies, you just need to go to Dubizzle.com, there you’ll find all listed apartments in Dubai. I ended up in an fully furnished apartment located in a huge residential complex called Discovery Gardens  paying 5,000AED (1,360 USD) for a two months lease. The apartment is very close to my office in Knowledge Village (12min), but a bit far from DownTown (20-25min to Burj Khalifa).

discovery_gardens

Maps

Transportation

Car, yes car was very important to me because I’m doing a lot of traveling, meeting new boat owners in different cities. So I ended up renting a Toyota Yaris from Hertz for 60AED per day (almost 16USD) adding the  insurance to this, I’m paying around 550USD per month.

Toyota-Yaris

To sum up, its costing me 2,180 USD (270 + 1,360 + 550 = 2,180 USD) (around 600 KD) just the cost of apartment, office and car. Adding to that my other expenses (phone bill, food, fuel…etc) thats another 700USD so all in all its costing me around $3,000USD/month to move down to Dubai!! Ok some of you are better than me and will find better ways to save money (staying with a friend, using public transportation and working in a coffee shops),  I’m just sharing with you my own story and maybe you can help me take our expenses even lower 🙂

Why I’m leaving Kuwait to Dubai?! And What’s Going to Happen to StartupQ8?

I’m writing this post sitting in the plane to Dubai. Many asked me why I’m leaving Kuwait? And why I had gave up that easily on startupQ8? And whats going to happen to StartupQ8?

dubai

Let’s take it a step by step. First of all, my movement from Kuwait to Dubai is a pure business decision. I moved to Dubai because my customers, suppliers and margins are much bigger there than in Kuwait. Simply said, it’s a bigger market and our gate to become international. Kuwait is a great a place to test your idea, but once you reach a Product Market Fit we believe its time to go after the big fish 🙂 That doesn’t apply for all type of startups (for heavy tech startups the location is unrelivant most of the time, for example do you really care that Google is based in the US or Hong Kong!)

Some will say, ok thats all sounds good, but why you gave up on the startup community and startupQ8 that easily? And what’s going to happen in the future? Well I didn’t really give up on trying to help in building a startup community in Kuwait, but its true that I’ll be much less involved. However, I think I prepared StartupQ8 very well for this moment. Since the beginning of StartupQ8 I believed that I couldn’t change things by myself and that I needed help to get things done. From the early days many should interest to help and I was happy to give them for responsibility and take the lead in many tasks and projects. These memebers were also involved in the decision making and I didn’t make major decisions without their blessing. Mijbel AlQattan, Abdulaziz AlLoghany, Mohammed Almeer, Burhan Khalid and Meshary AlOnaizy and many others are all probably working harder than me in StartupQ8 even when I was in Kuwait (from preparing the event to writing blog posts)
The beauty of StartupQ8 that there is no real leader, whoever show commitment and accept to take responsibility for one task or project, he will have the full control to do so and the rest of us will support him and give him feedback if something is not going so well.

Ok, so StartupQ8 will keep running like nothing has changed, but whats my new role in contributing? Good question, my new role will be on writing weekly posts about my experience setting up my business and life in Dubai, and also bridging the experience and network that I got there back to Kuwait. So that’s about everything, stay tune to the first post about moving to Dubai 🙂

Final reminder: Did you submit your competition entry?

We told you about our involvement with the ArabNet Digital Summit in Dubai in an earlier blog post. To summarize:

  • One lucky member of our community will win a free ticket to attend the summit.
  • The rest of the members of StartupQ8 will get a 20% discount on ArabNet Digital Summit tickets that can be applied to tickets in the Professional category.

If you’d like to attend the summit, here’s how you can take advantage:

  1. Make sure you’re a member of our mailing list. Become a member of our mailing list by clicking here and filling in your details.
  2. Send us an email (please include your full name). Let us know if you want to win the free ticket, want to register at the discount rate, or both.
  3. If you’re looking for the discount, you don’t need to do anything else.
  4. If you’re looking to win a free ticket, you have to complete one of the following sentences:
    1. “I LOVE being an entrepreneur because…”
    2. “I’m not an entrepreneur YET because…”
  5. We’ll choose one of your responses as the winner of the free ticket.

Here are the rules:

  • You have to be a StartupQ8 member.
  • You have to be based in Kuwait (we might ask you for a local phone number to verify this).
  • The competition is for a ticket to attend the conference only. You have to take care of your travel, lodging, etc.
  • ArabNet rules and policies for tickets and attendance apply. Check the conference website for details.
  • The deadline to submit your answer for the free ticket is Saturday May 11th at 17:59:59.

Good luck!

Got a Great Idea? Pitch it @ An “Innov-a-thon” event…

TURN8, a program launched by DP World, is an “Idea to Market” accelerator based in Dubai. I recently found out that they are inviting people to pitch their ideas at scheduled Innov-a-thon events or online!

For Schedule: http://www.turn8.co/portfolio/where-when-1/

I checked out their website and services and thought this might be interesting for our StartupQ8 community. If anyone does register and pitch please share with us your experience. Best of luck to all!

P.S. Speacial thanks to my friend Kaveh Gharib, @Kavelicious, who brought this to my attention.

Update: Turns out you can’t view the schedule and register because it is by invite only. Look at the selected dates below and if you’re a Startupq8 member and you’re interested  in any of these events let us know and we will email you an invite. Hopefully next time we will host one in Kuwait.

Innov-a-thon Schedule
Dubai, UAE – May 11
Amman, Jordan – May 13
Cairo, Egypt – May 14
San Francisco, CA – June 29
Dubai, UAE – July 27

Want a free ticket to ArabNet Digital Summit?

As we announced a week ago, the ArabNet Digital Summit is coming to Dubai June 24-26. ArabNet want to involve the Kuwaiti startup community in the event so they got in touch. We’re happy to announce the following:

  • One lucky member of our community will win a free ticket to attend the summit.
  • The rest of the members of StartupQ8 will get a 20% discount on ArabNet Digital Summit tickets:
    • This discount can be applied to tickets in the Professional category.
    • Note that the last day for early bird prices is May 12th.
    • Check the conference’s registration page for all the details.

Here’s how you can take advantage:

  1. Become a member of our mailing list by clicking here and filling in your details. This shouldn’t take more than 15 seconds.
  2. Send us an email (from the same email address you registered in Step 1). Make sure to include your full name. Let us know if you want to win the free ticket, want to register at the discount rate, or both.
  3. If you’re looking for the discount, you don’t need to do anything else. We’ll pass your details on to the folks at ArabNet and they’ll sort you out.
  4. If you’re looking to win a free ticket, you have to complete one of the following sentences:
    1. “I LOVE being an entrepreneur because…”
    2. “I’m not an entrepreneur YET because…”
  5. We’ll choose one of your responses as the winner of the winner.

The deadline to submit your answer for the free ticket is Saturday May 11th at 17:59:59.

Here are the rules:

  • You have to be a StartupQ8 member.
  • You have to be based in Kuwait (we might ask you for a local phone number to verify this).
  • The competition is for a ticket to attend the conference only. You have to take care of your travel, lodging, etc.
  • ArabNet rules and policies for tickets and attendance apply. Check the conference website for details.

Let us know if you have any questions.

Good luck!

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