Next StartupQ8 Event: Monday September 2

After a short summer break, we’re happy to announce resuming our monthly event series for tech entrepreneurs in Kuwait.

Our next event’s theme is “Finding Your First Customers”, and will be on Monday, September 2. Our speaker is Q8Software’s Mohammed AlMeer, who will discuss the customer discovery process for startups. We’re also excited to interview Mohammed Salem Korayem, an Egyptian entrepreneur who has launched multiple startups in Egypt.

Here’s this month’s schedule (note the start time):

8:00 – 8:30 Discovering your first customers: Finding the first customers for your website/app is a challenge. In this talk, Mohammed AlMeer explains the Customer Discovery process for startups.
8:30 – 8:45 Mini-break
8:45 – 9:15 An interview with an entrepreneur: This month, we will interview Egyptian serial entrepreneur Mohammed Salem Korayem, who will discuss his experiences building startups in Egypt.
9:15 – 9:45 Networking

As always, the event will be in English. RSVP on our or event.

See you there!

Want To Build A Popular App? Focus On The User Experience

Web (and mobile) development is often split into 2 parts: design and development. Design is about how the site or app looks, and development is how it works. But this common misconception has led to a dreadful pile of products that are business failures, and a pain to use.Why?

In this article I’d like to familiarize you with (if not introduce to you) the field of User Experience (UX) Design, which helps anyone looking to build a site or app exponentially improve their chances for success.

Think User, Not Product

The idea that the only two roles in app development are design and development is an extremely product-centered attitude, where the goal is to create a functional app that looks nice, while overlooking the fact that all apps should be built to serve their users.

We do not use apps because they happen to exist, or we’re eager to make Apple wealthier (unless you’re a hardcore Apple fanboy, in which case that’s probably the case). Think of every app you’ve installed on your smartphone of choice, and you will realize that there are specific problems each app solves, or needs it satisfies, or feelings it evokes. We’re after the feelings and solutions, not the app itself. We want to do things (communicate with family, share photos with friends, book cinema tickets, etc), and apps are a convenient tool to achieve these outcomes.

As the old marketing adage goes: people want to buy the hole in the wall, not the drill you’re selling.

User Centered DesignUser experience follows a user-centered approach that makes your target user the focus of your design, development, and decision-making, so that the product you’re building is designed with real-world problems to solve and needs to satisfy.

If the field of user experience design still seems vague to you, you’re not alone. So let’s have a look at some basic principles and practices of user experience design, which you can hopefully apply to a current or future project.

User Experience Basics

The first mental shift you need to make in order to build a user-friendly app is to focus on the user, not the app. Think of a specific kind of user, with specific needs. A student looking for a high school math tutor, or a father looking to book cinema tickets for his family. In UX design, the type of user is referred to as a User Persona that can represent many individuals with shared needs and interests. A “Student” persona doesn’t refer to any one student, but all students.

Your app may serve different kinds of users. In that case you have to identify all the personas you would like your app to serve. Once you identify who your users are, you can move on to consider their needs. Developers tend to think of these as features of the product, but UX designers like to think of them as Use Cases that not only identify what the user can do, but also the context in which the action is taken.

For example, “search for a movie” is a very likely action a user would want to take when booking cinema tickets. But you can also take into consideration the location of the user, and prioritize search results based on cinemas nearest to him, or even categorize the movies by genre (such as Action, Drama, Children’s, etc) if the user is looking for a type of movie, and not a particular movie by name. Use Cases are scenarios of what a user might like to do with your app, and they give much more clarity about how the app will be used than a basic list of features to develop.

With a list of User Personas and Use Cases, you can begin to sketch:

  • What each screen of the app will look like (this is called User Interface Design)
  • What sequence of steps the user will go through to perform the desired action (the Interaction Design)

Good interfaces are clean and simple. Good interactions are short and sweet.

You don’t want your user to stare at 10 buttons he can press on the screen (because that’s confusing and overwhelming), and neither do you want him to go through 10 different screens to perform a single action. Considering the design of apps you enjoy using is a great start, especially if you’re not too familiar with UX principles just yet.While business folk don’t like to admit this, but they often make loads of assumptions about what their users want, rather than go through the trouble of asking them. Since UX prioritizes user satisfaction over business assumptions, it stresses on the need to involve potential users in the development process. There are a variety of ways to do this, each with its own pros and cons. Surveys and discussion groups are common, and can be extremely helpful at the beginning of a project. User Testing – where you observe a user fiddling with a prototype of your app – offers invaluable insights into user expectations and assumptions, which can help refine the app’s design. Seeing a user roll his thumb in search of a button to press is enormously beneficial to realize what his need is in the screen he’s on.

There’s a whole lot more to UX design than what I’ve covered in this article. But by simply introducing User Personas, Use Cases and User Testing in your development workflow you will begin to experience a great deal of clarity, and can serve your users better, so that they’re more likely to continue to use your app and tell their friends about it.

For a more comprehensive primer on UX design that will offer dozens of practical tips you can apply to your own projects, register for Haider’s upcoming webinar: User Experience 101, which will be delivered on Sunday 25 August 2013.


Year in Review of Tech Startups Activity in the ME – Video

I received this cool video about the startups and VC activity in the region from StartAppz (a startup accelerator focused on Mobile Apps). Check out the video and if you are a mobile startup then you defiantly should consider StartAppz:

My Story with the Uruguayan President, that you probably missed

You probably missed my post in Wamda about a story that happened to me when I was doing my internship with Endeavor Uruguay. I spent  2 months there during summer 2011 (which was actually winter over there), yet I learned a lot from my experience and met many interesting people over there. During my stay there I decided to send the Uruguayan president a letter to start a relationship between Kuwait and Uruguay. Check the letter below and read the full post to learn what happened.

Click on the link if you had trouble viewing  the letter (A letter to the president)

My Uruguayan friends and colleagues wearing Dishdasha

Jose Mujica

The Kuwaiti diplomats meeting the president in Montevideo, Uruguay

Below is part of my Wamda post, you can read the full post here.

“In the summer of 2011, I did a two-month internship with Endeavor Uruguay. I really loved my experience there, especially the people and the fact that Uruguay won the Copa America football tournament while I was there. To my surprise, however, Kuwait doesn’t have an embassy in Uruguay; the two countries don’t have any kind of diplomatic relationship. But during my time there, I realized that the infrastructure of the….Read the full post here

Entrepreneurs Never Lose

Warning: This post is written one shot without any modification, while using my mobile and lying in my bed. Do please excuse the errors, grammar and if the post doesn’t make any sense to you.

Its funny how technology changes things without us noticing. Close your eyes and imagine the following (wait you can’t read with closed eyes, forget it, open them again) imagine you are in 2000 and your friend comes to you and say “this cool guy called Jack Dorsey followed me today, so I followed him back” What the heck!!! Why he was following you in the first place! And why you are so happy about it! Yet this conversation is so normal these days even when you talk to your grandmother.

I was talking with a guy today, he is totally not into tech, he hates social so much that he think there is an opportunity to do a social network for these that hate social network just to hate social networks together (I hope you followed). We where talking about him leaving his job and what options he have, knowing that he is married with a young daughter. Of course I was trying to convince him to do a startup. He have a great idea, but of course he is worried to do such a risky step.

That took us to another discussion, which is how technology is eliminating many jobs and creating new jobs that didn’t exist before. These new jobs require skills that you can’t actually learn at school. Like dealing with social networks, Native Marketing, building Apps, designing a User Experience and User Interface (AKA UX/UI), payment gateways, blogging, user generated content, infographs, SEO, viral marketing and the list goes on and on. Almost all businesses these days involve these elements. And guess what, in the next five years they will just get more and more important.

Being involved in the hiring mode during the last couple of months I realized how scarce is to find someone that did these things before, someone that really knows what he is doing because he did it before and in a successful way. Everyday we learn new stuff at fishfishme because we need to do so to survive, we do mew things that sucks and some other things that pay of. But we keep doing and learning. The amount of knowledge we gain is beyond what we studied at school, college, MBA or CFA.

Everyday I realize more and more how difficult it is to become an entrepreneur. I used to think I knew a lot and I’m ready for this, and everyday I discover new things that scare me of and let go back to my mentors seeking their advice and guidance.

Building a startup is probably the most difficult thing in the world, the things you are going to learn during your journey will be so valuable both for you in your next startup or for your next job. If you succeed then great you are a millionaire. If not, then congratulation, there are tons of companies waiting to hire you. Both ways you win!

How Company Culture Can Take Your Startup To New Heights

You’ve heard it a million times: a good company culture is key to the success of a startup. But what does that even mean? Sure, the free snacks, ping pong tables, and company-sponsored kickball teams are a nice perk, but is that the main benefit of a startup culture? I’m going to argue no, but feel free to challenge me on that at the end of this.

Company Culture Defined

Lets start by defining company culture. I’ve seen many people try to define company culture, but the best definition I have seen is from Entrepreneur magazine and it states that “company culture is a blend of the values, beliefs, taboos, symbols, rituals, and myths that a company develops over time.” Put plainly, its how the people at a company think, act, and feel.

Sure the perks are nice, but what if company culture led to something bigger? What if a great company culture helped people solve big problems? I work at a startup where this is happening every day. FindTheBest is a Santa Barbara Internet startup that equips people with the best information and research tools to enable people to think like experts and make confident decisions. We have the tangible perks of free snacks, ping pong tables, and cross fit at lunch, but the intangible perks are much bigger. The fact that our team is able to work together to solve big problems is the greatest aspect of our company culture.

Company Culture Helps People Solve Big Problems

Our team members are always ready to test, fail, learn, test, fail, learn, test, succeed, scale. In order to go through this process as efficiently and effectively as possible, our team works together at every step of the process. Every single day, people talk to people from other teams. The product team talks to business development who talks to marketing who talks to engineering. At FindTheBest, we sit in one big open room – there are no desks, and no barriers to finding whoever it is that you want to talk to. This physically open culture is just one of the ways that we facilitate our team members to be open with each other and collaborate on a regular basis.

If you want your startup to have a highly collaborative culture, you have to start at the beginning and hire people that are willing to collaborate and have a proven track record of success. You want to look at what university they went to and what they were involved in while they were there. You want to look at what companies they have worked at in the past and what success they have had there. It’s easy to think that people will adapt to the culture once they arrive, but that isn’t always the case, so take time when hiring new team members and make sure you find the best fit for your organization.

A good company culture is important on many fronts. It keeps your employees happy, attracts potential hires, and helps solve big problems. It’s important to remember that it’s not all about the free snacks and game tables. It’s about creating a company culture that facilitates open communication and collaboration.

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