What is Blackbox? What did we do there?

So we spent two weeks in Silicon Valley doing a program called BlackBox Connect. Blackbox is a two weeks program for top 16 international startups from around the world. Google for Entrepreneurs supported the program and basically Google covered all of our expenses during this program (flight tickets, stay, breakfast, lunch, dinner and transportation). So allow me to say thank you Google for taking good care of us.

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So again what’s the Blackbox program and how we get there? Blackbox connect is a 2 weeks program for non-US startups to learn from the best entrepreneurs, investors and startups how to build a scalable successful startup. They also bring high quality speakers to teach you how to make the move to the US and what does it takes to succeed over there. They also help you connect with the right people such as Lawyers, VC’s, Angel investors..etc. Whatever you need they have your back.

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The program was in a Bed & Breakfast place called Cowper Inn in Palo Alto, CA.

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It was an amazing place. Each entrepreneur had his own room, except for us. I was in the biggest room in the B&B with two other guys Andrew (South African and Co-founder of Weaver) and Jordan (French and co-founder of Sponseasy). I had the biggest bed in the whole place, they always accuse me that I paid Balckbox money to get this bed, but I swear I didn’t!

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 There was a problem in the room, the problem is….. me. I snore so loud that Andrew couldn’t sleep. Jordan didn’t mind, he is a heavy sleeper. Anyway I spent the first two nights sleeping in a couch in the reception until I bought earplugs for Andrew to sleep in peace.

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Wait what I was talking about!! Yeah Blackbox, so basically the program helps startups to think bigger and assist them to move or to expand to the US market. The program was for 2 weeks. Everyday we start at 11am until 7pm. They gave us the morning for ourselves so that we can work a bit and follow up on our startups before the program starts.  Breakfast is served at 8am till 10am, then lunch at 1pm to 2pm and dinner at 7pm. We had 3-4 speakers everyday covering different topics (Investment, legal, success stories, how they moved to the US, how to pitch your idea…etc).

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 The first week was very closely organized with Google, we had 3 speakers from Google (Kevin Rose, David Drummond and Mary Grove) during the week, in addition to visiting Google campus for a design session. The second week was exciting as well, we got to meet many startups from previous Blackbox programs that succeeded to make the move and raise money from Silicon Valley. (unfortunately we couldn’t take many photos inside Google building, they asked us to leave very quickly)

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The team behind the program was just marvelous, the kindest, smartest and most organized people I ever worked with. Fadi Bishara (yes he is Arabic, originally from Syria, and he started all of this) was an amazing guy that I really admire. Mackenzie, Sanita, Eugenia and Xavier were all amazing. They took care of us the whole time like their own family. I’m just amazed how Fadi could put such an amazing team, but you should know that this is his skill, putting great teams together.

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The startups and the people in the program were just astonishing. I swear if I had money, I would personally invest on at least half of them. I’ll do a separate post just to further talk about some of the startup and founders we met there.

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I forgot to mention how we got accepted. So each selected startup should be part of an incubator or accelerator (that it should be a partner with Google for Entrepreneurs) to be selected in the program. These accelerators should select 2-4 startups that they think they are the best in their own program. Then Blackbox will interview these startups and select one startup from each accelerator.

We (Fishfishme.com) get selected because we have been nominated by AstroLabs, the three days accelerator program that is built specifically for startups in the scaling phase. This is part of the Blackbox story, next post will be some videos while I was there.

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I’m back to startupQ8 ☺

I stopped writing in StartupQ8 during the last 9 months. Basically since I moved to Dubai!! I always felt bad about it, but I focused to write in Wamda so that a bigger audience can benefit from what I write. When I write in Wamda I always felt conscious of what I wrote. First of all, I know that people all over the Middle East will read it, so I spent lots of time to make it perfect (that means more work and less frequent posts). Second, when I write in Wamda I always felt that I not only represent myself, but Wamda as well, which put some pressure on me, so I can’t express my feelings freely. Moreover, I always write my articles like telling a story, that doesn’t always meet the standard at Wamda, so I need to change my writing style sometimes as well (even though Wamda always gave me freedom to write whatever I want).

I love writing in Wamda and I’ll continue writing there (if they allow me to do so), and I’ll never forget how they helped me in the early days of StartupQ8. Without them I wouldn’t have the courage to do the first startupQ8 event and would probably shutdown StartupQ8 blog long time ago.

Here are some articles I wrote in Wamda that you probably missed:

1- How leaving a comment can change your life

2- Why we moved to Dubai

3- Why we left Dubai: A story of Bahrani startup

4- How sharing your ideas can change the world

5- What’s your options moving to Dubai

6- The next payment technology is called Next Payment from Kuwait

7- What Fishfishme learned from raising their funding round

8- How a term-sheet should look like?

In short, I still love writing in Wamda, but I’ll start writing more often here in StartupQ8. So I’m back if anyone care (other than my sister).

I have so many things I want to share with you guys, below are some of the articles (and videos) I’m going to share in the next period:

1- What we did during our 2 weeks with BlackBox program in Silicon Valley

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2- How does Silicon Valley looks like?

Silicon Valley

3- What are the coolest startups we met at Blackbox? 

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4- What is Demo day? How was it?

DEmo Day

5- How was moving to Dubai going so far?

fishing in dubai

6- How did I pass the most stressful months in my life? (the first 4 months in Dubai)

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7- How did we hire our team in Dubai?

8- What is the cost living in Dubai these days? (BTW I’m almost broke as I write this article)

9-Why we decided to open an office in the US and how we are doing it?

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10-The real story behind raising our funding round and why we are so lucky?

Kuwaiti investors

12-What is SEO and why it’s the most important thing you never heard about it?

13-Offline vs online marketing for an online startup?

14-What everyday tools we use here at fishfishme?

 

And the list goes on and on. Now if you read this post, please leave a comment with the top 3 posts you want to hear about from the list above. I still not sure how I’m going to make enough time to write about all of these things, but I promise I’ll do my best to do so.

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