3 Lessons Startups Can Learn From the World Cup

One of the most exciting World Cups in recent memory came to a conclusion earlier this week. Here are three lessons startups can take from the biggest tournament in the world:


Lesson One: Teams, not star individuals, create success

The 2014 World Cup showcased a stark contrast between teams that played as a cohesive unit, and teams that were built around a superstar player (Neymar’s Brazil, Ronaldo’s Portugal, Messi’s Argentina). When Germany won the tournament, there was a consensus that the Germans played as a well-orchestrated team that was organized, disciplined, and gelled to perfection. Germany did not have a superstar player. What they did have was a team with complementary skills that highlighted their strengths and overshadowed any weakness.

From afar, successful startups might look like they were the magnificent work of an individual or two. We idolize the Brins, Pages, Jobses, Gateses, Zuckerbergs, and Musks of the startup universe. But in truth, any founder of a successful company would tell you that the founding team is the single most crucial factor in the success of a company. A founder could be a genius computer scientist, or a seasoned entrepreneur, or a remarkable businessman. But that won’t matter if that founder doesn’t have a team around him/ her that are on the same wave length; that share one vision, communicate effectively, and, most importantly, have attributes and skills that complement each other. That sort of team is formidable and, with the right leadership, is destined for success. (Recommended reading: The Founder’s Dilemma, by Noam Wasserman)


Lesson Two: Being the underdog can be your biggest advantage

This tournament provided several underdog stories in which “minnow” teams knocked out “bigger” teams. The most incredible fairy-tale run was that of Costa Rica. Costa Rica were put in a group that included three previous World Cup winners who were expected to battle for first and second in the group while lowly Costa Rica fulfilled its role as the proverbial punching bag. But that wasn’t the case. Costa Rica won the Group outright without a single loss, beat Greece in the Round of 16, and lost in a very close quarter final to the Netherlands on penalties.

Like any underdog, Costa Rica had nothing to lose, and they played liked it. They were not afraid to take the game to the bigger teams, and played without any nerves.

Any startup, by definition, is an underdog. A startup is small, but flexible. It has minimal financing, but nothing to lose. It doesn’t have thousands of employees, but has a dedicated team with heart. Every successful startup realized that they were “Davids” that had to hustle (and hustle) below the radar before knocking out the “Goliaths” of industry. Goliath, remember, never saw that slingshot coming. (Recommended reading: David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell)


Lesson Three: If it isn’t working, make a change

It was the 76’th minute of the quarter final. Holland were trailing 1-0 to Mexico, and unable to create any real chances. The Dutch were running out of ideas and seemed incapable of penetrating the Mexican defense. Then Holland’s Manager, Van Gaal, makes a change by taking off his star striker, Van Persie, and bringing on young striker Klaas Huntelaar. It was move that baffled pundits and fans. But immediately, Huntelaar’s different style of play caused Mexico huge problems. That change allowed Holland to play with different tactics and have a more potent attacking threat; and it paid off. The Dutch side scored twice in 5 minutes to win 2-1 (the winning goal in the very last minute scored by, you guessed it, Huntelaar).

There are numerous other examples in this World Cup of managers making bold changes to great success. For a startup, this equates to iterations or pivots. Most startups have to go through a journey of evolution before finding product-market fit. But that journey will only commence once the founders are willing to make significant and fundamental changes if their concept fails to generate any real demand from customers. A smart startup tries to learn the weaknesses and strengths of its value proposition, and initiates changes that play towards those strengths.



Interview with the SEO Expert

As promised, this is an interview with one of the SEO experts, Ian from Caliber. We’ve been working with Caliber for more than 4 months now and I must say they are very professional. We got introduced to them by one of our advisors, he tried more than 3 agencies and he said they are the best. I believe they are.

Below is my interview with Ian Humphreys, regional director of Caliber. Caliber specializes in SEO and has an office in Dubai.



Tell us a bit about Caliber?

Caliber is an organic marketing agency with offices in Dubai, London and Edinburgh. We work with some of the world’s biggest brands including Tesco, Orbitz, Expedia, Thomson Airways and Ticketmaster. We’ve worked in MENA for several years with brands such as HSBC and the American University of Sharjah. I started working with Caliber in 2010 as a copywriter and later led the creative department out of our Edinburgh office. I moved to Dubai in 2013 to co-found our MENA office.

What is SEO?

SEO, or search engine optimization, is a marketing activity focused upon ensuring that your target audience discovers your business through natural search listings (i.e. not paid ads). This breaks down into two activities:

a. Creating content that will be shared, linked to and read by internet users

b. Ensuring your website provides a good user experience and demonstrates that to search engines Businesses need to execute both of these activities in order to increase the amount of conversions (sales, leads etc.) they generate through the internet.

Why is SEO important?

Every day in MENA there are over 100 million Google searches. And in Kuwait there are 2.7 million internet users, 930,000 of whom transact online. Millions of consumers use the internet to search for products and purchase them. If your website does not rank well for commonly searched terms, you are losing the opportunity to engage with a whole group of customers. Any company with a website needs to invest in SEO to engage this digitally savvy audience. Otherwise you are ignoring an incredibly powerful modern marketing tool.

What are three most important things businesses can do to improve their SEO?

The three most important things to boost your organic traffic (via SEO) are:

1. Invest in quality content. Search engines and customers love high quality content, especially copy

2. Ensure your site is well optimized technically and has been audited by a top- class technical SEO team

3. Invest in online marketing that will get people talking about your brand and linking to it from their own websites


What are three common mistakes people make in SEO?

It’s very easy to go wrong in SEO. Though the basic principles are simple, the means of executing them are complex and best practice changes quickly as search engines evolve.

The three most common mistakes are:

1. Signing up with one of the many bargain basement SEO companies. These agencies often guarantee results by pointing a mass of links from low- quality websites at your domain. This leads to short-term results but can irrevocably poison your site. These companies are cheap, but you’re ultimately paying them to burn down your website.

2. Duplicate content.

Many websites have hundreds (or even thousands) of pages that display the exact same content—this is a negative signal to search engines and can make you vulnerable to penalties via Google algorithm updates such as the Panda update.

The Panda update is an algorithmic change designed to penalize websites that offer little unique content.

3. Assuming developers know how to execute SEO. Developers and SEOs speak the same language but they are different disciplines. We consistently turn up issues that slip past developers, yet cripple a company’s efforts to attract traffic via organic search.

Why SEO is so difficult? Do you need a professional to do it?

If you adopt the wrong course of action you can create enormous, irreparable problems. This is compounded as SEO is constantly evolving, so you need to understand how the landscape has changed and in which direction search engines are evolving. Unless you are a specialist you’ll need to hire a professional. It’s too easy to make a simple error that can cripple your website.

How can you know a good SEO advisor/company from a bad one?

Transparency is crucial in the world of SEO. If an SEO company guarantees you results but doesn’t tell you how they will achieve them, run the other way. No one can truly ensure specific outcomes, and agencies should be honest about the tactics they are going to use to boost your performance. Also be sure to investigate what type of companies your advisor/agency works with. Good companies tend to work with global brands.

Does Caliber work with startups? What products and pricing do you offer?

Although Caliber’s background is with enterprise clients, we work with a variety of start-
ups across the Middle East including TravelerVIP, YaDig and FishFishMe. We lead their digital marketing offerings and focus upon SEO, content creation and social media consultancy. We love investing time in start-ups, provided they are serious about digital marketing and have a robust business plan. We offer a premium service so our pricing is at the higher end of the scale, but the expertise of our staff is unmatched in this market.

Memorize the secret code before it’s too late!

If you are watching the world cup then I’m sure you saw this sign below:

The secret code

I always wondered what’s this code and what does it mean, and no one seems to have an answer! After doing lots of thinking and connecting the dots I believe I found the explanation for this secret code.

This code is sent by aliens and they will come later in the near future and conquer the world. They will ask you one question “what’s the code?” If you don’t know the answer they will kill you or keep you as a slave, if you know it then you are safe. They send these signs in global events were everyone in the world is watching, so that there are no excuses. You better memorize them before it’s too late!

alien signsThe old alien signs, not effective anymore

Thats my explanation, if you have a better one let me know!

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