StartupQ8 monthly event introduced Ihsan Jawad as a first speaker in 2017

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On January 25th we kicked off our first StartupQ8 monthly event in the already known Global Tower, but this time in a completely new format. You are wondering what it looks like? We have only one speaker and it’s more like an interview, plus we have an official networking part. This time we hade an opportunity to host Ihsan Jawad, founder of Zawya and managing partner at Middle East Venture Partners. Abdullah Alshalabi from fishfishme was interviewing him, but the attendees were also very active so the whole thing was very interactive.

As previously mentioned, the event itself was divided into two parts. The first one included interview format with all kind of entrepreneurial questions for Ihsan, while the other one was dedicated to networking and discussions about three topics – fundraising, design and technology.

(Information) sharing is caring

During the first part of the event Ihsan was talking about Zawya and how he started it and sold the company after a number of years, and how did he become an investor. He founded his own investment company and then he joined MEVP, the biggest venture capital in the region, and started investing in companies little by little. He was also talking about difficulties as a VC, internet companies and much more.

What he was trying to explain is that companies such as Souq.com are actually not internet companies, even though people consider those that way. He defined such companies as businesses with a website. Their website is like a channel for selling their products. For Ihsan, a real internet company is something where a user can add a value and can make a contribution. Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram… According to him, these are all internet companies.

A change after for 4 years

As for the format of the StartupQ8 monthly event, Alshalabi says that after 4 years of organizing StartupQ8 monthly even the most important things for the team are human relationships and networking. They wanted to make it about networking and focus on one speaker who can add a value to the startup community in Kuwait.

In the spirit of the new event format, we would like to conclude this blog post with a quote by Michele Jennae:

“Networking means the act of exchanging information with people who can help you professionally.”

Photo gallery

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ArabNet Kuwait gathered entrepreneurs around exciting panels and talks

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After lots of announcements about ArabNet conference, the event successfully landed to Kuwait for the first time. Arraya Ballroom was the place to be on October 4 and 5. There were representatives of many respectable companies, such as KNET, MasterCard, Twitter, Careem and many others. We were also there, wouldn’t miss such an event that brings us the opportunity to attend interesting panels and talks.

Well-known speakers and panelists

One of the major conference panels was the opening panel that gathered Kuwait’s leading entrepreneurship advocates – Abdulaziz B. Al Loughani (Vice Chairman at The National Fund for SMEs Development), Essa Al Essa (Chairman at Mefazec), Mohammad Alhajeri (Chief Investment Officer at Impulse International), Mohammad Jaffar (former CEO of Talabat) and Shafeeq Al-Saed Al-Omar, Assistant Undersecretary at Ministry of State for Youth Affairs. They discussed the digital ecosystem and what are the opportunities and obstacles for entrepreneurs here in Kuwait.

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Hashim Bahbahani, co-founder of Coded and a member of StartupQ8 community, participated in a panel that was held during the second day of the conference. Charles Saliba (Founder and CEO at HR Works s.a.l.) and Meherzad Dastoor, (Senior Manager, People Advisory Services at Ernst & Young) joined him on the stage and discussed talent acquisition since that’s one of the biggest challenges startups face nowadays. They were also talking about challenges startups face, outsourcing or doing everything in-house, the best practices for hiring, training and retaining talent, which we all know it’s not very easy.

Who won the ArabNet Kuwait contests?

Aside from all ArabNet talks and panels, there were two contests. One of those was called Startup Demo Competition, where Meddy by Abdulla AlKhenji (Qatar) won the first place for an app that helps people find best doctors based on patient reviews and credentials. SoukDesigner by Kamel Kabbani (Lebanon) took the second place. It is an online platform that enables people to sell products in their personalized online store easily and economically. Third place went to Pricinity by Ahmad Al-Benali (Kuwait). It’s a search engine for products, prices and stores throughout Kuwait and the region.

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Ideathon contest was won by Jaffer Mohamad Mahdi, the youngest participant at some ArabNet competition so far. With his idea called MySpot, he could actually help resolving one of the crucial problems in Kuwait – finding a parking spot.

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We would like to thank the ArabNet team who worked very hard for the last couple of months to bring this event to Kuwait and gather entrepreneurs and startupers around awesome topics.

Make sure to be there next year!

How to deal with obstacles in entrepreneurship

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Khalid Al-Mutawa, Kuwaiti who started his own company right after the college, and built hundreds of projects for other companies, is the star of our newest blog post. Since he is very active in Kuwait’s startup community and also an entrepreneur for the last couple of years, recently we had a chat with him about obstacles in business and how to deal with them.

At this moment he is focusing on three main startups – StudentHub (recruitment platform for students and fresh graduates), Plugn (Instagram comment management for teams), and The White Book (event planning platform). On August 2nd he will be a speaker at Coded Talks, where he will share his previous experiences in startups with the audience.

Anyway, Khalid says the biggest obstacle for him was shifting from a developer/tech mindset to a business mindset.

His initial thought process was next:

  • I’ve heard its difficult creating a company license, so ill hire someone else to do that for me.
  • I like building things, so I’ll do it for free for whoever asks me to do so.
  • I can do this in 5 minutes, do I really charge for this?
  • Do we really need to talk about pricing?
  • Why do I need to do accounting? I can count what’s in my bank account.
  • What’s an investor? Do I need that?
  • I can just get more employees and it will increase the amount of money I make.

This is what he realized along the way:

  • People fear what they don’t know and make it sound difficult. Just because someone else couldn’t do something, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it yourself.
  • Creating a company is not difficult if you go through the process yourself and learn the process and requirements.
  • Everyone likes free stuff, you do something for free and people will take advantage. Be sure to always get something in return even if it’s of low value.
  • If it was something someone else can do as well within 5 minutes, they wouldn’t be approaching you in the first place. Your 5 minutes are probably worth 5 hours to someone else.
  • Pricing is always important to discuss, there’s no reason to avoid the topic.
  • I believe building a business requires basic knowledge of what investors are and why they invest, just to make sure nobody takes advantage of you.
  • Recruiting the right people is difficult, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

As an entrepreneur, Khalid advises you to do your best to stay motivated and keep working regardless of what obstacles you face. You should fail, learn from your mistakes, and start over keeping in mind what to do to avoid or bypass that same obstacle.

He believes there is no obstacle that an entrepreneur can’t pass with the correct mindset. The biggest obstacles are psychological ones: fear, greed, lack of patience, and emotions faced when things are not going the way you planned them to.

We would like to summarize this blog post in two funny images chosen by Khalid, which describe what he sees as being the biggest obstacle for entrepreneurs – emotions.

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Main photo: niu

Coded Talks: Abdullah Al-Dabbous – The MyFatoorah Story

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This blog post appeared on Coded blog on July 18th, 2016. It is published on StartupQ8 blog with the consent of the author and Coded.

Author: Ana Tadić

Coded started off with their Summer Full-time Bootcamp, which is taking place at Mefazec from July 17th to September 10th. And that means Coded weekly events are back again. The first Coded Talk will be with Abdullah Al-Dabbous, founder of a startup called MyFatoorah.

Coded: Could you tell us more about yourself?

Abdullah: I graduated from Arizona State in 2008 joined Arcapita in London for a year then EY transaction advisory services for 3.5 years. After that I did my MBA at Insead. When I came back I started MyFatoorah.

Coded: How long have you been involved with startups and how?

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Abdullah: I have always been a business-minded person looking for opportunities to venture with. I guess I have been influenced greatly by my father who is a businessman himself. While I was a full time employee, I started an exchange business which involves buying and selling physical currencies and an online currency platform from there. Furthermore, I enjoyed setting up a GMAT Boot Camp where many of the students joined top universities.

Coded: Could you tell us more about MyFatoorah? What is it about and when was it founded?

Abdullah: MyFatoorah is a unique online payment solution which has over 1000 registered vendors today. I started it in early 2015 and approached vendors in September that year. MyFatoorah gives you the key to simple SMS invoicing, online payment collections, and simple connections with your customers. There’s no need to download any software, as this sophisticated payment platform can be integrated to any new or existing site. You can bill clients via the web or their device, making it more convenient than ever for them to press ‘pay’ with the touch of their finger.

Coded: Can you share few main topics you will talk about on Tuesday?

Abdullah: On Tuesday, I will talk briefly about my background. How MyFatoorah started, how it works and the key challenges in working on a startup. Then I would like to share the key takeaways entrepreneurs should keep in mind when starting their own business.

Coded: Who should benefit the most of your talk?

Abdullah: People involved in tech, developers, existing business and people thinking of starting a business.

July 19th, 7:30 PM, Mefazec – be there!

Top 3 websites to learn coding

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With all available resources that we are surrounded by today, it’s easy to learn anything you want. Coding or programming, whatever you call it, is much easier to learn nowadays than 15 years ago. Video tutorials, online courses, you name it – knowledge is just a few clicks away thanks to easy access to the information.

Since Hamad Mufleh has been on all sides of software projects; as a client, manager, developer and UI/UX designer, we asked him to recommend few websites that he finds useful for people who want to learn coding.

  1. Codecademy

Codecademy is an online interactive platform that offers free coding classes in 11 different programming languages. Some of those are Python, Java, PHP, JavaScript (jQuery, AngularJS), Ruby, SQL, as well as markup languages HTML and CSS.  It’s free, and difficulty level is easy to intermediate. This website allows you to quickly and easily gain familiarity with a variety of coding languages with little to no prior experience. If you are a beginner, this is a good place for you.

  1. Code School

Code School is an online learning destination for existing and aspiring developers that teaches through entertaining content. Each course is built around a creative theme and storyline so that it feels like you’re playing a game, not sitting in a classroom. They combine gaming mechanics with video instruction and in-browser coding challenges to make learning fun and memorable. Code School offers almost 60 courses covering Ruby, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, iOS, Git, and databases. Their courses are more in-depth to train, they can turn you into an expert with the industry’s best practices. Difficulty level of Code School’s courses is intermediate to hard.

Some of their courses are free and some of them are $29 per month. If you decide to go with an annual plan, it will cost you $19 per month. They also have a blog where you can read interesting pieces of advice and helpful tips.

  1. Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow is a Q&A website site for professional and enthusiast programmers. It’s built and run by the community as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With the help of community members, they are working to build a library of detailed answers to every question about programming. On Stack Overflow you can use the tags or browse the lists of questions, or simply use the search box. It’s pretty sure you will find some solution to your coding problems there. If you don’t find what you needed, you can go directly into the chat rooms arranged according to languages and platforms.

You can start with those resources, or you can apply for Coded’s part-time bootcamp and become a professional full-stack developer in 14 weeks.

5 books every startuper needs to read

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It’s never easy to start your own business for the first time, and this is where good books come as a real treasure. Especially to those who are just about to enter the world of entrepreneurship or they work in a startup. We bring you top 5 books by the choice of Kuwait’s notable young entrepreneurs.

Saleh Al-Musallam, co-founder of Ghaseel, an on demanding car wash app, really liked these books:

  1. How to Build a Billion Dollar App, George Berkowski

Apps have changed the way we communicate, shop, play, interact and travel and their phenomenal popularity has presented possibly the biggest business opportunity in history.

Berkowski draws exclusively on the inside stories of the billion-dollar app club members, including Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Candy Crush, Square, Viber, Clash of Clans, Angry Birds, Uber and Flipboard to provide all the information you need to create your own spectacularly successful mobile business. He guides you through each step, from an idea scribbled on the back of an envelope, through to finding a cofounder, building a team, attracting (and keeping) millions of users, all the way through to juggling the pressures of being CEO of a billion-dollar company (and still staying ahead of the competition).

  1. Zero to One, Peter Thiel

The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things.

Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we’re too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself.

  1. Enchantment, Guy Kawasaki

Enchantment, as defined by bestselling business guru Guy Kawasaki, is not about manipulating people. It transforms situations and relationships. It con­verts hostility into civility and civility into affinity. It changes skeptics and cynics into believers and the undecided into the loyal. Enchantment can happen during a retail transaction, a high-level corporate negotiation, or a Facebook update. And when done right, it’s more powerful than traditional persuasion, influence, or marketing techniques.

Kawasaki argues that in business and personal interactions, your goal is not merely to get what you want but to bring about a voluntary, enduring, and delightful change in other people. By enlisting their own goals and desires, by being likable and trustworthy, and by framing a cause that others can embrace, you can change hearts, minds, and actions.

Hashim Bahbahani, co-founder of Coded, and a man who is very active in Kuwait’s startup community since 2011, aside from Zero to One recommends the following books:

  1. The Lean Startup, Eric Ries

Most startups fail. But many of those failures are preventable. The Lean Startup is a new approach being adopted across the globe, changing the way companies are built and new products are launched.

The Lean Startup approach fosters companies that are both more capital efficient and that leverage human creativity more effectively. Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it relies on “validated learning,” rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counter-intuitive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics, and learn what customers really want. It enables a company to shift directions with agility, altering plans inch by inch, minute by minute.

Rather than wasting time creating elaborate business plans, The Lean Startup offers entrepreneurs – in companies of all sizes – a way to test their vision continuously, to adapt and adjust before it’s too late. Ries provides a scientific approach to creating and managing successful startups in a age when companies need to innovate more than ever.

  1. The Startup Owner’s Manual, Steve Blank & Bob Dorf

The Startup Owner’s Manual guides you, step-by-step, as you put the Customer Development process to work. This method was created by renowned Silicon Valley startup expert Steve Blank, acknowledged catalyst of the “Lean Startup” movement, and tested and refined by him for more than a decade.

This book will help you:

  • Avoid the 9 deadly sins that destroy startups’ chances for success
  • Use the Customer Development method to bring your business idea to life
  • Incorporate the Business Model Canvas as the organizing principle for startup hypotheses
  • Identify your customers and determine how to “get, keep and grow” customers profitably
  • Compute how you’ll drive your startup to repeatable, scalable profits

Did you read any good book about startups? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments with us. 🙂

Dana Alfaraj: Why did I choose to work in a startup right after the graduation?

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After 23-year-old Kuwaiti Dana Alfaraj graduated from the American University of the Middle East in January 2016, she decided not to go with the flow and take some job in a public sector, but to start her career in a startup. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and is currently working as an intern at Ghinwa, a startup that won the first place at recently held MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition.

StartupQ8: What (or who) motivated you to start your career in a startup and not in a public sector? When did you decide to do so?

Dana: Ever since I was young, I lived an ordinary life like any other teenager. Half way through college, I had a turning point because I realized that I don’t want to live the routine life anymore since it is not who I am. I have many ideas in my mind that I have the potential to accomplish, but I never had the courage to take action. I shifted my perspective of life and I started liking change and taking the risk of trying new things.

My mentor Mohammad AlMunaikh, who is the CEO of Ghinwa, had a huge role in motivating me to enter the world of startups and stepping out of my comfort zone. Before graduating in a month or two, I made up my mind to go for it. In both cases, if it turns good or bad, I’ll learn something from it. So far, I love it and believe that I fit there perfectly because I’m learning a lot in a very short time and I’m enjoying the experience.

StartupQ8: Since the team is based in Dubai, from where do you work?

Dana: I work remotely in Kuwait, but I fly to Dubai whenever I am needed there. In general, most of our meetings are via Skype. Though, there are few meetings that take place in Kuwait. Eventually, when I get the full time job, I’ll be moving to Dubai.

StartupQ8: What is the most challenging part of working in a startup?

Dana: For me, I think the most challenging part is that we are all in different locations. I find it a bit hard sometimes to communicate with the team through Skype or Slack all the time. Although, it is getting easier by time. I also didn’t meet the entire team yet. I would like to meet them and know more about the people I’m working with. This is my first official job and all the members of the team are well experienced. Sometimes, I find it challenging to catch up and be on their pace. The good thing is that I get to observe and learn from their experiences.

StartupQ8: Is there any piece of advice you would like to share with fresh graduates when it comes to choosing private sector over public sector?

Dana: People have different backgrounds and experiences. Some people might fit in the private sector rather than the public sector and vice versa. From my experience, the best advice I would give is to try new things and give it time to discover what you really passionate about to end up in the path that you love. Simply, choose the job that makes you sincerely happy, because it will lead you to gradually succeed in what you’re doing. Make sure you live the journey that you want and enjoy the ride.

We couldn’t agree more with Dana.

How to Make Kuwait a Regional Tech Hub? StartupQ8 Monthly Event Brings the Answers

StartupQ8 event for June was one of the best monthly events we ever had, we can say that without doubt. Not to mention that Mefazec’s coworking space on the first day of June was full of people who wanted to explore the world of startups in Kuwait and how can we make it better.

The event was also a crown of Coded Spring Bootcamp 2016. Co-founder of Coded Ahmad Marafi handed over diplomas to their students with the help of Richard Kramlich, well-known venture capitalist. He is also a co-founder of New Enterprise Associates, a global venture capital company that invests in technology and healthcare.

In the meantime, CEO of fishfishme Abdullah Alshalabi, founder of Lumba, Inc. Abdullah Alzabin, and former CEO of Talabat Mohammed Jaffar as panelists, and Hashim Bahbahani from Coded as a moderator were getting ready to take over the stage and discuss on how to make Kuwait a regional tech hub.

The conclusion of the panel discussion is that building a tech sector is definitely a viable way of moving Kuwait from a country that relies on oil for more than half of its GDP to the place where other sectors are equally represented. We are all aware of the fact that capital is here. We’re also working on a talent and legal structure improvement. The most important thing above all is to make Kuwait friendly place for expats so they can decide on moving and working in Kuwait more easily.

The last but not least speaker was Alvaro Abella from BECO Capital, one of the leading venture capital companies in the Middle East. He was joined on stage by Yousef Hammad. They talked about how entrepreneurs can structure a pitch deck to catch investors’ attention, what to focus on in the presentation, and what content to include. They also spoked about how to choose an investor, and what VCs look for in startups.

That’s all, folks! Follow us on Instagram and Twitter for more events. And one more thing. Keep in mind that our friends from Coded are organizing full-time summer bootcamp and invite you to apply. Hurry up because the deadline is June 13th and you might get one of the two available scholarships!

StartupQ8 Event for April reveals a secret to Silicon Valley

On April 24th, we hosted our monthly event which was extra special thanks to guys from Flexport, and our panelists Dr. Mussaad Al-Razouki, Philip Pasler and Abdul Qader Hussain.

The event was held at Mefazec, a venue provider for Coded’s spring bootcamp. It started along with Flexport team, Sanne Manders and Ryan Petersen, who talked about their startup path.

If you weren’t familiar with this San Francisco based startup before, it is a licensed freight forwarder that uses people and software to manage the complexity of international trade. It is also a Y Combinator and Google Ventures backed startup that has been featured in Bloomberg, Forbes, and others. They move lots of air freight and thousands of containers of ocean freight every month, and also provide all the necessary coordinating functions.

During the talk, Sanne mentioned that startups need to concentrate on a customer experience and not look so much on a marketing, shareholders etc. According to him, focusing on a customer experience is the key to a Silicon Valley.

The other part of event was dedicated to angel investor and VC panel where entrepreneurs and investors discussed fundraising for startups. White answering the questions from the audience, Dr. Mussaad emphasized the importance of a good team. Investors don’t invest in your idea, they invest in you and your team. So, if you are running a startup, be sure to find the right people for your team – not only because of potential investments, but your business and success.

After the event came to its end, we rounded it up with networking with pizza as we usually do.

Keep an eye on our Instagram and Twitter account and be the first to find out about StartupQ8’s events!

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