Announcing: StartupQ8 Event for April 2016

We have an extra special event on Sunday (April 24), with global startups and investors!

Our first speakers will be Ryan Peterson & Sanne Manders from Flexport, a freight forwarding startup out of San Francisco. Flexport is a YCombinator & Google Ventures backed startup that has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, WSJ, among others.

Their team will speak about the Flexport story and how it’s revolutionizing international trade.

Following that, we have an Angel Investor & VC Panel featuring Dr. Mussaad Al-Razouki, an entrepreneur and regional investor, alongside Abdul Qader Hussain, a seasoned investor and former consultant with AT Kearney, and Philip Pasler, a Berlin based investor and healthcare sector consultant.

The event will be held Sunday (April 24) @ 7.30 pm at @Mefazec (Alhamra Tower, 16th Floor). Here is the schedule

7:30– 7:35 Welcome
7:35 – 8.20 Flexport
8.20 – 8:30 Break
8:30 – 9:15 Angel Investor Panel
9:15 – 10 Networking pizza
. . .
As always, the event will be in English and it is open to everyone (no need to register). Check our blog more info.

See you there!

Announcing Coded’s Spring Coding Bootcamp

Folks,

We all know how hard it is to find a talented coder to hire or be your co-founder. So sometimes, the best thing to do is to go learn the technical stuff yourself. In the least, mastering the fundamentals of programming helps you  communicate with your technical team, and be more valuable to the product building process.

There’s no doubt that the time and effort you invest in your coding education will pay dividends for your startup in one way or another.

If you’re looking for a place to learn how to code, Coded, Kuwait’s first and only coding bootcamp, has announced earlier this week that they are accepting applications for the Spring coding bootcamp.

Coded Bootcamp Announcement

The bootcamp is aimed at beginners who want to become professional programmers. Coded students graduate as junior level professional coders.

The Spring bootcamp, which starts in March, is an intensive part-time bootcamp with 4 hours of class every weekday (5m to 9m), and lasts 14 weeks. The part-time format makes it easy for those who have a full-time commitment in the day time to join the bootcamp in the evening.

The application deadline is Feb 7th, 2016.

You can check it out and apply on joincoded.com 

 

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

Reminder: The MIT EF Arab Startup Competition is accepting applications

Startup folk: the deadline for the MIT EF Arab Startup Competition is fast approaching! Hurry and apply. Details below:

 

The 9th edition of the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition is currently accepting applications from the entire Arab region! The application deadline is January 4, 2016.

Launched in 2006, the MIT Enterprise Forum for the Pan Arab Region (MIT EF Pan Arab) is one of the 28 worldwide chapters of the MIT Enterprise Forum Global, an avid promoter of entrepreneurship and innovation worldwide. The Pan Arab chapter has a proven record in promoting MIT-style entrepreneurship by organizing the annual MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition that targets 21 countries of the Arab region and brings in more than 5,000 applications a year. The competition has trained 1,600+ top tier entrepreneurs and has helped start over 260+ knowledge-based and technology-driven companies in countries of the MENA region.

Organized by the MIT EF Pan Arab in partnership with Community Jameel and Zain, the MIT EF Arab Startup Competition is one of the largest entrepreneurship competitions and provides participating entrepreneurs with training, mentorship, media exposure, and networking opportunities.

Apply now to the 9th MIT EF Arab Startup Competition on www.mitarabcompetition.com for the chance to win:

Startups Track: $50K for the first place winner, $15K for the second place winner, and $10K for the third place winner

Ideas Track: $15K for the first place winner, $10K for the second place winner, and $5K for the third place winner

Social Entrepreneurship Track: $15K for the first place winner, $10K for the second place winner, and $5K for the third place winner

MITEF Roadshow Competition

When the Oil Wells Run Dry: The Industry That Can Save Us

This article appeared in Khaleejesque Magazine, INDUSTRIAL Issue, published November, 2015. It is published on this blog with the consent of the author and magazine. All credits and copyrights are reserved to Khaleejesque, 2015. Click here to subscribe to Khaleejesque, or follow them on Instagram @Khaleejesque 

Author: Hashim Bahbahani

Magazine Artwork: Reema Motib

5 min read.

On April 15th, 2015 there was an incredibly important global announcement that went unheeded by the Khaleeji mass media and general population. It was an announcement that could propel a series of life altering implications for every Khaleeji citizen.

The announcement, which was kept secret for months, was made by Tesla Motors CEO and founder Elon Musk. Musk revealed that Tesla had invented and commercialized the Tesla Powerwall, a new “home battery” powered completely by solar panels that could potentially power an entire house for a fraction of what conventional electricity would cost.

The goal of the solar powered home battery is to lessen the demand and reliance on petroleum and gasoline. In other words, with Tesla’s Powerwall, the world is a step closer to needing a lot less oil.

While Tesla’s battery on its own will never be enough to completely wipe out the demand for oil, it does signal the start of a realistic and feasible movement away from gasoline and into other more sustainable energy resources. The thing to remember about technology is that it grows exponentially, and there is no reason why that wouldn’t be the case with alternative energy. In fact, since President Obama took office, the United States “has increased solar electricity generation by more than twenty folds”, according to the White House official website. It is not unfathomable to think that the world could start harnessing alternative energy more efficiently, and almost completely move away from a reliance on oil in the course of the next twenty years. That is not as long away as it seems.

So what happens to our Gulf when our oil is no longer needed – no longer pumped – and all the oil wells dry up?

It is a predictable and daunting scenario. The Arabian Gulf is barren of valuable natural resources. The climate is unbearable, and the current infrastructure is unsustainable without a continuous influx of money and natural energy. Deprived of oil, the economy cannot support the current population.

We could be facing impending socio-economic extinction without even knowing it.

But there is still hope; there is still time.

Beyond investing in alternative energy, the Gulf must look to build an industry that is capable of surviving in a post-oil world; an industry that can vitalize an economy without depending on natural resources. But it also has to be an industry that is considerable and substantial enough to provide economic vitalization to the region.

The only industry that fits into that mold is the software technology industry, or as it is more commonly known “the tech industry.” This industry is built fundamentally on human intelligence. When it comes to developing software, there are no substantial hard assets in play, nor is there any significant reliance on natural resources. The rise of any tech sector is almost purely dependent on the capabilities of the people involved in it.

Undoubtedly, a strong tech sector can invigorate an economy. Today, two of the five highest valued companies in the world are software companies, Google and Microsoft; seven of the top thirty are highly involved in software engineering. In the U.S., the software technology sector provides the highest paying jobs, and consistently beats new employment figures for all other sectors, including oil and gas. Jobs in the tech industry are high in both quality and quantity.

But above all else, there is one factor that makes the tech industry our best bet for economic survival: speed. We, the GCC Nations, need to start realizing that time is no longer on our side. The biggest danger we face today is that we are in voluntary oblivion of the ever accelerating possibility of economic demise. If the demand for oil drops significantly, the ramifications will hit us hard, and they’ll hit us very quickly. Will we wonder at that time how we could’ve been so oblivious to our collective fragility?

Successful technology companies can give rise to a strong tech sector relatively quickly. The nature of software products allows technology tech startups to scale and grow at lightning speed. Take, for example, Uber, the real-time ride request platform. After only six years of existence, Uber has reached a valuation of approximately $50 billion. To put that in perspective, Uber is already bigger than gigantic companies that have been around for decades, like Deutsche Bank, Sony, Phillips, FedEx, and many more. Another example is Google, which, only after sixteen years of existence, employs over 55,000 people, providing those employees with unparalleled pay and benefits. The examples are endless.

If the right steps are taken, there is a real possibility that over the next twenty years the Gulf can transform into a new Silicon Valley and a breeding ground for global tech giants. A Khaleeji tech hub will also attract entrepreneurs to establish their startups in the area, and thus increasing the possibility of more successful tech companies blooming out of the Gulf. The main economic value for the region will come in the tax revenue captured from the financial success of these companies. Another important economic value will be in job creation, as large tech companies can provide high paying jobs at different levels and across a wide variety of specialties.

So what needs to happen for the dream of a Khaleeji Silicon Valley to become a reality? The task of establishing a dynamic tech industry is monumental and complicated. But it is highly possible nonetheless. In broad terms, there are three fundamental steps:

–   The current surplus of money from the oil and gas sector must be invested in building a technological infrastructure – internet and network systems, mobile connectivity, etc – to support software innovation. Additionally, governments must systematically invest in startups that might appear too risky for private investors.

–   Governments must revise rules and regulations surrounding software technology companies and e-commerce to allow companies to scale and grow to their maximum potential without unnecessary barriers.

–   Most importantly, the private and public sector must take a proactive approach towards developing and cultivating software engineering talent. In other words, we need to invest in producing better coders. Remember, the success of any tech sector is mostly reliant on human capabilities and intellect. The best way to produce world-class programmers is to provide Khaleejies interested in coding with the right education and training. It’s simple, but imperative. Recently, I co-founded “Coded”, the first coding academy in the Gulf, with a mission of offering world-class software engineering education to aspiring young men and women in Kuwait. Our hope is that Coded is the first of many local coding schools that aim to cultivate a new generation of topnotch Khaleeji coders.

Today, the Gulf is ripe to be a new global tech hub. There is an abundance of private and public investment funds, high consumer purchasing power, and a plethora of market opportunities. But beyond that, there is an ambitious and daring generation that is passionate about turning their dreams and ideas into reality using technology and software engineering. Investing in that generation is our only true hope.

There is a dark cloud hovering on our Khaleeji horizon, edging ever closer to us. We have willingly chosen to ignore it thus far, unconcerned with the storm it carries within it. But if we act purposefully and quickly, we can prepare ourselves for what’s ahead. And we might – just might – catch a glimpse of a silver lining.

 

This article appeared in Khaleejesque Magazine, INDUSTRIAL Issue, published November, 2015. It is published on this blog with the consent of the author and magazine. All credits and copyrights are reserved to Khaleejesque, 2015. Click here to subscribe to Khaleejesque, or follow them on Instagram @Khaleejesque 

 

Attention: The MIT EF Arab Startup Competition is accepting applications

Startup folk,

 

The 9th edition of the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition is currently accepting applications from the entire Arab region! The application deadline is January 4, 2016.

Launched in 2006, the MIT Enterprise Forum for the Pan Arab Region (MIT EF Pan Arab) is one of the 28 worldwide chapters of the MIT Enterprise Forum Global, an avid promoter of entrepreneurship and innovation worldwide. The Pan Arab chapter has a proven record in promoting MIT-style entrepreneurship by organizing the annual MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition that targets 21 countries of the Arab region and brings in more than 5,000 applications a year. The competition has trained 1,600+ top tier entrepreneurs and has helped start over 260+ knowledge-based and technology-driven companies in countries of the MENA region.

Organized by the MIT EF Pan Arab in partnership with Community Jameel and Zain, the MIT EF Arab Startup Competition is one of the largest entrepreneurship competitions and provides participating entrepreneurs with training, mentorship, media exposure, and networking opportunities.

Apply now to the 9th MIT EF Arab Startup Competition on www.mitarabcompetition.com for the chance to win:

Startups Track: $50K for the first place winner, $15K for the second place winner, and $10K for the third place winner

Ideas Track: $15K for the first place winner, $10K for the second place winner, and $5K for the third place winner

Social Entrepreneurship Track: $15K for the first place winner, $10K for the second place winner, and $5K for the third place winner

 

MITEF Roadshow Competition

Building Your Startup Clan: Three Traits to Look for in Early Employees

This article appeared in Khaleejesque Magazine, CLAN Issue, published September, 2015. It is published on this blog with the consent of the author and magazine. All credits and copyrights are reserved to Khaleejesque, 2015. Click here to subscribe to Khaleejesque, or follow them on Instagram @Khaleejesque 

Author: Hashim Bahbahani

5 min read.

“Would you take this job if you had a medical diagnosis that says you only have a year left to live?”

If you were asked that question during the job interview you attended for the job you currently hold, what would’ve been your truthful answer?

Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of $20 billion lodging rental website AirBnB, directed the “one-year-to-live” question to candidates for the first few core job openings at AirBnB.

The question, while perhaps disturbing and extreme, aims to gauge the candidates’ passion and dedication for the company. It might be incomprehensible to expect that anyone would answer “yes” to that question given the miniscule size of AirBnB at that time. However, after four years of running a startup myself, I can understand the importance entailed in the answer to that question.

In the startup world, where there’s always a ceaseless debate on the validity of every step towards success, there is a rare consensus on founders hiring the first few employees: get it wrong and your startup will fail. It is that bluntly unforgiving. That is because the first batch of employees will have the biggest impact on the longevity and future success of any startup. At such an early stage, their contributions and shortcomings can make or break a company.

There are several factors to consider when hiring the first few members of your startup clan, mainly: domain expertise, education, professional background, and personality. But because startups are unique organisms with specific requirements for their survival and growth, there are other more fundamental character traits that early employees must possess. In my own startup experience, I progressively became more aware of which qualities in a candidate truly matter.

The following three traits are what a founder should look for in an early employee:

 

Dedication- belief in the startup’s mission

Think back to Chesky’s question. What he’s really asking is “do you believe in what we’re trying to do here passionately enough to dedicate your life to it?”

No matter how trivial or profound the purpose of your startup might seem, every member of the team must wholeheartedly believe in the venture’s ultimate objective. Often, founders are tempted to look for “hard working” employees. But I don’t believe that there is such a thing as innately hard working individuals. Rather, hard work is an organic result of pursuing a grand mission. Therefore, it is more fruitful for a founder to identify individuals who fully share their passion for the startup’s vision and goals.

Honesty- belonging to the clan

A startup is more than just a group of individuals working on a project. A startup is a family, with shared values, beliefs, and objectives. As it is true with any family, honesty is the backbone of collaboration and teamwork.

And while honesty in communication is imperative, there is an equally important form of honesty that cannot be understated: honesty in self assessing work-product. In a highly pressurized setting such a startup, it is easy and tempting for a team member to compromise the quality of their work because founders do not have time to check over every nook and cranny. Therefore, founders must hire individuals who share their standards of quality and excellence, and who have the integrity to autonomously hold their work to those standards.

That kind of honesty is what allows trust to thrive among members of a startup clan.

Curiosity- a willingness to learn

By the time I hired my sixth and last core employee at my e-commerce startup, I valued curiosity above all else in my team members.

True curiosity can often be mistaken for passing interest. There is a simple way to identify a sense of genuine and potent curiosity: look to see how much work and effort has been exerted in pursuit of an interest.

One of the people I was considering as a co-founder told me he was interested in becoming a triathlete. He had no experience whatsoever in the sport. He simply thought it was something he could do well. I was skeptical, and asked what he had done to pursue that interest. He told me he had already dedicated himself to a rigorous workout program, hired a personal running trainer, and had pinpointed a local triathlon in which to compete within a few months. I knew at the point that this person would not shy away from a challenge, and that he had the desire to constantly explore new opportunities.

Fortunately, I wasn’t mistaken. He led our business development team successfully, and has recently competed in an international triathlon competition.

In the ever-changing and dynamic world of startups, a willingness to learn new things becomes a team’s greatest asset. Founders must look for individuals who thrive beyond their comfort zone.

A founder is best advised to never compromise on any of the aforementioned traits when hiring, especially at the early stages of a startup. Those traits are always associated with highly motivated and talented individuals. A startup’s success hinges, above all else, on the core team; and a tightly knit team of dedicated, honest, and curious individuals is a force to be reckoned with.

Although it was spoken in completely different context, I can’t help but recall Margaret Mead’s famous quote:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

This article appeared in Khaleejesque Magazine, CLAN Issue, published September, 2015. It is published on this blog with the consent of the author and magazine. All credits and copyrights are reserved to Khaleejesque, 2015. Click here to subscribe to Khaleejesque, or follow them on Instagram @Khaleejesque 

Three lessons I learned from Startup Weekend (Kuwait)

Last week, the third version of Startup Weekend Kuwait took place at The VIVA Coded Academy. The whole weekend was exhilarating and intense! Over 120 people participated, forming 21 full teams that built MVP’s, put together business cases, and presented in front of the judges and audience after 54 hours of non-stop work. The turnout, energy, and resounding success of the event showed how far the startup scene had come in Kuwait over the past 18 months!

It’s always amazing to see how real life situations and decision making play out in teams over the course of the Weekend. Mobile or Web? Focus on marketing or building the product? Subscription Vs Freemium? Designs Vs Functionality? I saw every team dealing and struggling with these decisions, as would a real startup in “the real world”.

Along the same lines, as an organizer and observer during Startup Weekend, I learned a thing or two (or three) about what it ultimately takes to be build a successful startup:

Lesson one: It’s (mostly) about the team, not the idea

One of the participants, called Mohammad, was looking for a team to join late in the first day. Most teams had already formed, but I knew Mohammad personally, and knew that his marketing and event management background made him him a valuable member to any team. As I was walking around with him trying to find a team, I was surprised that several teams declined his offer to join them. Eventually, we found a team that had only two members who I knew to be talented and driven, just like Mohammad. He like their idea and they recognized the value they brought to them (both of them were coders/ designers). They formed a small but strong and balanced team of three.

Their initial idea was ambitious, but they pivoted to something entirely and extremely different. It wasn’t as ambitious, and I personally thought there were at least 4 or 5 more exciting ideas in the competition. I didn’t like their chances. But, lo and behold, Mohammad’s team won first place. Their idea, Mukancom, is a platform to find co-working space in Kuwait. Arwa and Shahd, Mohammad’s team mates, did a stellar job building an MVP. But, going by the judges score cards, what really set them apart was Mohammad’s final presentation. There might have been better ideas out there, but Mukancom’s overall execution and presentation was superb, and their team was strong on all fronts, and that made all the difference. (There’s another lesson here about pivoting too).

 

Lesson two: It’s not about the money, money, money

One of the things that caught my attention was the participant’s seemingly lack of interest in the cash prize. Over 210 people had signed up as participants before we had event announced the money reward. I made the announcement on stage during the event, and I distinctly remember listing the non-cash prizes first (free co-working space at Sirdab Lab, free UX consultation from Catalyst) and leaving the cash prize at the end, anticipating it would get the biggest cheer. That wasn’t the case. The non-cash prizes got a lot more noise and excitement than the cash prize announcement.

In fact, not once during the Weekend did I hear people talking about the cash prize. I got asked a few times about the non-cash prizes. It seemed that no one really cared about the money at the end of it all. And yet here there were, 21 teams working 54 hours straight without much regard for the possibility of monetary reward.

You often hear successful people say something like “Don’t start a business for the money” or “At the end of the day, it’s not about the money” but those sayings often get dismissed as idealistic mantras reserved for the already rich and successful. But the lesson I learned here is that passion, competition, and the desire to build something worthwhile are far bigger motivators than money. (I’m happy to report that the top 5 teams have all continued working on their startups after the event!)

 

Lesson three: The true value of having a co-founder

In Startup Weekend, most dropouts occur late in the second day. It’s around that time when participants start feeling exhausted, and the finish line is oh-so-far without any guarantee of success. Our lead organizer tells me the following story: two participants from the same approached him around midnight on the second day. One of them, the “CEO” of the team (she came up with the startup idea), told him she wanted to quit. She was mentally drained and didn’t think her team had a chance of winning, so she wanted to pack up and go home.  But her teammate (the co-founder) insisted she stays. She was asking the organizer to convince the CEO not to give up. She was begging her friend to see it through until the final presentations, for the sake of the team, because she knew that if the CEO quit, the rest of the team would too. The CEO, quite literally with tears in her eyes, decided to soldier on.

That team ended up winning second place, and were in close contention for first place.

It goes to show that, above all else, the greatest benefit of having a co-founder is having someone to lean on when you’re ready to give up. In the emotional roller coaster that is a startup, co-founders must take it in turns to support each other through the tough times.

 

I can’t wait for next year’s Startup Weekend, where I’m sure the ideas will be even bigger and better!

 

 

 

 

 

Announcing this week’s Coffee Meetup + Lessons From Silicon Valley Talk

Everyone,

This week’s Coffee Meetup will once again take place at The VIVA Coded Academy on Wednesday evening (7.15pm). If you haven’t been to our Coffee Meetups before, they’re a casual get-together for local entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts to meet, network, share ideas and collaborate over some good coffee.

As with previous weeks, there’ll be a talk following the meetup directly. This week’s talk is by Ahmed Aljbreen, General Manager of Saudi based digital and social marketing company, Smaat. Recently, Ahmed was in Silicon Valley for an extended period of time working on some partnerships for Smaat. During his time there, he also had the chance to visit and assess some of the world’s tech giants, such as Google, Facebook, Instagram, and more.

In this talk, Ahmed will talk about his experience working with Silicon Valley based companies, and the most important startup lessons he learned during his time there. The talk will be a great chance for startup founders to discuss with Ahmed some of the challenges they face here in the gulf, Silicon Valley culture, and whether the idea of moving to Silicon Valley is actually feasible or necessary for success. Pass by if you’re interested in knowing what it’s like to spend time working in Silicon Valley!

Details-

When: Wednesday, September 16th

Schedule:

7.15 pm- Startupq8 Coffee Meetup
8.00 pm- Ahmed Aljbreen
9.00 pm- Networking & Pizza

As always, this is an open invitation, and everyone is welcome!

Where: The VIVA Coded Academy at Al-Tijaria Tower- 35th Foor

Note: talk will be in Arabic

Announcing this week’s Coffee Meetup + Raspberry Pi Talk

Hi all,

For the third week running, we’re having our weekly Coffee Meetup at The VIVA Coded Academy. What happens at the weekly Coffee Meetup, you ask? It’s a casual get-together for local entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts to meet, network, share ideas and collaborate over some good coffee.

As with previous weeks, there’ll be a talk following the meetup directly. This week’s talk is part of the Google Developers Group weekly talks. The subject this week is Raspberry Pi! (Yes, we used an exclamation mark because we’re excited!)

If you aren’t familiar with it, Raspberry Pi is a small sized computer that plugs into a monitor and enables people to explore computing and hardware programming. It’s a great tool for beginners as well!

If you’re interested in building hardware and want to learn how to program your creations, this talk is for you! Come learn the incredible things you can do with Raspberry Pi!

The talk will be given my Abdulrahman Alotaibi, who holds a degree in Computer and Electrical Engineering (with a minor in Computer Science), and has placed fourth in International Aerial Robotics Competition 2012.

Abdulrahman also spoke at DjangoCon Europe 2015 in Cardiff (UK), and is one of Google Developers Group Kuwait organizers.

Here are all the details:

When: Wednesday, Sept 2.

Schedule:

7.15 pm- Coffee Meetup

7.45 pm- Raspberry Pi Talk

9.00 pm- Discussion, Network, and Pizza!

Where: The VIVA Coded Academy at Al-Tijaria Tower- 35th Foor

 

As always, this is an open invitation and everyone is welcome to join!

 

Announcing this week’s Coffee Meetup + Scrum Talk

Everyone,

Just like last week, this week’s Coffee Meetup will be held at the VIVA Coded Academy. For you who aren’t familiar with our Coffee Meetups, they are a casual get-together for local entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts to meet, network, share ideas and collaborate over some good coffee.

This week, there’ll be a talk on Scrum Methodology following the meetup immediately (at the same place). The talk is part of the Google Developers Group weekly meetup.

We think this talk is a MUST for anyone who wants to start a tech startup or is currently involved in one! One of the biggest challenges startup founders face is how to best manage a software project. Often, founders make fatal management mistakes that kill their startups early.

Whether you’re a technical or non-technical founder, this talk will help you understand the principles of running a tech project, and avoid very critical mistakes.

The talk will cover “Scrum” management methodology. “Scrum” is an agile software development approach that greatly minimizes the risk of failure. It is a great framework for building and managing a startup team.

The talk will be presented by Hamad Mufleh, founder and CEO of YallaWain. He is a product designer and developer who’s been on all sides of software projects; as a client, manager, developer and ui/ux designer.

Details:

When: Wednesday, August 26.

Schedule:

7.15 pm- Coffee Meetup

7.45 pm- Scrum Talk

9.00 pm- Discussion, Network, and Pizza!

 

This is an open invitation. See you all there!

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