Why you need a cofounder (a personal story)

I’d like to share a personal story about how it took me 3 years to start Sirdab Lab.

While doing my MBA in San Francisco, I got a chance to work closely with startups in an amazing accelerator program. I fell in love with the energy of the people and the fast progress they were making in short time periods.

I decided that I want to start something similar in Kuwait. When I came back to Kuwait I spoke to one of my smartest friends, who was also interested in startups, and convinced him to work together on this. It took us a year of planning, but we didn’t move forward. I think the reason for this is that we came from the same professional background.

I joined Ernst & Young (EY) and almost gave up on starting Sirdab Lab. Then I met Abdullah Al-Sayer, founder of MrBabu.com, at Thukhur. My interest in working with startups rekindled, but it remained a passion without action.

In the 2014 Benchmark Forum I met Haider Al-Mosawi, a UX designer, who shared my passion for helping startups and providing the community with comprehensive support. We shared the same vision and spotted the same problems.

I asked Abdullah and Haider to join me as cofounders in building Sirdab Lab as a startup hub in Kuwait. They both agreed, and we started to execute on that vision. Each of the cofounders has unique skills that complement one another.

Being a startup founder is insanely demanding and incredibly stressful. It’s almost impossible to get started on your own, let alone building your startup and seeing it through to success. Most accelerator programs only accept startups with a minimum of two cofounders, because they know how hard it is for solopreneurs and it’s too risky to invest in them.

So if you’re serious about your startup, you need a cofounder. Don’t have one? Then I highly recommend you join our Co-Founder Speed Dating event this Wednesday. Follow the link below for more details.

http://sirdab-lab.com/speeddating

With the Co-Founder Speed Dating event, the first in Kuwait, Sirdab Lab aims to provide a platform to connect entrepreneurs and people with talent (designers, coders, hustlers) through smart and efficient networking.

How does it work?

Entrepreneurs will be seated at tables arranged in a circular setting while people with talent (designers, hustlers, coders) rotate. Each entrepreneur and person with talent will have 3 minutes to introduce themselves and pitch their idea and skills to each other. Once the buzzer rings, the person with talent moves to the next entrepreneur.The speed dating will be followed by mingling over snacks.

When?

6:30 PM, Wednesday

18th March, 2015

Entry Fee (includes food and beverages)

Sirdab Lab members: KD 8

Non-members: KD 10

Where do I sign up?

To register, please visit: http://sirdab-lab.com/speeddating

Design Thinking – A creative process …

The success of a startup is highly dependent on its ability to solve a problem or to meet a market need. In order to find the right solution you need to be empathetic and understand your customer which sounds easy but in reality it really really isn’t! Many startups fail because they don’t have enough customers, so building a product that people want is a massive challenge. I wish there was a magic formula that would enable founders to build solutions that people want but unfortunately that formula doesn’t exist. There isn’t a single method or article or workshop that will give you the correct answer. However, what we can do is tackle a problem using different tools and methods and we can keep on trying till we get it right. One of these tools is “Design Thinking”, personally I have always been an analytical thinker but  about three years ago I was introduced to design thinking as a creative way to solve problems especially in the startup world and I found it interesting. I was happy to know that there was a practitioner who was looking to do an indepth design thinking workshop in Kuwait, we will be hosting her workshop at Sirdab Lab in collaboration with Nuqat but I also wanted to interview her for our StartupQ8 community. Below is Yara’s interview, Enjoy 🙂

What is design thinking?

Through out his book “Design Thinking,” Nigel Cross claims that everyone is capable of designing, from kids to elderly, each in their unique manner. Cross refers to design as a plan to create something, from a building blueprint to a stick figure. The evidence from different cultures around the world, and from designs created by children as well as by adults, suggests that everyone is capable of designing.

So design thinking is something “inherent within human cognition; it is a key part of what makes us human.” Design thinking is rooted to the way designers connect with people (users and consumers), how they come to a problem from the people’s perspective, and how they create meaningful experiences for them. Design thinking is about methodology as much as it is about culture. Thus designers have to make sense of the place they are in to discover opportunities and be inspired by them.

Nigel Cross defines design thinking as “the study of the cognitive processes that are manifested in design action.” He supports the previous statement by stating that design thinking “is better understood as an activity of the problem-solving process.”

How can it help startups?
A startup is a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed. Design thinking is a combination of analytical (the present facts) and creative (the envisioned future) thinking. Design thinking can be adopted in startups as an approach to break down the current context, know the target audience involved, and then envision the best solution accordingly. Design thinking allows testing early hypotheses before launching the final product to the market, this saves time and resources, and could result in successful project results.

People are now more savvy than they were 5 years ago, so they won’t put up with a poorly designed product or service if there’s a better alternative out there. If we really want to win customers over, we need to think beyond the product and services, we need to think about how to create a tailored, harmonic and enjoyable user experience for our customers.

Can you provide case studies or examples where design thinking has had tremendous value?
Businesses, like IDEO, a pioneer today within the service design sector, and others, are embracing design thinking because it helps them come up with more innovative ideas, thereby better differentiating their brands, and bring their products and services to the market faster. Non profits organizations are also beginning to use design thinking as well to develop better solutions to social challenges. Today, the government in the UK is using design thinking to solve social challenges. The beauty of design thinking is its flexibility to tackle all kinds of challenges.

Procter and Gamble initiates design thinking workshops to bring together employees from across the consumer-products giant, including R&D, market research, and purchasing, to show the impact of visualization and prototyping when solving real problems for the company. Others companies like Philips, Apple, General Electric, Volkswagen, and even universities are adopting design thinking as a problem solving and teaching method.

Which methods do you follow and why?
Since design thinking is a fairly new methodology in today’s market, there has been various and constant research around it. Today, design thinking has bridged various disciplines such as business, sociology, science, and various others. For this reason, many of the methods used within design thinking come from its multi-disciplinary background.

I use creative methods likes Personas that allow designers and creators to give life to the users I am targeting. Customer Journey is another effective tool that follows Personas to map out the overall experience of the user using a certain service or product. Such tools give birth to empathy and connection to the user, thereby creating human-centered solutions. I also follow my heart and gut instincts, they always mean something. Methods like Role Play are great at envisioning solutions and connect with the user. Group building methods are also effective to build a holistic team composed of different personalities and competencies.

What are the steps of design thinking and can you briefly explain each step?
Every design thinking process starts with a challenge, problem, or case study acting as the main issue from which user research and context starts. Like any challenge in whatever context, one must understand the current situation, context, people related, and exterior factors; let’s call this first phase, (1) Collect Information. After getting a general overview on the situation and people involved, one must dig deeper to extract specific user needs and circumstances. Design thinking is based on human centered-design, working to cater the needs of the users or consumers involved. Usually after this step there is a river of information about the situation and the people around it. This is where the second phase, (2) Connect the Findings follows, in an attempt to connect all the findings and make sense of them. This will lead to spotting patterns, habits, and norms that naturally form themes or working areas where one can move to third phase (3) Extract Opportunities. The trick in this phase is to generate as many ideas as possible, preferably the most innovative and out of the box. Generating ideas is usually done through brainstorming in groups consisting of people from different backgrounds, this gives birth to eclectic and innovative ideas under one roof. Only a few ideas usually make it to the next phase, ready to be implemented. After filtration and evolution to reach the most promising idea, phase four, (4) Execute a Solution, follows. This is when the idea chosen is morphed into a tangible and visible product or service. Here quick prototyping and iteration is encouraged to call for feedback from users until the desired solution comes to life. Such phase are set in order, however that doesn’t mean that one can’t go back and forth to reassure findings and dig deeper; design thinking is a cycle.

Whats the difference between analytical thinking and design thinking?
Unlike analytical thinking, which is associated with the breaking down of ideas, design thinking is a creative process based on the building up of ideas. As Baeck & Gremett put it, “analytical approaches focus on narrowing the design choices, while design thinking focuses on going broad, at least during the early stages of the process.” Analytic decisions are great for breaking things down into smaller parts, which is necessary for a math problem. But intuition (design thinking) is about looking at patterns and wholes, which is needed when making quick decisions about whether something is real or fake, ugly or pretty, right or wrong. Testing intuition against analysis, Pratt and co-authors Erik Dane, of Rice University and Kevin W. Rockmann, of George Mason, found that people can trust their gut and rely on intuition when making a broad evaluation in an area where they have in-depth knowledge of the subject, also referred to as domain expertise. In design thinking, designers do not make any early judgments about the quality of ideas. As a result, this minimizes the fear of failure and maximizes input and participation in the ideation, brainstorming, and prototype phases. “Outside the box thinking and wild ideas” are encouraged in the early stages of the process, since this style of thinking is believed to lead to creative solutions that would not have emerged otherwise.

Are there tools we can actively use to enhance our creativity process and ideation?
Brainstorming is an effective tool, used by many. However, the trick to it is to allow people from different disciplines and backgrounds to brainstorm together, without pre-judgments and second thoughts. Brainstorming encourages the right brain to express the crazy ideas that can be bought closer to reality later on in the process. The working environment is very essential when it comes to a group of people working together to find a solution. Creativity can’t be forced is one is not at ease to express and be heard either by their college or even boss. Another trick to ideation is visuals, we are all creative people if we are given the right tools and environment to draw our ideas out.

Can you please tell us more about your upcoming workshop and the learning outcomes?
Luckily, the coming weekend, September 18, 19, and 20, I will be conducting a workshop entitled Design Thinking: The Process of Startup Success at Sirdab Lab, Dasman, in collaboration with Nuqat. Such an opportunity will allow me to share my learning and experience of using design thinking as a creative and innovative problem solving approach. It is an open workshop for everyone who would like to experience, hands-on, the power of using creative methods to learn more about the consumers needs, create and analyze a complete experience for them, test hypotheses, work in multidisciplinary groups, and most important of all HAVE A PRODUCTIVE & FUN WEEKEND. Remember design thinking is not just for those who work in the creative and marketing domain, on the contrary design thinking should be practiced by all. Today in countries Denmark, UK, and Holland, design thinking is being taught to doctors and nurses to help them design better experiences for their patients.

Whats the difference between analytical thinking and design thinking?
Unlike analytical thinking, which is associated with the breaking down of ideas, design thinking is a creative process based on the building up of ideas. As Baeck & Gremett put it, “analytical approaches focus on narrowing the design choices, while design thinking focuses on going broad, at least during the early stages of the process.” Analytic decisions are great for breaking things down into smaller parts, which is necessary for a math problem. But intuition (design thinking) is about looking at patterns and wholes, which is needed when making quick decisions about whether something is real or fake, ugly or pretty, right or wrong. Testing intuition against analysis, Pratt and co-authors Erik Dane, of Rice University and Kevin W. Rockmann, of George Mason, found that people can trust their gut and rely on intuition when making a broad evaluation in an area where they have in-depth knowledge of the subject, also referred to as domain expertise. In design thinking, designers do not make any early judgments about the quality of ideas. As a result, this minimizes the fear of failure and maximizes input and participation in the ideation, brainstorming, and prototype phases. “Outside the box thinking and wild ideas” are encouraged in the early stages of the process, since this style of thinking is believed to lead to creative solutions that would not have emerged otherwise.

A little about Yara Al Adib…
I have recently came back to Kuwait, one of the places I call home, from Milano, Italy, where I was doing my Masters in Service Design and Social Innovation at Politecnico di Milano. My stay in Europe for three years has opened my eyes to many things I didn’t previously see and comprehend when I was back at American University of Beirut studying Graphic Design. I now see beyond the graphics printed or pixels projected, today I see the meaning behind each color, layout, and choice made.

I am a multi-disciplinary designer that mixes a bit of graphic, service, product, strategy, and experience design to create a holistic and comprehensive outcome. I always start with putting myself in the shoes of the person I am designing for and from there I mix and match and test until I reach a human-centered and innovative outcome.

Yara’s Contact Information:
email: yfa06(at)aub(dot)edu(dot)lb
portfolio: be.net/YaraAlAdib

About Yara’s workshop: sirdab-lab.com/designthinking 

Get Listed in Kuwait’s Largest Startup Resource Directory

Are you a web or an app developer? A designer? A business advisor? A lawyer? An investor?

Are you interested in offering your services to startups but don’t know how to reach them? Well how about you let them find you instead? 

As active members of the startup community in Kuwait we realize how fragmented the market is. We always hear great ideas from people who can’t find the right technical team to build the product. We also know people who have amazing apps and websites but have no clue how to monetize it. So we decided to take action, by connecting people and helping them build awesome startups!

As a first step we are launching a Start Up Resource Directory, a compilation of all local services available for startups. Think of it as a bridge between your SME (or if you’re a big company that caters to the needs of startups we will still include you) and the entrepreneurs looking for your services. Covering a large array of sectors, including web development, finance & funding, angel investors, venture capitalists, marketing and branding, mobile development, graphic design, HR, accounting and advisory, the Start Up Resource Directory has all you need to connect with more clients. Now is your chance to be part of the largest directory in Kuwait. To sign up your company and build your profile, please visit this link http://sirdab-lab.com/?page_id=232 and build your company’s page before the deadline of April 20th. There will also be a print copy published of the directory to further increase visibility and awareness. So don’t miss out!

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Who the heck are we?

Sirdab Lab is created by a bunch of people who are passionate about entrepreneurship, shared learning and building successful startups. We provide entrepreneurs with a community, a co-working space and access to the highest caliber mentor and network.  

Still wanna know more?

Visit www.sirdab-lab.com. And find us on Twitter and Instagram @sirdab_lab.

 Do you have feedback for us, would you like to get involved, or just want to say Hi?

Drop us a line on: info(at)sirdab-lab(dot)com

Is the Arab World Missing Out on Big Data Opportunities?

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What is Big Data?  According to IBM, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created everyday from various sources.  Every time we post something to a social media site, use the GPS functions on our mobile phones, make a purchase, collect information on the weather, or take a picture or video with a digital device the resulting data is what is referred to as big data.  And the analysis of this data is the key to gaining a competitive advantage, improving productivity growth, and driving innovation within organizations worldwide.

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) in the Middle East are finally ready to adopt Big Data as a business tool.  Business leaders and CIOs in the region are keen to join the global Big Data adoption bandwagon.  This is clear from a recent International Data Corporation (IDC) survey of Middle Eastern CIOs, where 42% of the respondents claimed to be planning Big Data investments in 2013, up sharply from 11% in 2012.  Budget constraints and the lack of a clear business ROI case have been the key inhibitors to Big Data adoption in the region. 

However, Big Data adoption is accompanied by challenges  global and local  and service providers that can overcome these challenges will emerge as the winners in the region.  With a buy-in from CIOs and other C-level executives, Big Data has overcome the first key hurdle to adoption in the region.  But, its implementation will be accompanied by another set of challenges.  Some of these are global in nature, they include: dealing with variety (80% of enterprise data exists in non-structured and non-relational form), velocity (ability to analyse streaming data enabling real-time decisions), and volume (global digital content is expected to grow 50 fold between 2010 and 2020, and data storage is a key issue) of data.  Additionally, countries worldwide are struggling to build a skilled workforce with the necessary technical skills around Hadoop, MapReduce, Predictive Analytics, NoSQL, etc. which are all critical to Big Data implementation.  Yet, there are two challenges that are specific to the region, and that also present unique opportunities for Big Data service providers in the Middle East.

Low availability and usability of public data:  In order to generate meaningful conclusions, Big Data and BI tools need access to large volumes of information such as cartographic data, financial market data, socio-demographic data, regulatory data, and meteorological data.  However, as shown in the graph below, availability and usability of public information in the region is among the lowest in the world (MENA countries are beginners as opposed to the western countries, which are trend setters.)  Data portals in the region either do not have updated high quality data, or the government does not have the technology and the systems in place to share this data with companies and stakeholders. In both cases, there is an opportunity for service providers to educate — and work with — governments to improve the data capture, storage, and analysis processes.

For an infographic and a case study look at the source of this post at http://arabbusinessreview.com/en/article/arab-world-missing-out-big-data-opportunities#comment-87

Source: ArabBusinessReview.com 

 

 

OpenCoffee Club Meetup: January 20th, 2014.

Just a friendly reminder of our weekly meetup tomorrow at 7:30 pm at Caribou Salhya. This week Steve Adelman is joining us. Steve is a veteran of Silicon Valley; he’s an Angel investor, and has consulted to or advised many start ups. He also teaches entrepreneurship, working with Steve Blank at Stanford and Berkeley, and is Director of Entrepreneurial Programs at Cogswell College of Silicon Valley.

Here are the details for the next Coffee meetup:

  • Topic: Feedback on YOUR startups + discussion on the Silicon Valley ecosystem 
  • When/where: Monday January 20 at 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM @ Caribou Salhya
  • Who should attend: Anyone who wants to learn about entrepreneurs, startup enthusiasts, developers, programmers
  • Organizer: Mona Al Mukhaizeem is handling the organization and logistics. You can contact her here

Let us know if you have any questions. 

An interview with the founders of AbiDoc

AbiDoc is my new best friend and here is why: I hate it when I call to book a doctor’s appointment. Every time I do I get random times that don’t fit my schedule, which is probably caused by the inefficient person on the other end of the line, flipping through the appointment book. (If you live in Kuwait you probably know what I’m talking about and feel the same way)… AbiDoc solves this problem by offering an easy to use online platform where patients can directly book their appointments!

Below is an interview from the founders of AbiDoc, as we were fortunate enough to meet up with them. Together we extend an invitation for you to join us at our StartupQ8 October meetup which will be held this Monday in Global tower at 7:30pm.

abi doc

Startup Info:

Name of Startup: AbiDoc

Name of Founders and titles: Dr. Mussaad Al-Razouki (Chairman), Mohammad Al-Ali (Chief Executive Officer), Eng. Haytham Al-Hawaj (Chief Technology Officer)

Year Founded: 2012

Number of employees/partners: 9 (Kuwait); 4 (Cyprus); 3 (UAE);  3 (Jordan);  3 (Oman); 3 (Bahrain); 2 (Saudi Arabia)

What’s your elevator pitch?  

AbiDoc is an online scheduling service that allows patients to directly book appointments with doctors in Kuwait (and soon the wider Middle East region and beyond).

How did you come up with the idea for your startup?

Mussaad: As a doctor, friends and family always ask me to recommend a “good doctor.” So, together with my co-founders, we decided there had to be a better way to get information about  doctors.

Haytham: We then decided to incorporate an online booking system, similar to the system we had developed at goalcourts.com for renting out artificial football pitches. We felt it was important to have an interactive service that went beyond the functionality of a simple directory. Our mobile application takes this interactivity a step further, allowing patients to search for the nearest doctor by utilizing the GPS of their smartphone.

Mohammad: Similar services which allow patients to directly book appointments with doctors online exist in other international markets. Furthermore, other industries in the Middle East have been very successful adopting online services. Some great examples include Talabat.com, ClearTrip, and KNCC’s online booking system. We believe healthcare is next.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Thankfully, we have managed to overcome two major challenges thus far:

1. Product development: we initially underestimated the amount of time and effort that would    be required to design and develop the AbiDoc platform. Our ambition to have a multi-sided website, contact center, and applications for both Android and iOS, combined with the complexity inherent in the concept behind the product (e.g., the ability to handle online and offline bookings, reschedules, and cancellations; handling back-and-forth communications between patients, administrators, doctors, and receptionists; integration with email and SMS messaging services; etc.) caused us to significantly go beyond our initial estimated market launch date. But with each delay, we managed to build a more solid platform that caters to the needs of the patient, the doctor and even the receptionist with whom we work tirelessly to ensure a very user-friendly system

2. Business development: signing up the first batch of doctors was quite challenging. Initially we reached out to doctors through friends and family. Doctors are inherently   extremely busy professionals, so we sometimes had to get creative in how and when we     would meet with them – we have met with doctors at 11pm after their clinic hours, at     8am before their clinic hours, at cafés and my personal favourite – on a Friday afternoon   at Avenues Mall during Ramadan. We even had a marathon 5 hour meeting with a large client to make sure that we addressed every single concern of the management team. However, signing up more clinics and hospitals became easier after that first group of pioneer doctors bought into the online booking concept. Now AbiDoc is well known throughout the Kuwaiti market and we have even worked with our partner doctors, clinics and hospitals to help deliver on other technological needs. One of our key goals is for AbiDoc to become one of the most trusted names in healthcare

Personally, do you think it is more difficult to raise capital or find the right talent? Any suggestions to make it easier?

We have thus far deliberately refrained from seeking to raise capital until we start to generate significant cash flow. It is our opinion that our valuation and equity holding would be significantly compromised if were to look to external funding sources, and therefore have so far self-funded AbiDoc ourselves.

We have a talented team who have done a great job launching the AbiDoc platform and developing one of the largest healthcare networks in Kuwait. However, even they would admit that an extra helping hand or two would have helped. Unfortunately, it is often hard to find reliable programmers. Midway through development, we hired on a trial basis one prospective programmer, but ended up having to let him go due to the fact that he was generating more bugs than new features to our system!

What has contributed to your success to this point?  What advice would you like to share to early stage or new entrepreneurs?

We believe that having the following qualities are essential to be successful

Persistence: Unforeseen delays and setbacks are inevitable when building something from scratch. You sometimes end up taking two steps forward and one step back. You meet people who are skeptical of what you are doing and (whether deliberately or unintentionally) sometimes discourage you. You think to yourself at times whether the decision to put everything you have in terms of dedication, time and money, at the expense of other opportunities, into the venture was worth it. Nevertheless, you owe it yourself, your partners, and the enterprise to see it to the end. Despite the emotions that may trouble you at times, you need to remember that you embarked on this journey for sound reasons built upon a foundation of business logic and rationale, and that it deserves a decent shot at success.

People: Working with the right people is essential to creating a successful business. We make a conscious effort to appreciate all of the people we work with, and to encourage them to utilize their respective strengths. We recognize that everyone has certain talents, and they should be used. This recognition has allowed us to form a true team and to build our business. As we expand beyond Kuwait, we have been blessed with strong and reliable partners in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Cyprus, Jordan, Oman and the UAE. We are also in the late stages of discussion with potential partners in Lebanon, Qatar, and Turkey. Even with regards to our doctor network, we try to avoiding using the word “client” or “customer” as much as possible. Instead, we refer to them as partners, especially since our interests are closely aligned – the more visitors we get on AbiDoc, the more patients they will get. We believe that we are all working towards a common goal

Passion: You must be passionate when you start your venture. There are times when we work 12-16 hour days with sometimes as little as 4-5 hours of sleep at night. Nevertheless, we remain motivated. We are focused on our mission, which isn’t just to add more doctors on our platform. AbiDoc’s ultimate mission is to help doctors and hospitals solve all their administrative and technological needs, thereby allowing them to focus on their core function of caring for and treating their patients.

Promotion: We have had to adapt our promotional efforts as we have grown from a concept to an actual network. It has been necessary to be creative in the ways that we reach out to doctors. This initially consisted of tapping into friends and families’ networks. As we began to grow, the doctors themselves were a source of referrals, and many of them actively promoted AbiDoc to their colleagues on our behalf. Now, as we have officially launched and start to market to patients we aim to be equally creative and adaptable towards them. Whether this be through leveraging the power of the Internet and other technologies (e.g., social media, Google ads, blogs, etc.) or more traditional means (e.g., offline social networks such as professional networks, expatriate networks, clubs and organizations, etc.), it is important to take advantage of any opportunity that can help spread word of the AbiDoc brand and value proposition to others

Positivity: When starting up a business, it is important to make sure that the people you are partnering with are positive and inspiring individuals. You must always have an optimistic outlook on every situation that you come across, and this is never truer than when starting up a business. When one individual is struggling, it is the job of the other partners to step in and uplift the situation. AbiDoc is made up of some very talented individuals: we consist of a doctor and healthcare industry expert, a management consultant, and a biomedical engineer with a combined total of nearly 20 years work experience. Together, we exude a passion, knowledge and expertise in the healthcare, strategy and operations, as well as technology. We engineered a robust business plan and tried to account for every scenario we foresaw before we first embarked on the enterprise.

What made you choose to go down the path of entrepreneurship? Did you quit your day job to do this? 

Mussaad: AbiDoc is the fifth venture that I have been involved in, but it is the venture with the most potential especially given the fact that it has a high chance to truly revolutionize the very opaque healthcare industry. Transitioning from an office employee to an entrepreneur over the past 3 years has been challenging and surprisingly very hard to explain to former colleagues – especially doctors. Medicine is a noble profession and an extremely rewarding one. As doctors, our profession has benefitted from the specialization of doctors into different clinical practices. You have doctors that specialize in one physiological system, like how neurologists focus on the brain and nervous system, and other doctors who focus on an entire disease system, such as diabetes specialists. Now, the next step is to have doctors that specialize in different parts of the healthcare system. We have already seen certain large hospital systems, such as the Cleveland Clinic, introduce the position of Chief Patient Experience Officer, an executive doctor whose sole purpose is to monitor and improve the patients’ experience.  As one of the first Arab doctors with an MBA focused in Healthcare Management and Finance from Columbia Business School, my personal goal is to develop a strong competency in healthcare management and the use of information to improve the efficiency of financing the future of our healthcare economy. Our aim is for AbiDoc to be the engine that will analyze this information. Together with Mohammad and Haytham, I am very confident that we will find a way to leverage the insights that the analyses generate, which will in turn improve the quality of healthcare within Kuwait, the greater GCC region, and beyond.

Mohammad: I had just completed my 3-year Business Analyst program at McKinsey & Company. I was fortunate to have earned an offer to return post-business school, but wanted to have an additional professional experience before continuing my studies to round out my outlook on business. As a consultant, I had the privilege of working on a wide range of engagements across many different industries and geographies that exposed me to issues that private sector senior executives and public sector policymakers in both emerging and developed markets face. However, I was largely limited to issuing recommendations, and rarely was involved in the implementation of ideas since this was typically left in the hands of the clients we were serving. AbiDoc has given me a better understanding of the challenges involved in establishing a company from scratch and the effort required to expand.

Haytham: I have been an entrepreneur for the better part of the past 3 years. After working as a biomedical engineer at the Ministry of Health, I decided to launch my own web and app development company, Designed Value Innovation, which developed the technology behind AbiDoc.

What do you think the strengths and weaknesses are of the Kuwait entrepreneurship and startup community?  What would you personally like to see?

We believe that initiatives such as the StartupQ8 community have been great for Kuwaiti entrepreneurs like ourselves that have recently developed a new venture. It has been great thus far getting to meet new and interesting people, bouncing ideas off one another, and having credible people who have experienced what we have to give us feedback and mentoring.

As far as we are aware, there is a lack of an accelerator, incubation and venture capital community that can provide an ecosystem within which entrepreneurs can grow and flourish. Many people have great ideas but feel that they cannot pursue them due to lack of funding and support.  Even establishments such as KSPDC require that a minimum of 20% of the capital raised for the company come from the entrepreneur, which is sometimes out of reach for many young, budding, and aspiring entrepreneurs. And even if you do have the capital, as an internet startup you often do not qualify for funding due to the lack of tangible assets. We hope that the KD 2 billion fund issued into law by the government of Kuwait will help alleviate some of the above issues and help transform Kuwait into the Silicon Valley of the Middle East.

What’s your ask right now? What do you and your startup need? (i.e., users, partners, marketing support, mentorship, talent, investment, etc.)

There are a few ways in which the StartupQ8 community, as well as your own friends and family, can support AbiDoc as we now officially launch and start to grow our user base:

1. Be sure to download and write a review for our app for either Android or iOS (just search for AbiDoc) and register an account as a patient so that when you need a doctor you can simply book an appointment via AbiDoc. You can also visit us at www.abidoc.com and register an account there. Don’t forget to follow us on our social media channels and retweet or repost anything you see interesting – we in turn hope to engage with our follower base as much as possible. You can find us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/abidoc); Twitter (@AbiDoc or www.twitter.com/abidoc); Instagram (@AbiDoc or www.instagram.com/abidoc); and Google+ (www.gplus.to/abidoc).

2. If your current (or favourite) doctor is not on AbiDoc, please send us an email via info@abidoc.com and send us his or her name (and ideally contact information) and we will reach out to them to partner and list them on the AbiDoc network. We are actively adding new doctors to our network, and want to make sure we are offering our patients a wide range of options that fits their needs.

3. Finally, spread the word (WhatsApp, BBM, etc.) and try us out! Feel free to give us feedback on how we can do better at http://www.abidoc.com/website/suggestions.php. We’re always on the lookout for ways to improve.

Anything you’d like to add?

We would like to thank you and the rest of the StartUpQ8 community for your time and support! We hope to be the next in a long line of successful Kuwaiti startups, and intend to eventually expand into the wider GCC region and beyond! Of course, we cannot achieve this without you and your support.

Got a Great Idea? Pitch it @ An “Innov-a-thon” event…

TURN8, a program launched by DP World, is an “Idea to Market” accelerator based in Dubai. I recently found out that they are inviting people to pitch their ideas at scheduled Innov-a-thon events or online!

For Schedule: http://www.turn8.co/portfolio/where-when-1/

I checked out their website and services and thought this might be interesting for our StartupQ8 community. If anyone does register and pitch please share with us your experience. Best of luck to all!

P.S. Speacial thanks to my friend Kaveh Gharib, @Kavelicious, who brought this to my attention.

Update: Turns out you can’t view the schedule and register because it is by invite only. Look at the selected dates below and if you’re a Startupq8 member and you’re interested  in any of these events let us know and we will email you an invite. Hopefully next time we will host one in Kuwait.

Innov-a-thon Schedule
Dubai, UAE – May 11
Amman, Jordan – May 13
Cairo, Egypt – May 14
San Francisco, CA – June 29
Dubai, UAE – July 27

Ready or not here comes the Pitch!

Is a person’s common sense inversely related with their attention to detail or their stress level? Have you ever met a financial guru whose complex financial model simply didn’t make sense or doesn’t take into account questions that start with “What if … ”? Well if you haven’t, just take a walk along Wall Street and you will meet plenty of them. You will also find entrepreneurs with PhDs in computer science or engineering struggling to raise capital for their disruptive new technology—of course everyone believes their product is one of a kind and will change the world. However, there are plenty of breakthrough innovations out there that never get enough VC attention because the masterminds behind them fail to clearly define their business. The reason for this could be that they were paying too much attention to the details and completely missing the big picture. The trick is finding the right balance between attention to detail and the big picture.

While I was working on my MBA in San Francisco I attended a lot of entrepreneurship and pitching events. I sat through hundreds of 2-3 minute pitches and I couldn’t help but notice that there was no shortage of brilliant entrepreneurs with astonishing backgrounds and who were very passionate about what they did. Yet when it came to pitching their ideas they underperformed. At the time, the sole purpose of my attendance was out of curiosity and to see if I could observe and detect—with an outsider’s eye—any generic patterns, and I did.

At the end of each pitch the judging panel or the investors would ask (sometimes complex) questions and allow the entrepreneur very little time to answer, often leaving them under tremendous pressure to give succinct, convincing, and well-articulated answers while maintaining the right attitude … and their poise.

I wrote down all the questions that were asked and the answers that were provided, both loved and hated. I also added other potential questions that I found through research to create a “FAQ Checklist.” I believe that this list could prove to be very helpful to entrepreneurs in their preparation for the big pitch day.

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The big question still remains, what would make investors take out their checkbooks and write a check to a specific company? It ultimately boils down to whether they really believe in the idea and fall in love with it and the entrepreneur behind it.

The above checklist is one tool that would help prepare entrepreneurs for selling their ideas and also give them a 3D view of their business, which would enable them to locate and fix any blind spots they may have otherwise missed before pitching to others. However, making investors fall in love is the tricky part because—as we all know—there has to be a natural chemistry. But even if there isn’t, that doesn’t mean that you still can’t give it a try.

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