5 books every startuper needs to read

Startup Stock Photos

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. 🙂

Customer Acquisition For The Newbie Entrepreneur

Customer Acquisition and Startup Failures

This is a post for newbie startup founders, and fresh entrepreneurs willing to land their very first set of customers. Often startups fail because of lack of customers (about 80% of the time). There are some obvious reasons for that:

  1. Founders are too technology/product oriented, they forget to connect with potential customers.
  2. The product doesn’t solve a real pain.
  3. The value proposition is too confusing and difficult to communicate

There maybe other reasons too, but I found those to be the most common occurring ones.

The Customer Acquisition Guide

You’re probably reading here to know a practical tip on customer acquisition, well, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How many potential users of my product did I talk to before actually building the product?
  2. Who tried my prototype?
  3. How many people praised my prototype? How many neglected it? How many said it’s awful?

The Steps to Customer Acquisition

  1. Read the questions again, and literally take a piece of paper (or an Excel sheet if you’re fancy!) and write down the names of people for each question.
  2. Now scratch the names of your family and friends who praise you no matter what you do, unless you strictly know they are pragmatic and objective people.
  3. Put an asterisk next to names who neglected your product, or said it’s awful.
  4. Now look at the list again, do anyone of those people made an investment in your product? An investment could be devoting their required resources to reach the goal you had for your product. For example, if you have an e-commerce app, the goal is to buy a product through your app, that’s an investment. For Instagram, an investment is to make an account and follow a few people and like their photos.
  5. If not, then you need to get back to your team, sketch a fresh new BMC, and start figuring out new value propositions by reshaping the problem, and the solution.
  6. After you’ve done that, get back to the list of people you made earlier, propose the new prototype with new value proposition, and record their feedback.
  7. If there is an investment, then you’ve nailed it. If not, redo the steps from all over.

Tips on Customer Acquisition

  1. Try to have a large number of people in step 1, since you’ll be filtering out the ones not needed.
  2. There is no magic number of people for your customer acquisition list.
  3. It’s not necessary to talk to your potential customers face-to-face, although it’s the most useful. You can use other channels such as Twitter, or plain-old Email.
  4. Try to expand the radius of your potential people, don’t think close friends and family. Tap into your college network, your past job, friends of friends, etc.
  5. It’s always better to show a product/prototype to your potential customers, than to just convey words and/or pictures. This way, you can immediately see if they’ll make an investment in your product and basically turn them into customers, rather than just get a verbal commitment that they will use your product!

The Conclusion on Basic Customer Acquisition

The idea here is to create a list of potential people around you, that you think may find your product attractive, and refine this list. Once you refine it, see if they have already generated revenue for you*, then they are already your first set of customers! If not, then the problem is either with your value proposition, your solution, or your implementation (the product). Go back to your team, refine those three things, and approach your potential customers again and see if they’ll do an investment this time. Redo until you hit the jack pot.

Also, don’t be shy to ask, if you’re too lazy to ask again or afraid you’re asking too much, then probably you need to rethink why you chose entrepreneurship!

 

 

* Or made a considerable time investment in your product if you don’t have a revenue generating business model yet.

REMINDER: The First Full-time Coding Bootcamp in Kuwait + Instructor Bio + Scholarships

Disclaimer: the author of this post is a co-founder of "Coded".

 

A few weeks ago, we posted an announcement about “Coded”, the first coding bootcamp in Kuwait started accepting applications for it’s summer full-time full-stack bootcamp. 

 

The program aims to take students with little to no coding background or Computer Science experience and turn them into junior level professional developers within 8 very intense week.

 

We meet a lot of ambitious people in Kuwait who have great ideas for startups but don’t have the technical background to execute on those ideas. If you’re one of those people, the Coded Bootcamp would be a great way for you to quickly acquire the basic technical skills you will need to either build the product yourself, or have a good enough understanding of the technical aspects to be able to communicate with a technical co-founder or team.

 

Coded recently announced that there are scholarship opportunities to fund the entire program fee for selected students. More scholarship opportunities will be added this coming week as well. So if you’re really interested in joining the program but the fees are too expensive, try to apply for a scholarship so you can join the bootcamp for free.

 

The instructor for the course comes directly from Coded’s affiliates in the US, Coding Campus. His name is Charles Stauffer. Charles is an enthusiastic software developer who has specialized in web applications. Charles has a wealth of experience working on both large and small teams. He also loves training students and new employees. Charles has a degree in Digital Animation & Computer Science from Brigham Young University. He has over 10 years of programming experience, and has notably worked as a PHP developer at Bluehost, one of the largest web hosting companies in the world. Charles’s specialty is in Python, JavaScript, and PHP.

 

Charles Stauffer- Instructor for Coded

Charles Stauffer- Instructor for Coded

 

The deadline for applying to Coded is July 10.

 

For more information and to apply visit http://www.joincoded.com

 

Good luck everyone!

 

 

 

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 Venture Capital The Way To Go?

The folks at FindTheBest.com wrote us the following guest post in response to Aziz’s latest post on venture capital. FindTheBest is  unbiased, data-driven search engine that helps people make quick and informed decisions. Below, they offer their take on the venture capital decision, and show us a tool they’ve built to help entrepreneurs answer that question:

Every budding start-up comes across the same big question as its revenue starts to grow, “Is it time to seek funding from a Venture Capital Firm?” The answer may vary depending on the type of company and the economic conditions surrounding the forecasted growth of the startup. One aspect that every entrepreneur must do is evaluate whether they actually need VC funding or if they should go after the likes of an angel investor, private equity investor and maybe even a business incubator. Venture Capital funding has its positives and negatives and they must be assessed before considering accepting an offer.

We will first look at the positives:

1. Money, Experience, and Mentoring

The biggest takeaway from working with a venture capitalist is the lifetimes worth of experience they bring to the table. It is more than likely that your investors have worked with companies similar to your startup or have ran their own company. Their experiences as successful entrepreneurs becomes an asset to your company as they can provide you with direction, advice, and money that has a continuous flow. If you are interested in scaling your startup, VC funding should be an objective on your company’s roadmap.

2. Networking and Recruiting

This is most likely not your investors first time working with a company. They have worked with several successful startups and manage to maintain an extensive list of contacts with top executives and other venture firms they have worked with. They can help you seek funding from other firms and hire skilled executives to help manage your company. If the money and experience was not enough of a reason to work with a VC, the size of their rolodexes should do the trick.

3. Shared risk, Big picture, Exit strategy

Risk arises in any business, not just startup companies. The market will not always work in your favor and deals will not always turnout as expected. Investors are there to support you through the rough times that every startup faces, whether through monetary means or reassurance. They are also the masters of focusing on the big picture while making sure to emphasis the present. If a VC has invested in you, it is because they believe in the future growth of your company. Lastly, the exit strategy. Everything must come to an end, and with startups the end may be three or four years down the road. When the day comes, your investors will make sure you are prepared to cash out and start again.

Now we will assess the negatives:

1. Exit Strategy

There are some cases where venture capitalists are investing just for the exit, meaning their only priority is to sell the company or take it public. Several VC firms are looking to multiply their returns, but that is business and does not necessarily hurt your bank account. Personal relationships with your investors can sometimes be overshadowed by shareholder returns.

2. Losing Independence

CEO is just the name you gave yourself when the company started. When signing the dotted line with a venture capitalist, it no longer becomes just your company. VCs will want one or more board seats with the right to veto actions that your company plans to take. Investors may also have the right to fire you or any member of your management team.

Resource for Selecting Venture Capital Firms:

A new resource was recently created by a startup in Santa Barbara called FindTheBest. FindTheBest is an unbiased, data-driven search engine that helps people make quick and informed decisions. They have developed a new tool that helps anyone seeking venture capital funding select the right firm for their startup. This tool allows you to search for and compare firms based on industry focus, fund size, investment stage, etc. It is a highly valuable tool that will help any startup assess the decision to seek VC funding. The resource is interactive and easy to use. Check out to tool here and access the link above:

FindTheBest: Compare Venture Capital Firms

The Verdict

The negatives of working with venture capital firms should be considered when deciding to seek funding. Is your startup really ready for an exit or a takeover? The positives in most cases lead to big success in the future. The monetary value and experience they bring to a startup help growing companies move in the right direction. Remember, a VC has been there before and they will apply all they know about running a startup to your company. If your goal when deciding to run a startup was to change the world and make money that you never envisioned having, venture capital funding is a step in the right direction.

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.

Announcing the ArabNet Digital Summit 2013

For those of you unfamiliar with it, ArabNet aims to be a hub for digital professionals and entrepreneurs to connect and learn. They have recently announced the details of the much anticipated ArabNet Digital Summit to be held June 24-26 in Dubai.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The heart of the event will be the Forum, three days of panels, talks and interviews focused on cutting-edge trends in digital business.
  • The first day will feature Startup Track, which tackles the recent developments in the MENA entrepreneurship ecosystem.
  • Not only are StartupQ8 members eligible to a 20% discount on the professional rate, one of them will receive a free ticket. To be eligible for both, you need to become a member be signing up to our mailing list. Details will be coming next week.

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Announcing GIST Tech-I Competition for science and technology entrepreneurs

Organized by CRDF Global and the US Department of State, the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative aims to build entrepreneurial ecosystems in countries across the Middle East, Asia and Africa. As part of their mission, they’re announcing the 3rd annual GIST Technology Idea (Tech-I) Competition.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The competition has two tracks: The idea stage and startup stage.
  • Participants are competing for cash prizes, mentorship and the chance to pitch their ideas at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • If you would like to participate, you need to prepare and submit an executive summary and 2 minute video pitch.

If you have any questions, you can contact Zehra Hirji at the US Embassy in Kuwait. Here’s the full text of the announcement:

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Three blog posts you should read before starting an online marketplace

Ahead of our “online marketplace” themed StartupQ8 Event this Monday, we wanted to share some excellent tips we found on various blogs that can help entrepreneurs maximize their online store’s performance:

Post one: 5 Retail Lessons For Ecommerce Sites, by Jim Stoneham on Mashable.com

Jim talks about how to bring the best elements of offline shopping to your online store. He advises to let people express emotions, having a platform to showcase trending items, and the importance of enabling 1-click purchases. On the latter, he has this to say:

Ditch the Cart

Pushing a cart around is a drag in the real world and online. Since social commerce product discovery often comes from within a social stream, it is all about spontaneous, one-off buys, not shopping from a pre-defined list. Enable your shoppers to immediately buy with one click rather than filling up a cart they have to manage and can more easily abandon.

It’s all about taking friction out of the system so impulses can result in instant sales. The iTunes store has shown the clear value of this one-click, cart-free approach.

Click here to read the full post.

Post two: 5 Tips for Connecting with Your Customers and Making More Sales, by Mark Macdonald on Shopify.com

Mark’s post focuses on how online marketplaces can increase sales. He shares various persuasion tools and sales techniques that can help increase your conversion rate. A part of his post discusses removing the customer’s doubts:

Risk Removal

Once you’ve got your potential customer in the right buying environment and emotionally connected to your product, the last step is to remove any risk with a solid guarantee. Every potential purchase comes with some risk for the buyer and adding a money back guarantee backs up the promise that your product is making.

Click here to read the full post.
Post three: 7 Usability Mistakes That Will Kill Your Online Sales, by Gregory Ciotti on KISSMetrics.com

Gregory discusses usability mistakes that can affect an online store’s profitability. He stresses the importance of headline emphasis, legible typography and taking read patterns into account in your page design. He has an interesting take on the “3 click rule”:

Relying on the “3-click” Rule

There is an unfortunate misconception out there among some UX designers that if it takes a user more than 3 clicks to do something, they’ll become overly frustrated.

While this makes sense logically, and web users don’t want to have to click around too much to complete a task, sticking to an arbitrary rule with no data to support it is not the way to go.

As it turns out, most users will not give up on something just because they’ve hit the magical “3-click” ceiling, and I’ve got research to prove it.

Click here to read the full post.

So there you have it: 17 tips from 3 experts. Join us at our monthly event to learn more and meet other entrepreneurs in our community. See the schedule and register to attend by clicking here.

A quick introduction to online payment gateways in Kuwait

One of our more active community members, Burhan Khalid, is speaking about payment gateways at the upcoming StartupQ8 Monthly Event on April 22nd. He will  is the Electronic Channels Development Manager at one of the local banks, and is very familiar with payment gateway issues.

He is also a swell guy, so he agreed to sit through a quick interview about the subject ahead of next week’s event. Here’s what we discussed:

What are the available payment gateways for startups in Kuwait?

There are plenty of options available for Kuwaiti startups looking to integrate a payment gateway. The solution can be local or international.

  • Local gateways include KNET, which is available through all local banks, and credit cards gateways, which vary according to your which bank you use.
  • International gateways obviously include PayPal, but there are plenty of other options out there, including CashU, Skrill, 2Checkout, Gate2Play and many others.

What do the entrepreneurs need to consider before deciding which gateway to implement?

 Each startup has different needs and constraints they it should consider before choosing which gateway to implement. Entrepreneurs should ask themselves the following:

  1.  What level of integration do you require and how much technical experience does your team have? More technical experience means you can handle more complex solutions.
  2. What is the volume and value of transactions that you are expecting to process in a month? Each solution has different rates, minimum monthly amounts, etc.
  3. Do you need the gateway to process offline transactions as well? If so, consider a gateway that can do that.
  4. Do you need the gateway to process payments from different geographical markets, or is your startup aimed solely at Kuwait? If so, consider a gateway that can be used regionally or globally, depending on your startup’s requirements.

What do gateway providers typically ask for to implement the integration?

The most important requirement is that you have a SSL certificate, although that may be waived in certain circumstances depending on your integration requirements. Some gateway providers will put you in a sandbox/test environment before they qualify you for live payments. Others may let you qualify yourself for the live environment.

When should entrepreneurs decide between all these options? Should they just accept cash on delivery (COD)?

First, COD is a high cost, high risk payment method and should be the last resort of payment in most cases. However, the answer to this question is different for each startup. Does most of your target market already have access to credit cards? Will they prefer using KNET? If the startup targets mobile users, did you consider mobile payment options such as Next Pay? While there’s no one right answer, the best thing to do is know your market and do your research.

If you want to learn more or have any questions, join us at the event next week. To view the full schedule and register, click here.

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