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.

Preparing for Startup Weekend? Here are a couple of workshops to help you out

We’re in the final week of preparation for the inaugural Startup Weekend – Kuwait, and have teamed up with developers and entrepreneurs to bring you two workshops (or bootcamps) to help familiarize you with the event and the tools you will need to build your prototype. Attending these events is NOT mandatory. We’re organizing them to give you a better idea of what to expect during the event.

The first event is on Monday, January 28th. We are teaming up with StartupQ8 OpenCoffee Club to hold an introductory session about Startup Weekend. Topics will include:
  • Pitching your idea: What to include in the 60 second pitch? What is the pitching format?
  • Teamwork: How are teams formed? What happens if the idea is/isn’t picked?
  • Business Model Development: How should the business model be built? Any important criteria for winning pitches?
  • Mentors and coaches: Who will coach at Startup Weekend? What kind of help can be expected?
  • Demo day: What should be in the demo? How to prepare the presentation?
  • Q&A.
We encourage everyone who’s planning to attend Startup Weekend to come. The event will be at 7:30 pm Monday January 28th at Java Detour – Soor Tower, Soor Street, Kuwait City.
The second event is on Wednesday, January 30th. We are teaming up with GDG Kuwait to introduce different development tools you can use during Startup Weekend. Topics will include:

An overview about the various tools that google provide to startups that enable them to:

  • Build their product or app (like App Engine, Android).
  • Measure their users engagement with the product and improve conversions.
  • Enhance their products to be more engaging and convenient for your users.
  • Promote and increase the discovery of their products.
  • Receive payments in their products or apps whether through direct payments or advertising or both.

The we will have a code lab, where we will help you:

  • Get your machine ready to use these tools to build your app during Startup Weekend (SDKs. IDEs, etc .. )
  • Explain selected APIs and Platforms in details and walk you through getting started with them.
We encourage the developers attending Startup Weekend to come. The event will be at 7:30 pm Wednesday January 30th at Java Detour, Soor Tower, Soor Street, Kuwait City.
If you have any questions please let us know. Hope to see you there!

Startup Weekend is coming to Kuwait!

Want to know what it means to work in a startup and build a cool web or mobile app?

Startup Weekend allows you to do just that. Over 54 hours, you will:

  1. Share you idea.
  2. Build your team.
  3. Launch your startup.

We’re extremely excited to announce Startup Weekend is coming to Kuwait January 31 – February 2! Here’s what you need to know about the event:

Is this event for me?

Startup Weekend attendees’ backgrounds are roughly 50% technical (developers, coders, designers) and 50% business (marketing, business, startup enthusiasts). As long as you’re ready to work in a team, you’re set!

What kind of background do I need?

While it is your objective to build a web/mobile app over the weekend, you do NOT need a technical background to attend. You can form a team with someone who does. Similarly, you do NOT need to have an idea to attend. You can form a team with someone who does.

 How do I register? How much does it cost?

Registration is free, and can be done on http://swkuwait.eventbrite.com/  Capacity is limited so we encourage everyone to register if they are attending.

What should I bring?

We encourage you to bring the following:

  • Laptop
  • Power cord
  • Business cards if you have them.
  • Camera – take pictures and video!
  • A second monitor, keyboard, etc…. set yourself up to be productive!
  • Lots of creative energy!

What happens on Thursday, Friday and Saturday?


  • Participants arrive between 5-7 PM, begin networking, and eat dinner.
  • After a short introduction by the Facilitator, there will typically be 1 short speech on practical topics ranging from Pitching Best Practices to Lean Startup Methodology and more.
  • Then the “Pitchfire” will commence: anyone intending to pitch will have 60 seconds to give their best pitch.
  • No presentations or props needed for Thursday. It will just be you and a mic.
  • After pitches are finished, all attendees will vote on their favorites, and using these votes the top ideas will be selected to be worked on over the weekend. Teams will form organically, consolidate, and begin working.


  • Teams will work all day, with the occasional breaks to eat.
  • Mentors will be circulating to provide concrete advice in the field of their expertise for those teams that want it.


  • Teams will work uninterrupted from morning until mid-afternoon.
  • They’ll begin wrapping up their product/prototype and/or presentation around 3-4 PM to do tech-checks and practice their demonstration.
  • After all Judges have arrived presentations will begin: each team typically has 5 minutes plus 2-3 minutes Q&A from the jury (this will vary depending on how many teams are presenting).
  • The jury will select the top teams, give out prizes (we hope!), and the event ends (and celebration begins!).

What types of ideas can I pitch?

Any business ideas are eligible (whether for-profit, ‘social’ businesses, non-profit organizations, etc.), however the event is strongly tech-oriented. Approximately 95% of all ideas are mobile or web focused.

 What about non-technical ideas?

We strongly recommend that non-tech ideas focus on a tech-related deliverable (i.e., website).

 Can I pitch my existing business? Can I work on an idea I’ve worked on before?

No. Startup Weekend is designed to be the most effective platform for growing new businesses from the ground up over the course of a weekend. Working on an existing idea undermined the spirit in which Startup Weekend was intended.

 How do I protect against people stealing my idea?

The short answer is that you can’t. If you’re very concerned, you can limit your pitch to the rough outline of the idea without giving away key information.The longer answer is that this is not something worth worrying about. Unless you are confident your idea is a ‘key-in-hand’, easy-to-implement innovation that hasn’t yet been thought of (which it almost surely isn’t), the advantages gained from getting broad-based feedback and a strong team motivated by collective ownership far outweigh the remote risks of someone stealing and executing on your idea.

What resources/assistance is provided over the weekend?

A key part of every Startup Weekend is the valuable advice and assistance provided by the event’s Speakers and Mentors. Mentors – community experts in various fields ranging from entrepreneurship, software development, marketing, etc. – dedicate their time to providing advice and actually rolling up their sleeves and working with teams. In addition to the most valuable resources at the weekend (the people), we’ve also put together a list of some of the most useful resources in all startup-related fields, for both before, during, and after the weekend. Check out startupweekend.org/resources for more info.

Where can I find more information?

Check out http://kuwait.startupweekend.org/ Everyone should read the Startup Weekend FAQ page for a more complete set of common Questions and Answers. If you have a question that isn’t answered, please ask one of the organizers or tweet us on @swkuwait.

Web vs. Mobile: A Startup’s Best Platform – by Mijbel AlQattan

I started advising* a client recently on a new startup idea that revolved around creating an online platform to serve the Kuwaiti community. The product is still in the concept stage, and our discussions were focused on developing the hypotheses for the value being delivered, identifying the customers, and choosing the channels to capture these customers and deliver our solution.

Inevitably, we talked about web vs. mobile, and deciding whether we should focus our efforts on launching an iOS/Android app or building a website. For reference, according to Nielsen Mobile Insights, smart phone penetration in Kuwait was 56% as of September 2011. Meanwhile, Business Monitor International estimates broadband penetration at 14.5% as of December 2011. However, it must be remembered that, on average, multiple users are on a single broadband connection, so the disparity is not that wide. Nonetheless, mobile internet usage is growing, and customers will probably want to use this platform in particular on their phone rather than their computer.

However, while we expect the majority of the customers to be mobile users, I felt that we should develop a web version first and foremost, albeit a mobile friendly one. The reasoning was two-fold:

  1. I wanted to develop an Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that fits both sets of potential customers, and gain insight from into the channel by testing the product.
  2. I can design and *deploy* a web MVP over a weekend, while an app would take much longer.

After the meeting, I found excellent blog posts by Fred Wilson and Vibhu Norby about the same subject that validated our platform of choice for even more compelling reasons. As Fred puts it:

“Distribution is much harder on mobile than web and we see a lot of mobile first startups getting stuck in the transition from successful product to large user base. strong product market fit is no longer enough to get to a large user base. you need to master the “download app, use app, keep using app, put it on your home screen” flow and that is a hard one to master.”

The “download, use, keep using, put on homescreen” cycle is going to be tough in early stages as the product is untried. What compounds the difficulty is that this would be an initial, incomplete and buggy MVP. User ratings will naturally suffer, which will send our growth into a further negative spiral. A web based solution solves these issues, especially one with a good landing page.

Vibhu also points out the ease of onboarding using the web:

“You have an entirely different onboarding story on the web. You can test easily, cheaply, and fast enough to make a difference on the web. You can fix a critical bug that crashes your app on load 15 minutes after discovery (See Circa). You can show 10 different landing pages and decide in real-time which one is working the best for a particular user. You can also close a viral loop: A user can click an email and immediately be using your app with you. You can’t put parameters on a download link and people don’t download apps from their computer to their phone.”

Split tests, iterative improvements and data gathering are all critical to validating our customer hypotheses. Performing those on an app is difficult, with approval cycles and time between user updates. Testing and refining on the web is much quicker and easier.

However, as Fred points out, we cannot ignore the mobile user. They are too important, especially at this stage and for this particular business model. Hence, a mobile-friendly web platform is where we are starting.

*For those who are unaware as this is only my second post here, I’m a partner at Cubical Services where we offer advisory and incubation services to startups and traditional small businesses.

Interview With Yabila!

Wamda just posted my interview with Abdul-Rahman AlSayed the co-founder of  Yabila!. Everyone should read about this startup and their story, I think they are one of the few Kuwaiti startups that have a great potential to become a multi-million dollar business very soon. Click here to read the full interview in Wamda.


Big News, Dishdasha Express Is In

I’m happy to announce that the founders of Dishdasha Express Hani and Abdullah will be the first speakers on the next StartupQ8 event that will be held late this month (more details about the event soon, maybe tomorrow).

I met Abdullah and Hani (Abdullah in the left and Hani in the right, and yes they are not wearing Dishdasha) today for the first time and we had a lot of fun talking about entrepreneurship and our experiences building our own startups. Sorry, but I’m not going to post any of their interesting and funny stories, I’ll keep them for the event. Please stay tuned for more information about the event.

Thanks  guys for meeting me today and thanks for agreeing to talk on our first event, looking forward to it.

Related Posts:

1- Dishdasha Express#1

2- Dishdasha Express#2

Dishdasha Express#2

First, I want to apologize to Dishdasha Express team for the late post. I posted about Dishdasha Express back in July and I promised to have a part two of the story. I don’t have a good reason for the one moth delay, so sorry again. (if you don’t know what does Dishdasha means, click here)

Many of my friends and family asked me about the experience and the process of Dishdash Express, and I told them to wait for my post, and here it goes:

So after I made my order, they said they will send a tailor to my home the next day at 10PM. The Tailor called me at 9:30PM to confirm that I’m at home and said he will be there at 10PM. He arrived at 10:30PM.

Yousif is an experienced tailor (honestly, I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t have the same mustache shown in the logo). He has more than 10 years working experience in Kuwait. He came to my place with his assistance that was carrying a huge bag of fabrics. So even if you don’t have fabrics, you can choose from the huge variety of fabrics available in this Dishdasha Express Bag.

Then Yousif started doing his job, taking my measurements, and I asked his assistance to take some photos during this process (it took some time to teach him how to take photos, but he did good at the end)


The whole process took 10-15 minutes 🙂 After he finished taking the measurement, Yousif told me the dishdasha’s will be ready after 5 working days and they will be delivered directly to my place. They delivered them after 8 working days, still I wasn’t upset or angry at all.

The final result was GREAT (as you can see below). The dishdasha fits perfectly and they remembered to add all of the specifications I asked for. The only thing that I didn’t like was the hard collar. Some of my friends likes the hard collar, but I prefer a soft collar. Maybe I could have get it if I asked for it!! I’ll try to ask about the collar next.

Overall, the experience was as I expected and even better. I’ll give it 9 out of 10, and I’ll highly recommend you to try it.

Honestly, I feel sorry for my old tailor, if he asked me why I’m not coming any more? I’ll tell him Dishdasha Express is changing the game, you either adapt or go out of business.
Really proud of Dishdasha Express team, I’d love to meet you guys in person, please try to get in touch with at startupq8@gmail.com.

Interview with Maachla.com Co-Founder

Today we are starting something different. Previously we used to write about startups in Kuwait in general manner and without going into details. Today we will start something new, we will sit with the founders and chat a bit about their startups and their experience as entrepreneurs.

Our first interview is with one of Maachla.com  co-founders, Osama Alothman.

1.What is Maachla?

Maachla is an online supermarket based in Kuwait.

2.How and when it all started?

It all started when we found out that most supermarkets in Kuwait don’t have a home delivery service nor an online presence, so in 2008 we decided to solve this problem through an online platform called Maachla (Maachla in Kuwaiti means the stuff you buy from the supermarket). Basically, we started as an online sales channel and a home delivery solution for supermarkets, however this model has changed later (more about that in questions#7).

3.How does Machla differentiate it self from other online grocery  delivery websites?
4.How big was your  founding team when you first started? and how big is it right now?

We started as 5 co-founders (Rashed Khazal, Bader Alrujaib, Mohammad Albahar, Ahmad Khazal and I), however only 3 are considered active on the day-to-day operations, the other 2 co-founders are more like an active investors, they are involved in making some major decisions. So we started as 5, then we added 7 more employees (both as drivers and on-sight operation) when we got our first partnership deal. Now we have 22 employees in addition to the 5 co-founders.

5.How did you fund your project?

From our own pockets, now the startup is running on it’s own cash flow.

6.Who was responsible of developing the product/website?

We started developing the website with a website development company, later we recruited the guy who developed our website as a full-time employee.

7.Did the idea or business model changed (Pivot) during the 4 years of operation? 

Yes, we made one major change (pivot) to our business model. Our first business model was to work with supermarkets as partners, but we found out that this model doesn’t work because in Kuwait the board running the supermarket changes every year (in Kuwait supermarkets are owned by the residence of the city and managed by a board of members elected every year). And when the new board arrives, many things changes that usually affect our business substantially. We decided to make a major change and go with a new business model. Now we are literally an online supermarket, we have our own inventory warehouses and sometimes our own branded products.

8. Who works full-time in the company? 

All of the co-founders are working part-time. We recruited a CEO to follow the day-to-day operation. We were more involved in the early days, now we just need to followup.

9. How long it took you to move from the concept idea to launching the website live?

Around 18 months

10. How do you split roles and work load between founders?

We split roles into three parts: Operation, Technical and Marketing. Each one of us (the 3 active founders) was responsible of one of these departments. I’m in charge of the operation department and I take most of the major decisions by my-self except for special major decisions.

11. How do you manage your time between your daily job, your startup and your personal life?

Having a full-time job and being married are defiantly affecting the time and effort I’m giving to Maachla. It’s very difficult to give 100% if you have a daily job. I encourage people to quit their daily jobs after 1-2 yrs of establishing their startup and focus 100% on it. Or better to focus 100% on it from the beginning. You need a lot of courage to quit your job, but this what it takes to build a great company.

12.What you’ll say the major difficulties starting an online business in Kuwait?
  • Establishing and creating the company took us around 6 months!!!
  • Getting permissions to recruit employees from outside Kuwait
13.What type of things you learnt from working in Maachla.com that you’ll never learn from your full-time job?

I’ll say meeting and dealing with huge companies and experienced people. Maachla gave me the opportunity to create an amazing professional network. Also I’m dealing with many huge companies that applies high quality standards when dealing with customers, logistics, employees, marketing and managment. I’m learning a lot from working with these type of companies in a daily basis.

14. Do you have any advice for someone that is considering to start their business?
  • Yes, having 5 co-founders in a startup is a lot. Try to start in a 2-3 co-founders team. It’s much easier to move and make decisions.
  • You need to work in your startup everyday, at least in the first 1-2 years of your business.
You can find more about maachla in this TV interview, also you can follow Osamah in twitter at @oalothman and maachla at @maachla .

(Disclosure: Osamah is also one of my best friends 🙂 )

That was our first founder interview. I hope you found it useful, but I feel the questions still can be much improved. Please leave a comment or send me an email if you have any suggestions on the questions that I should add next time. Also please contact me if you are a founder or if you know a founder of a Kuwaiti startup, I’m very interested to get in touch with them and conduct a similar interview. (you can send me an email at startupq8@gmail.com or find me in twitter @a_alshalabi)
One last thing, I need some help with doing these interviews that I wish we can do more often, if you are interested to offer me some help, also please contact me at startupq8@gmail.com.

Looking for a Designer

I know a Kuwaiti Startup that is looking for a web and graphic designer for a part-time job, if you are interested please send us an email at Startupq8@gmail.com. Also please pass the message if you know a designer that might be interested.

Thanks 🙂


Yabila is a Kuwaiti Startup that provides consumers with the daily discounts, promotions, and deals in their country. Yabila not only covers Kuwait, but also Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Now also available in the App store.

While the world is full of daily deals companies and while the daily deals business model is under a lot of criticism, Yabila is offering something different. Yabila doesn’t depend on the group buying model (similar to Groupon and LivingSocial) instead it started with a very simple idea, aggregating all discount deals from newspapers, magazines or even flayers and put them in one place. Simple and Brilliant!!! With this simple concept Yabila! started to fly. Yabila now has more than 10,000 daily page views. The website is currently ranked number 109 in Kuwait, which is considered one of the highest e-commerce websites in Kuwait. Of course now with the huge amount of traffic, brands are now chasing Yabila to run their ads.


Well done Yabila team, we hope to have the chance to get to know more about your startup and your team 🙂


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