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

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

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

(Information) sharing is caring

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

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

A change after for 4 years

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

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

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

Photo gallery

(click to enlarge)

ArabNet Kuwait gathered entrepreneurs around exciting panels and talks

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

Well-known speakers and panelists

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

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

Who won the ArabNet Kuwait contests?

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

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

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

Make sure to be there next year!

How to deal with obstacles in entrepreneurship

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

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

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

His initial thought process was next:

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

This is what he realized along the way:

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

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

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

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

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Main photo: niu

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. 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We couldn’t agree more with Dana.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

StartupQ8 Event for April reveals a secret to Silicon Valley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Announcing: StartupQ8 Event for April 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you there!

Announcing Coded’s Spring Coding Bootcamp

Folks,

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

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

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

Coded Bootcamp Announcement

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

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

The application deadline is Feb 7th, 2016.

You can check it out and apply on joincoded.com 

 

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Author: Hashim Bahbahani

Magazine Artwork: Reema Motib

5 min read.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there is still hope; there is still time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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