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!

 

 

 

 

 

Attention: The MIT EF Arab Startup Competition is accepting applications

Startup folk,

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

MITEF Roadshow Competition

Three lessons I learned from Startup Weekend (Kuwait)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Announcing Coffee Meetup + Basics of Digital Marketing Talk

This Wednesday, the StartupQ8 Coffee Club Meetup will take place at The VIVA Coded Academy, Kuwait’s first coding school. The meetup is a chance  for local entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts to meet, network, share ideas and collaborate.

This week, the Coffee Meetup will proceed a talk on the Basics of Digital Marketing by Abdulaziz BuKhamseen as part of the VIVA Coded Academy’s speaker of the week event.

Abdulaziz is the creator of Kuwaitiful.com, one of the top blogs in Kuwait. He has worked as head of digital marketing for payment startup Next Payment, and is currently handling major parts of online marketing for the Al-Babtain Group.

The talk will be most useful for those who want to understand how to best utilize paid online marketing via search engines and social networks. These basics are a must for anyone involved in a startup, so don’t miss it!

 

Here are the details:

When: Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Schedule:

7.15 pm- Coffee Club Meetup (More info here)

7.45 pm- Basics of Digital Marketing Talk (More info here)

9.15 pm- Networking and, of course, pizza!

Where: The VIVA Coded Academy in Al-Tjaria Tower 35th floor (Al-Soor Street, downtown Kuwait)

 

See you all there!

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!

 Image

 

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

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.

Yabila!

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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