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!

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 this week’s Coffee Meetup + Scrum Talk

Everyone,

Just like last week, this week’s Coffee Meetup will be held at the VIVA Coded Academy. For you who aren’t familiar with our Coffee Meetups, they are a casual get-together for local entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts to meet, network, share ideas and collaborate over some good coffee.

This week, there’ll be a talk on Scrum Methodology following the meetup immediately (at the same place). The talk is part of the Google Developers Group weekly meetup.

We think this talk is a MUST for anyone who wants to start a tech startup or is currently involved in one! One of the biggest challenges startup founders face is how to best manage a software project. Often, founders make fatal management mistakes that kill their startups early.

Whether you’re a technical or non-technical founder, this talk will help you understand the principles of running a tech project, and avoid very critical mistakes.

The talk will cover “Scrum” management methodology. “Scrum” is an agile software development approach that greatly minimizes the risk of failure. It is a great framework for building and managing a startup team.

The talk will be presented by Hamad Mufleh, founder and CEO of YallaWain. He is a product designer and developer who’s been on all sides of software projects; as a client, manager, developer and ui/ux designer.

Details:

When: Wednesday, August 26.

Schedule:

7.15 pm- Coffee Meetup

7.45 pm- Scrum Talk

9.00 pm- Discussion, Network, and Pizza!

 

This is an open invitation. See you all there!

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!

RECAP: StartupQ8 Monthly Event (August ’15)

Every month, StartupQ8 hosts two speakers from the startup world to talk to the Kuwaiti startup community about some of the lessons and experiences they’ve went through, and talk about the startup they’re currently working on. Last night, the event took place at The VIVA Coded Academy. The two speakers were Ali Abulhasan, co-founder of goTap, a new payment ecosystem for Kuwait, and Saleh Almusallam, co-founder of Prodesign IT, the makers of FanScan (Instagram based app that has over 3 million downloads).

The two topics of discussion were mirrored around how a technical founder deals with the business side of a startup (Saleh’s part), and how a business founder manages a technical project and a development team (Ali’s part).

Both speakers offered valuable insights on their respective approach. For Ali, he admitted having initial trouble bridging the gap between himself and his technical team. One of the ways he mitigated that was by educating himself on some of the fundamentals of software as related to his field (payments) in which he already had previous experience. The other way was for him to board on developers who had the right mindset for a Tap’s philosophy of focusing on user experience. Ali admits that he would love to have more developers on his team, but that a lack of coding talent has restricted him greatly in that sense (we hope our Coded students can solve that problem!). To combat that issue, he tries to work with freelancers who might have the potential and intention to become full-timers at Tap.

As for Saleh, he faced a different dilemma. Saleh is a technical founder, and has had experience launching a few applications and websites. In his talk, he discussed the importance of learning on how to stay “lean”. He warned that the biggest pitfall for a technical founder was not in disregarding the business side, but rather the need to perfect a product before launching. Saleh advised the audience that “done is better than perfect”, alluding to the importance of launching a product early to gain feedback and data on usability. As for dealing with the business side, Saleh is a believer in first making something people love, than backing that up with venture financing and a strong business model that comes naturally with the product. He did, however, warn against sticking to a single revenue stream or remaining inflexible when it comes to changing the business model.

 

Stay tuned for more of our monthly events to hear more from startup founders and entrepreneurs! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Instagram @startupq8

Internet Security and Tech Entrepreneurship talk by Dr. Yaser Alosefer

Everyone,

Instead of our usual weekly coffee meetup, we’d like you to join us for the following talk:

The VIVA Coded Academy is hosting Dr. Yaser Alosefer this week for a talk on Internet Security and tech entrepreneurship.

Yaser is the region’s foremost expert in Internet Security, holding a PhD in the subject from Cardiff University. He is also the founder and CEO of Musbah Technology (Riyadh), one of the region’s leading startups in innovation. He is also the co-founder of several other successful initiatives and business ventures.

The talk will cover topics on electronic wars, ethical hacking, secure coding and software development. Yaser will also touch on his experience as a startup founder and entrepreneur.

 

Here are the details:

 

When: Wednesday, August 5th. Doors open at 7.30 pm, talk will start at 8 pm.

Where: The VIVA Coded Academy HQ, Al-Tijaria Tower (35th floor), Kuwait City.

 

Yaser is here for a few days from Saudi, so it’ll be a great chance to meet him and hear his thoughts.

 

See you all there!

 

Let’s Learn from the Angry Birds

And by Angry Birds I mean Finland.

So our next destination on learning how to establish a Startup Ecosystem is Finland. Why Finland? Well, I believe that Kuwait and Finland have some similarities in terms of demographics yet they are very different:

  • Finland is ranked no. 21 in terms of GDP per capita higher than UK, France and Japan (Kuwait ranked 11th)
  • Finland is considered one of the most active countries in terms technology and innovation. Regardless of it’s small population (only 5.3M people) , Finland is the home of Nokia and some other successful companies such as MySQL, Linux and Rovio (game maker of Angry Birds)
  • Finland have one of the best education systems in the world (Ranked no 1)
  • Finally, Finland have a long track record in supporting their Startup Ecosystem and we can learn a lot from their experience.

As you know by now Angry Birds is a Finnish startup (Finnish not Finish, Finnish refers to something or someone from, or related to, Finland) and I’m so grateful for this game, and Conan as well, watch this video:

The Finnish government created many agencies to boost entrepreneurship and innovation such as Tekes, Sitra and FINNVERA, yet they realized that they failed to build a first class startup ecosystem because they realized that even after more than 20 years of government support for innovation and startups, they failed to produce a fair number of successful global companies.

So why did this happened? Why Finland didn’t succeed in establishing a first class Startup Ecosystem? (The reasoning below is based on Steve Blank visit and VICTA report)

  • Public direct funding: The government tracked it’s performance by measuring the number of companies funded every year. But, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. The government gave money like crazy, most companies created are lifestyle companies that don’t become large companies at the end and they don’t create any jobs. Its nice to give everyone a chance, but that wasn’t what the whole system was built for
  • Risk aversion: Risk aversion attitude lead to accepting businesses that have a high possibility to survive, but that doesn’t have high potential to become large companies that change the world.
  • Lack of international skills: Lack of global business competence and serial entrepreneurs. Talented people only work in big companies.
  • No viable VC industry: Lack of real venture capital activity. Most of the activity is derived by public funding.
  • Lack of business competences: Lack of business competence that help companies to grow globally and attract global investors and international talent.
  • Finland didn’t consider the globally existing systems to learn from their experiences

And these are the suggested solutions (also based on Steve Blank visit and VICTA report):

  • Indirect funding: The government should stop funding startups directly and should instead fund global incubators and VC’s that can then start funding Finnish startups based on commercial and market driven criteria’s.
  • Remove lifestyle companies from the equation: Lifestyle companies are not growth companies, they will not create jobs or add value to the society. This type of companies should be removed or separated from the startup ecosystem. These companies are sucking resources (time and money) and distracting the government performance measurement indicators.
  • Attract global talents: Transform the Finnish early-stage startup ecosystem to support the infusion of talent from the leading global talent. Laws, regulations and tax incentives should all be fixed to support this goal.
  • Fix government strategy: The government should shift it’s strategy from just helping Finnish people to start their own business to supporting startups that have the capability to generate a multi-million business. The vision should be driven to: generate more jobs, attract foreign investments, create global successful companies and attract international talents.
  • Fix culture and attitude challenges: The government should have a plan for a campaign to change the anti entrepreneurial culture. Challenges such as “Money takes care of problems”, Risk vs Reward and Failure vs Success, this mentality should be changed through educating the young generation and through some awareness campaigns.
  • Fix incubators structure: Currently most incubators are owned by the government. Incubators should optimally be owned by 4 shareholders: a local VC, a global VC, the government and a local university. Also the manager of the incubator should be either a serial entrepreneur or from a VC background. The incubator manager should also have direct or indirect share in the companies being accepted in the program. Moreover, the incubator should not accept more than 20 companies per year.

In short, pouring money into startups will not help in creating successful companies. Many things must be done and many things must be changed, it will take a lot of time and effort. It might take more than 15 years to have a good startup ecosystem, but we might need less if we learnt from other countries experiences such as Finland.

I apologize for the long post and I apologize for ignoring to talk about the GREAT side of the Startup scene in Finland such as what happening in Aalto University, the healthy increase in number of incubators and the creation of a smart startup community. If you are interested to learn more about Finland Startup Ecosystem please read the full analysis I uploaded in  slideshare.

Related Posts:

1- Let’s Learn from Chile#1

2- Building a startup ecosystem in Q8

Let’s Learn From Chile#1

In April 2012 the government and the parliament agreed on a new law to establish a new fund that invests in small and medium size enterprises. The fund objective is to support small businesses and to boost the economic development in Kuwait. The fund size was US$6 Billion!!! In May I asked one of my friends to provide me with the new law to read.

I found out, such as many others, that the law is flawed and if the government go ahead with this project it will waste its US$6 billion dollars without reaching it’s goals. So I decided to write a report and submit it to government officials. I got the report done by the 2nd week of June, but by then a political turbulence started here in Kuwait and there was no government anymore. So instead of sharing this report with the government I decided to share it here in the blog with everyone 🙂 The report is a 36 pages document and I think most of you will find it boring, so I’ll just share a small part of it (I’ll upload the full report in slideshare later). The part I want to share is a research I did in two countries: Chile and Finland. These two countries are an interesting two cases and they did an astonishing job in terms of creating a Startup Ecosystem.

Let’s start with Chile. Chile created something amazing called Startup Chile, watch this beautiful video explaining what they do:


Startup Chile:

Program description:

Provide US$40,000 of equity-free seed capital, and a temporary 1-year visa to develop their projects for six months, along with access to the most potent social and capital networks in the country.

Goal:

To convert Chile into the definitive innovation and entrepreneurial hub of Latin America by attracting the world’s best and brightest entrepreneurs to bootstrap their startups in Chile, and create the next US$1 billion company.

Established:

2010

Team:

Board members: 8 (4 global, 4 locals) (2 from Stanford University, 1 from HP) No. of Employees: 16

Results:

-320  Startups benefited from the program until the end of 2011
-630 apx. is the number of people that benefited from the program
-Teams represent 36 countries around the world
-Money spent on the startups = Only US$12.8M!!! (To you still think we need US$6 Billion)
-Total funds raised by some of the startups = US$5M (outside investors)

-More than 20% of startups in the program are local startups

Also watch how the Chilean President treated the entrepreneurs like HEROS. (I hope you understand Spanish)

In the next post we will discuss the advantages and challenges facing Startup Chile and the Chilean Ecosystem, and what can we learn from them based on Steve Blank’s visit in 2011.

 

Update: click here to read Let’s Learn from Chile part#2

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