I met Q


I met Q. James Bond’s trusted gadget, tech and innovation guru Q? No the Qatari Rock Star Super Star Cowboy entrepreneur Mr Q – Khalifa al Haroon. It’s a great play on words as Khalifa really is pushing the boundaries of innovation with his businesses and maybe more importantly by being a real champion of entrepreneurship in Qatar. His story is classic in the sense that he initially struggled to get attention, funding and understanding for his vision. He seems to be stubborn enough and is equipped with big smile&brains. I can so see him pushing and pushing to build his dream. And now a few years later he is Mr Q and a man in demand. Makes me think of the “great” film with Kevin Costner from maybe early 90-ties – Field of Dreams. “Build it and they shall come”

After a few days in Doha I’m starting to understand the structure and the vibe of the city. My 2 best views have to be from Ooredoo Tower and Ericsson in Salam Tower… breath taking.  More importantly they are keen supporters of startups and innovation, so Fingers Crossed they’ll support our dream to take the #YMEstartup road show to Doha.

The vibe here is crazy ambitious (see pic of oversize teddy…). And they LOVE abbreviations… QF, QDB, my friends at QBIC, QMIC, QSTP. See a pattern? It all about Q and love for Qatar… Qupid? Qurios to know more? Come join us in Doha 23rd of Feb.

Chapeau et Merci Merci to my friend Jean-Marc who has hosted me here in Doha! He might not like seafood and he is eccentric enough to live in a hotel, but I have enjoyed our late night conversations thoroughly. Life, Love, Work, Fighting Daesh, & Space aliens and Comparing lives as a Control Freaks are a few of the topics covered.

Always save the best for last; Syrian aubergine and meze in the Souq. Next stop Dubai tonight.

Thinking about thinking

Many of my conversations somehow touch upon the topic of RISK… Starting a business is super scary – I’m the first to admit it – and you probably need to be both crazy and naïve. The challenge in a maturing startup ecosystem is for investors and entrepreneurs to learn how to handle and not necessarily to mitigate risk (financial, structural, emotional and social risk). I can hear my sensible mother: Are you Crazy? And the stats prove that we are a little naïve in our quests to start businesses; 50% disaster, 40% good stuff and 10% Super Star Success. That’s what it’s all about – high risk and potentially high return. If… you work 24/7, have a great idea, can build a passionate team, if you are patient AND you’ll need the magic ingredient Luck. And lets face it is addictive and thrilling.

One of my high lights yesterday was visiting the Qatar Foundation and Carnegie Mellon University. Serial entrepreneur, angel investor and Ph. D. Associate Professor, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Maher Hakim is brilliant and we had a great brain storming session on how to move the needle in Qatar and support cool entrepreneurs to find funding. I’m convinced there are great opportunities in working with the investment community to better understand the needs and fears of startups… Basically you can’t expect immediate revenue, it is hard work for everybody involved and you are doing your self a disfavour by trying to mitigating risk. Manage it instead. I know, easy to say.

Driving out of QF I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the big neon signs on campus; Innovate, Achieve, Think etc. From a risk perspective, sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry and you might as well remind everybody what they are there to do…. I’m going to THINK, that’s for sure. And maybe I should do my thinking in the Genious Room? Worrying that it was empty, but maybe the naive and crazy geniuses are enjoying Babaganouch somewhere?

My hero is Captain Jack Sparrow


Dated 2 January 2015 – IstanbulScreen Shot 2016-03-13 at 21.26.52.png

For the past 5 years my new year’s resolution has been to be more like Captain Jack Sparrow. Maybe not all aspects of him as he is a drunk nutter but what I like specifically is that he challenges seemingly fixed structures. My best example is when he is asked to choose between finding the treasure and saving the girl. He says; “I want both”.

That captures the spirit of the entrepreneur in many ways. Challenging structures, being naïve enough to see things a different way, audacious enough to aim for a higher goal and creative enough to find a different way of doing things and get want you want. Brilliant Sparrow.

I’m going to add a few things to this new year’s resolution – maybe a sign of long awaited maturing 🙂 I’m going to be Patient, I’m going to be Kinder to myself and others and not least be Grateful.

Tech stuff: On my radar 2015 will be innovation in payments, cyber security, mobile identification, opportunities in Internet of Things (we’ll see mobile phones as a door openers very soon), and the inevitable consolidation in social and messaging.

E-commerce: I was shocked/impressed to read the growth figures for Christmas shopping…. On the 25th of December when online sales kicked off, the UK saw a 36% online shopping growth year-on-year, and a whooping £441 000 was spend a MINUTE! 60% of Amazon’s Christmas sales where from mobile.

Naturally my focus will be specifically in the Middle East and I’m super excited to follow the progress of a handful of amazing entrepreneurs… The Sky is the Limit

#YMEstartup continues the road show saluting the crazy and naïve – Next stops Riyadh, Doha, Teheran, Cairo and Beirut!