Passion, Pitching and a Proposal

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I cry every day. That’s of course not really true but the statement encapsulates a truth. It’s more like I’m a little scared every day. Scared that I’m not doing enough, scared that I’m over doing it, or not doing it in the right way, scared that I’m not relevant or interesting, or that I have misunderstood what I can achieve, or what needs to be done. This week’s #YMEstartup show in Cairo made me reflect about my tears. The amazingly inspirational Wael Fakharany of Google X kicked the evening off by saying that we (i.e. we the entrepreneurs) shouldn’t be “afraid of failure”. As his story unfolded we all could see that he actually still is afraid of failure… and a guess is that he also “cries everyday”, although maybe not literally. So what is the learning behind the bold buzz statement that we hear so often from the successful entrepreneurs? Maybe fear is a natural reaction to anything outside of your comfort zone. You can learn to recognize the feeling, in my case self-doubt and tears, and then bring yourself to accepting that as a “proof” of some sort of development. Let’s not go overboard here and think that everything you do outside your comfort zone will lead to prosperity and success – far from it. But the opposite is boring – standing still. So in reality the buzzy statement that you-shouldn’t-be-afraid-of-failure actually might mean, learn to deal with your fear so you can move on and do cool shit. I cry every day… because I try my best to move the needle.

After weeks of preparation, the Cairo Greater Library was on Tuesday lit up by spotlights and passionate entrepreneurs. Impressive guest shared their startup stories and insights. What can I say – the evening quickly turned into a confession of mistakes. The power of confessions is twofold – credibility and learning. Successes are easy to google and read about, it’s the behind-the-scenes stuff on the bumpy road forward that gives success credibility and valuable insights for the “soon to be successful”.

The talented and visionary co-founder and CEO of Careem, Magnus Ohlson, shared some stories and insights. What becomes clear when hearing Magnus speak about his business, is that Careem is genuinely driven by a set values and a conviction of purpose. We talked about the importance of team and surrounding yourself with great people. “You can’t do Epic shit with Basic people”. It’s easy to say, but then Magnus pointed out into the audience and introduced us to his advisor and investor who came along for support. That’s how it should be. Whoop Whoop

Serial entrepreneur and Professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, LovelyMaher Hakim made the same point. Have the guts and integrity to be picky about your investors and co-founders – it’s a marriage and you need to have long and hard discussions about vision, expectations, passions, skills and dream scenarios before you sign anything. “Good investors/ VCs understand your space, the bad give you $$ & no help, the ugly don’t understand either”

The audience was equally impressive and I’m looking forward to following the success of Ingez, Tennra, Coterique, IoTSpark, Sadeem, Frien10, Oventure, think, Babyboons.com, QEYE, DrBridge, mostaqqel.com, KarmSolar, Hydrofarms, AWstreams and many more! Thank you Heba and Habiba of Endeavour for your work and friendship. Salma – you are a crazy Star! My parents actually came and sat on the front row – LOVE. Alfi – look forward to discussing with you on stage in Riyadh next week.

The panel of investors in Cairo really know what they are talking about and I for one took alot of notes… How to structure the story when pitching, How to early on establish what the opportunity is, the importance of demonstrating your passion for your business but also being credible in the space. Amman based VC Emile Cubeisy MD Silicon Badia reminded us of the importance of clearly explaining ”the problem you are solving”…

The successful entrepreneur, evangelist and investor Neveen El Tahri elegantly coached both entrepreneurs – Mai Medhat of the event planning/execution app Eventus and Maria Sanchez Munoz, cofounder of social shopping app Slickr – in the importance of demonstrating the potential of the business and urged us all not to forget the HUGE potential of the Egyptian market before going global.

Equally important for the ecosystem is that the big corporates offer support and guidance so it was great to see PwC and Maged Ezzeldeen on stage offering a different view on Story Telling.

The CEO and Chief Entrepreneur at Beirut based Altcity, Munir Nabti meets and coaches startups daily and explained the power of brevity. The trick they use in their boots camp is to practice telling your story in 3mins, then in 1min, then in 30 secs and finally 15secs – all to better massage your story and business down to a rememberable punch line!

Special thanks to the entrepreneurial and amazing Swedish Ambassador Charlotta Sparre for her support and Opening remarks TACK (thank you in Swedish)

Abdelhameed and Riseup Egypt – this would have been impossible and a lot more boring without you. Schokran. Lookig forward to do much more with you to move the needle.

Ambitions soared, hands were shaken, mistakes confessed, ideas born and I’m proud to have yet again Saluted the Crazy and Naïve…

PS – I’m on the fence and still considering the proposal of marriage I got from the King of Crazy

A strong allure of Aubergine

The magic of Beirut is palpable… contagious passion for life, work and play, the strong allure of aubergine, sparkling eyes and hairy chests. What’s not to love?

In the tech startup scene this is truer than ever and it was a treat to start planning the grand finale of the YMEstartup road show. Seems I have no other choice than to spend my birthday on stage – plan is show time 15th of June.

Over the course of the last year’s travelling in the Middle East, the constant references to the Beirut startup scene have been hard to miss. These last 2 days didn’t disappoint. The Beirut Digital District is awesome and the war-ridden backdrop highlights both the modern architecture and the innovative energy of the hub. Thank you Mouhamad and lovely Christelle for sharing your space and vision. Co-working spaces AltCity and Bader impressed me and I’m very grateful for gifts from Fadi… 🙂 and the Aubergine feast Munir treated us to. Apparently Munir is the spitting image of one of Sweden’s greatest entrepreneurs Alfred Nobel!

Loved chatting geek with my friends at Wamda and Arabnet. I only met one of the Yafi twins so I can’t verify the rumours of identical brilliance.

The Tech Hub is on to something cool and I’m grateful for the support of NadimElie and Lama. My Swedish friend and brave, brave entrepreneur Michel happened to be in town and yet again reminded me of the power of generosity and helping each other.

I only scratched on the surface of the all the startups in town…. My path did cross with two INSEAD alumni entrepreneurs though – watch this space. Merci Elias and Nada

Most memorable moment has to be when Henri (Leap Ventures) casually tells me he grows aubergine in his own garden! Seriously impressed and it took me awhile to refocus the conversation on tech geek stuff. Henri – I’ll take you up on your offer to come pick aubergines fresh from your garden 🙂

Angela – thank you for hosting me. I love your resto MOTTO and your new life as social entrepreneur. Yalla I’ll see you soon.