Focus on execution, ideas are not worth much

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 15.52.31“How should I protect my idea?” This is a question discussed a lot amongst investors and founders and my take is that the value gained when getting feedback from likely and unlikely peeps is worth much more than safe guarding your business idea. Most probably the pain you are looking to solve has been identified by others and you might as well get their input, endorsement, buy-in or maybe even partnership. The market is super competitive and you need to out-smart and out-work (is that a real word?) to win.

No – that doesn’t mean you need to share your secret sauce. Your communications is not binary and you choose how to be smart, inclusive, get feedback, entice potential ambassadors and learn&learn&learn. Let your idea marinate.

Tell everybody… all the time….everywhere about your idea. Give the guys next to you on the bus a demo, ask you friends and your friends’ friends at dinners. Don’t be afraid to be annoying and if somebody steals it and executes better, then, tough. That means you were not the one… at least ont this time. 

Worry about execution rather than concept. Thank you Rachel McArthur and Wamda.com for this interesting article on the topic.

http://www.wamda.com/2016/03/is-it-really-necessary-to-protect-your-ideas

Seeing the pyramids is like meeting Santa

In the absence of a crystal ball, I prefer to engage with the positive narrative

Seeing the pyramids is like meeting Santa Claus… Something magical I’ve lived with all my life but never known if they existed… It was the best Saturday in awhile – spent by the Nile with Wael Fakharany, planning how we can be a positive change and spur on innovation and entrepreneurship in the Middle East. A few hours with Wael and I had a lot to mentally marinate. He has the amazing ability to push your imagination and make you think braver and bolder… he is a Crazy and Naïve hero. There are great ideas in the making – watch this space. Thanks for showing me pyramids.

This was my first time visiting Cairo and it is truly a city that never sleeps. I think the contrasts struck me the most; Beauty next to Slum, Hope & Development dancing with Resignation, Green vs Grey. And in the middle of all this is an ambitious and maturing startup scene. The Greek Campus felt like a safe heaven behind Tahrir Square and the stories of how the core team struggled to organized Meetups during the revolution humbles. Goes to show, if there is a will, there’s a way.

The coolest people… I met Head of innovation at Vodafone Egypt, Endeavour’s team is solid as always, Salma (A head of the Curve) showed me lovely Sufi in Zamalek and gave me the ins and out of social entrepreneurship, Managing Director of Tetra Pak gave me a crash course in the process of packaging, Discussed the upcoming elections with insightful bloggers and journalists, Amazing Salma (PITME & Innovety) gave me the grand tour of the ecosystem – Big Schokran my dear. Great comparing startup mistakes with Con &Abdelhameed of RiseUp – looks like we’ll be doing cool things, Loved Mazen’s District, met a few impressive entrepreneurs… Emily cofounder crowdfunding platform Tennra, Basil cofounder HireHunt which I look forward to beta testing, Maria’s social fashion app Slickr, Waleed’s problem solving delivery solution Ingez (see pic). I enjoyed a very interesting discussion about future of Egypt at the Swedish Embassy with our Ambassador Charlotta Sparre… I didn’t make it all the way to Smart Village but Batman gratefully met Rasha Tantawy over aubergine at Sequoia with a fun group of geeky techs!

Broadly I’d say I heard two different strands of narratives in Cairo. Either people love to talk about the doom&gloom and that nothing will ever happen in the Middle East bla bla bla (long list of complaints, pointing fingers and a few conspiracy theories), OR I heard the opposite… Egypt has so much potential, the talent is here and we just need to unlock it, hope is on the rise, Cairo is THE place to be right now. In the absence of a crystal ball, I prefer to engage with the positive narrative. Our #YMEstartup is planned for the 27th of April and there will be a lot to talk about. Come join us.

Careem took me flawlessly to the airport… must tease the Uber team a little as I met them and they seem to be doing a great job after just 3 months in the market.

I confess on stage that I cry every day, in reality it’s probably every other day. My best crying is always on the plane. The luxury of moving from one point to another, and no action from me is required, usually no connection to the outer world – me and my thoughts and some tears of relief, joy, pride, homesick, excitement.  This trip I learnt a lot, laughed, lost a friendship, made friends and magically met the pyramids.

There is Hope for the Future but the Road is Bumpy

My days are filled with innovation, geeks, hope for the future and of course some tears of fear&frustration. The museum of Islamic art in Doha was therefor a humbling break… or that’s what I saw at first. With a just a little imagination you can teleport yourself back in time and it’s the same innovation, geekiness, hope for the future and tears that created all that beauty and science. We are but a blink in history – lets choose wisely how to spend our time. Qatar demonstrates again and again impressive ambition and I had the privileged of meeting several inspiring entrepreneurs at the #YMEstartup Doha on Monday. The startups pitching on stage ranged from incentivizing recycling, to barcode scanning, to savvy online services!

Some of my favourite entrepreneurs travelled to Doha and shared their stories of successes and learnings! The charming Nima, founder of PITME, who came all the way from San Francisco, showed no signs of jetlag and shared some hard truths about what is needed from MENA entrepreneurs to grow internationally. The message was loud and clear – it’s all about You as an entrepreneur – passion, stamina and the desire to walk the extra mile. I learnt a new word “coopetition”. Brilliant – cooperate with your competition. It is all about getting the job done and finding partners wherever necessary!

The seasoned Mona Ayata of Bayt.com and MumzWorld gave us perspectives on Growth. Her experience is that it’s relatively easy to start a 1m dollar business with a team of 5, the hard bit is growing that to a 100m dollar business and lots of employees. The entrepreneur needs to be a leader or at least a manager… which isn’t always the case. It is probably useful for many of us to think about organisation, culture and leadership to smoother make the transition, as well as finding a way to formulate your vision through the phases of growth… and doubt.

Always a delight to talk to my fellow Swede Magnus Ohlson about his venture Careem. His thought process about his business is a great example of both the flexibility and clarity of vision that is needed to be a successful entrepreneur. He thought he founded a “cool tech company”, he realized after a while that Careem is an operations business and the captains (the drivers) are the main asset. Only when realizing his asset was he able to build the culture of inclusiveness, empowerment and pride that gave them their actual USP – End result is a fleet of captains that give great service. Love it!

My favourite part of the show is always the pitching. I’m a firm believer in the art of rhetoric, and as an ex-speech writer I know the importance and the challenge of delivering a crisp message that grabs your audience emotionally and intellectually. Therefor discussing pitches and story telling with such an experienced investors panel as lovely Numan Numan (MD 212 Istanbul) and brilliant Maher Hakim (serial entrepreneur and Prof. at Carnegie Mellon University) is always very rewarding. The 3 awesome entrepreneurs all displayed passion for their ventures and as always it is a challenge to show off your baby to the world and receive “constructive criticism”… The only way to get better at it is to practice. After speaking to the entrepreneurs after the show I’d say the 3 new learnings were – 1) create an emotional connection with your investors early – all cheap tricks are allowed 2) assume investors are lazy and help them understand your thinking and the opportunity with stats and graphics… 3) let them ask questions and they’ll feel smart… Go get em’

A special thank you to Swedish Ambassador Ewa Polano who amazed and entertained us with a few of all the innovations that has through the centuries come from Sweden – the zipper, the safety belt and Mindcraft to mention a few. Makes me proud that there is a lot of exciting Swedish-Qatari initiatives to promote the startup ecosystem.

Thank you to WISE, Qatar Business Incubation Centre, Ericsson, Nasdaq, 7ayak Hub, QatarLiving, DohaTweetups, Women Investing in Women, Girls in Tech, PITME, TechWadi for believing in us and making the Doha event a success.

Check out the twitter and Insta action on #YMEstartup

I’m in Istanbul today reflecting on yesterday. Took a 3.50am flight this morning. I’m very happy with the show and the turn-out and the atmosphere. Admittedly I’m super tired too and now heading for a French dinner with dear friend and inspiring hotel entrepreneur Alex Varlik (www.georges.com) and my guess is that this Cinderella will be sleeping before midnight. Whoop Whoop.