April StartupQ8 Event with CFA Institute

CFA Society Kuwait in collaboration with StartupQ8Union of Investment Companies, Ajar,  and Sirdab Lab is holding a conference about Fintech (Tech startups in the Finance industry) on Monday the 24th of April as part of CFAI’s global “Putting Investors First” initiative.

Our main speaker, Saalim Chowdry, who is an Entrepreneur in Residence at 500 Startups, the world’s most active fintech investor, will be presenting “Fintech: What’s Next?” .

His talk will cover the following key questions:

• New developments in financial technology and what it means for asset managers and profitability

• What are the expected benefits and challenges of fintech on the industry?

• Who wins and who loses in a fintech-savvy world?

• Will big data and artificial intelligence change the model for investment research?

In addition Shaheen Al-Khudari, CEO of Ajar will be interviewed by Haider Al-Mosawi the CEO and cofounder of Sirdab Lab. The interview aims to explore the story behind Ajar Online, a Fintech startup that simplified the rent collection process for landlords and tenants, as well as to gain insights from the experiences of Shaheen Al-Khudari in entrepreneurship.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Date: Monday April 24th 2017

Venue: Kuwait Chamber of Commerce – Theatre – Ground Floor

Time: 6pm to 9pm


6-6:30 Registration and networking

6:30-7:30 Presentation & Q&A: Fintech what’s next? By Mr. Saalim Chowdhry

7:30-7:45 Break

7:45-8:45 Interview with Mr. Shaheen Al-Khudari

About Saalim Chowdry

Saalim Chowdhury is currently an Entrepreneur in Residence at 500 Startups. At 500 Startups he sources and evaluates startups for investment, as well as teaches and writes syllabi and content on several of the company’s growth programs globally. 500 Startups is the world’s most active Fintech investor according to CB Insights’ most recent report. He’s frequently a commentator on the changing world of professional services, and the impact of policy and regulation on growth and innovation. His key industry areas are Fintech (esp. blockchain & banking), enterprise, SaaS, media and entertainment.


Weekly one-on-one Advice Sessions with Abdulaziz

Abdulaziz AlLoughani (ex-partner at talabat.com and current Vice Chairman at Kuwait National Fund) is doing a weekly one-on-one advice sessions with entrepreneurs to give feedback on their startups and projects. That’s a free advice from one of the best minds in tech and business we have in Kuwait. I really appreciate what he is doing and I hope you all benefit from it. The meetings will be every Thursday, send an email directly to his email aballoughani(at)gmail.com to book your spot.

Good luck!

StartupQ8 monthly event introduced Ihsan Jawad as a first speaker in 2017


On January 25th we kicked off our first StartupQ8 monthly event in the already known Global Tower, but this time in a completely new format. You are wondering what it looks like? We have only one speaker and it’s more like an interview, plus we have an official networking part. This time we hade an opportunity to host Ihsan Jawad, founder of Zawya and managing partner at Middle East Venture Partners. Abdullah Alshalabi from fishfishme was interviewing him, but the attendees were also very active so the whole thing was very interactive.

As previously mentioned, the event itself was divided into two parts. The first one included interview format with all kind of entrepreneurial questions for Ihsan, while the other one was dedicated to networking and discussions about three topics – fundraising, design and technology.

(Information) sharing is caring

During the first part of the event Ihsan was talking about Zawya and how he started it and sold the company after a number of years, and how did he become an investor. He founded his own investment company and then he joined MEVP, the biggest venture capital in the region, and started investing in companies little by little. He was also talking about difficulties as a VC, internet companies and much more.

What he was trying to explain is that companies such as Souq.com are actually not internet companies, even though people consider those that way. He defined such companies as businesses with a website. Their website is like a channel for selling their products. For Ihsan, a real internet company is something where a user can add a value and can make a contribution. Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram… According to him, these are all internet companies.

A change after for 4 years

As for the format of the StartupQ8 monthly event, Alshalabi says that after 4 years of organizing StartupQ8 monthly even the most important things for the team are human relationships and networking. They wanted to make it about networking and focus on one speaker who can add a value to the startup community in Kuwait.

In the spirit of the new event format, we would like to conclude this blog post with a quote by Michele Jennae:

“Networking means the act of exchanging information with people who can help you professionally.”

Photo gallery

(click to enlarge)

How to build a company that will last forever

Scale is important for startups to put them on the radar of strategic acquirers, which are a more likely route to an exit in MENA than listing on public markets.

But MENA is not a single market so regionalizing your business is a difficult and expensive achievement, although we’ve seen some notable names do it such as Careem, Souq.com and Anghami.

To achieve scale, and attract those strategic acquirers, you need sustainable growth rather than quick wins.

These are the elements that I believe are necessary for a company to get there, and if you don’t end up exiting you’ll have built a solid enterprise that will last forever.

1. Use the right growth metrics
Growth in product use and adoption is key to a startup’s valuation. Regardless of the vertical you’re in, your key performance metrics should always capture that as valuations for technology startups are more correlated to revenue/usage growth than any other financial metric. To put this in perspective, at Talabat a modest week for transaction growth was 7 percent week-on-week, and acquired for a more than 20x revenue multiple, versus market comparables of 10x at that time.

2. Show your regional scale through product adoption
Showing strong evidence of widespread product use and adoption at scale is the only evidence of your position as a regional startup, but it’s much harder to show high growth rates when your revenue/usage are large (when you hit about $5 million per five million users). Product/market fit at scale is how strategic investors gauge a company’s growth prospects.

3. Pick the right investors
To achieve long-term sustainable growth, access to smart capital through multiple rounds of financing is critical. Instead of spending half of your time trying to fundraise, resilient financial backing lets you focus on the business. The best regional example I can think of is Souq.com, whose institutional investors have supported the company’s growth through its different stages.

4. Understand unit economics
Understanding your costing structure and properly allocating your total costs on per transaction basis must be accurately captured in your unit economics. As you reach your Series A and B funding rounds, understanding your unit economics is important in order to have a sense of what your margins could look like when your business matures. Due to different business environments Talabat was operating in, we used separate unit economics for each country we operated in. Such reports gave a better understanding of how much incremental growth directly affected Talabat’s bottom line.

5. Have a large market
Strategic acquirers invest in companies that have a large market. A large market means that the company could reasonably become a large enterprise even without extremely high penetration of that market. At Talabat, the food ordering market size was at least 10 times our daily transactions, even after operating for 10 years when we were growing at over 7 percent week-on-week.

6. Know the competition
When you’re disrupting an industry, competing products should never be ignored. Understanding your market structure and how your startup fits into the broader market is key to building your ‘unfair advantage’ over direct and indirect competition.

7. One vision, multiple products
Strategic investors want companies that aren’t built around one product. It’s important for founders to look beyond the product they’re currently offering, to build a community of products. That’s why market-leading companies such as Facebook start with one core product and end with multiple products that ultimately serve the single core vision.

8. Be community leaders
Strategic investors want to invest in companies with leadership teams that are branded well in the ecosystem they operate in. Beyond the founders, your C-Suite executive team have to be known names in their field, to build the trust of strategic investors when they do reference checks.

9. Hire the right sales and marketing people
Strategic investors will want to see you’ve hired a proven head of product and marketing, and sales. That person/persons is important as you seek to address consumer needs as you scale, and help you develop new features and products in the long-run.

10. Doing good for the community
Make sure you give back to your community. Mentoring entrepreneurs, supporting coding schools and engineering departments at local universities, as well as startup initiatives and many other activities are important. Strategic investors understand the value of a community leader. It’s not a quantitative metric, but a brand value that the community appreciates.

11. Keep your accounts clean
Most startups are deeply involved around the product and often forget that finance is core to ensuring long-term sustainability. Maintaining healthy accounting books and producing financials in a timely manner will prepare you for the fiscal rigour required by strategic investors.

12. Provide the right work environment
It may seem more administration work to build a code of conduct, employee handbook and operational procedures, but is important to create the right environment in your workplace. Communicating the founders’ values and expectations to employees affects the startup’s ability to execute on its plans. During Talabat’s first five years, we always tried writing our playbooks ourselves, which tended to be brief. As we grew, proper policies and procedures were developed to ensure we had the same operational efficiency as when we were a six-member team, and provided new hires with the appropriate context for doing the job. We had a weekly breakfast where everyone from the business could attend which was a chance to embrace the company’s values and vision.

13. Don’t take legal shortcuts
Startups in our part of the world often take shortcuts in complying with the local laws, which is not attractive for strategic investors. An example we see regionally is that business licensing and jurisdiction regulations are often ignored: your startup can be registered in a free-zone that only allows you to do business in that jurisdiction, but your revenue actually comes from other jurisdictions. Taking legal short-cuts might save you some money in the short-run but as you achieve regional scale this will come at a cost to your company’s valuation at the time of acquisition.

14. Responsible governance
Assemble a board from your investors that challenges your vision and governs your practice, and attract experts who could technically and operationally help you improve the business. This strategy paid off well for Talabat at the time of exiting as a member of the board played an important role in negotiating with the acquirers.


Abdulaziz B. Al Loughani


twitter: @aballoughani

StartupQ8 Event – 25th of Jan

Hello everyone,

We are kicking off this year with a very special guest, Ihsan Jawad. Ihsan is a managing partner at MEVP and founder of Zawya.com (Bloomberg of the MENA region that was acquired by Reuters).

You shouldn’t miss this event if you want to learn how to build a successful startup and how to raise money in the region. Ihsan is also an investor in FishFishMe, Inc., so you’ll get some insider stories about that as well since I’ll be the person interviewing Ihsan in the event.

Event schedule – 25th of Jan

7:00pm – 8:00pm: Interview with Ihsan Jawad

8:00pm – 9:00pm: Networking

Venue: Global Tower (Kuwait City)

We will change the event structure starting from this event. Instead of having two talks, we will have one talk (something like an interview) and the second part will be networking. I usually hate networking because its always awkward to go talk to someone you don’t know! So we will do something more interesting than just tag names to make sure you get to meet everyone. Really looking forward for this event and it’s good to be back!


ArabNet Kuwait gathered entrepreneurs around exciting panels and talks


After lots of announcements about ArabNet conference, the event successfully landed to Kuwait for the first time. Arraya Ballroom was the place to be on October 4 and 5. There were representatives of many respectable companies, such as KNET, MasterCard, Twitter, Careem and many others. We were also there, wouldn’t miss such an event that brings us the opportunity to attend interesting panels and talks.

Well-known speakers and panelists

One of the major conference panels was the opening panel that gathered Kuwait’s leading entrepreneurship advocates – Abdulaziz B. Al Loughani (Vice Chairman at The National Fund for SMEs Development), Essa Al Essa (Chairman at Mefazec), Mohammad Alhajeri (Chief Investment Officer at Impulse International), Mohammad Jaffar (former CEO of Talabat) and Shafeeq Al-Saed Al-Omar, Assistant Undersecretary at Ministry of State for Youth Affairs. They discussed the digital ecosystem and what are the opportunities and obstacles for entrepreneurs here in Kuwait.


Hashim Bahbahani, co-founder of Coded and a member of StartupQ8 community, participated in a panel that was held during the second day of the conference. Charles Saliba (Founder and CEO at HR Works s.a.l.) and Meherzad Dastoor, (Senior Manager, People Advisory Services at Ernst & Young) joined him on the stage and discussed talent acquisition since that’s one of the biggest challenges startups face nowadays. They were also talking about challenges startups face, outsourcing or doing everything in-house, the best practices for hiring, training and retaining talent, which we all know it’s not very easy.

Who won the ArabNet Kuwait contests?

Aside from all ArabNet talks and panels, there were two contests. One of those was called Startup Demo Competition, where Meddy by Abdulla AlKhenji (Qatar) won the first place for an app that helps people find best doctors based on patient reviews and credentials. SoukDesigner by Kamel Kabbani (Lebanon) took the second place. It is an online platform that enables people to sell products in their personalized online store easily and economically. Third place went to Pricinity by Ahmad Al-Benali (Kuwait). It’s a search engine for products, prices and stores throughout Kuwait and the region.


Ideathon contest was won by Jaffer Mohamad Mahdi, the youngest participant at some ArabNet competition so far. With his idea called MySpot, he could actually help resolving one of the crucial problems in Kuwait – finding a parking spot.


We would like to thank the ArabNet team who worked very hard for the last couple of months to bring this event to Kuwait and gather entrepreneurs and startupers around awesome topics.

Make sure to be there next year!

Why you should attend ArabNet – Kuwait?

So Arabnet is coming to Kuwait! That’s a great news! ArabNet is a yearly conference event done in a Middle Eastern city to celebrate startups, founders, technology and share knowledge. The most famous ArabNet event is probably Arabnet Dubai and Arabnet Beirut. I need to be honest, I never been to any Arabnet event before. But, I know the team behind it, their motivations and how they are adding value to the startup ecosystem in the Middle East. So when they reached out to help them spread the word about the event, we were happy to do so.

But, I was wondering why they choose Kuwait, do they really believe that we have an interesting tech startup scene? Or the event was paid by the government to show that we have something happening in Kuwait! I was also wondering what can a startup founder gain from attending the conference. Is it a waste of time and money to you? Is there any solid evidence that startups will gain from participating? Who is coming to the event? Any cool and important people attending? While my job is to promote the event, I want to make sure you don’t waste your time or money attending Arabnet – Kuwait.

I chatted with Arabnet team and asked them some questions that I think will help you make your decision:

1- Why did you choose Kuwait?

Kuwait is one of the MENA’s hottest digital markets, boasting entrepreneurial success stories, high internet and mobile penetration, and strong appetite for digital & social media services, currently leads in MENA in digital media adoption, on major social platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram, and is home to GCC’s most important online influencers; not to mention that The country is witnessing a surge in entrepreneurship support and institutions, from funds (including the $7B Kuwait National Fund for SME development in 2013), to co-working spaces, angels and investors. Kuwait is one of the most promising digital ecosystems in MENA today.

2- Who is attending the event?

ArabNet Kuwait 2016 will be bringing together corporate decision-makers innovators, investors, accelerators and top leaders in the MENA region and from around the globe such as : The National Fund for SMEs Development Vice Chairman Abdulaziz B. Al Loughani (Investor/Accelerator) , Beco Capital CEO (Investor/Accelerator), MEVP managing partner (Investor/Accelerator) 212 Managing Director (Investor/Accelerator) as well as a variety of decision makers and top leaders from different countries around the globe such as : Andrew Hyde Director of New Programming at Techstars ( Entrepreneurship) , Lloyed Lobo Chief Growth Officer | Speakeasy.co at Boast Capital  (Entrepreneurship) and many more.


3- What entrepreneurs should expect (Some success stories)?

  • [Arabnet Beirut 2016 – Innovation Avenue] Krimston 2 have launched a Kickstarter campaign here
  • Arabnet Beirut 2015 – Startup Demo] Handasiyat founder and CEO on Forbes list of 100 business women in MENA here
  • [Arabnet Riyadh 2014 – Startup Demo] ShortPoint signed a strategic partnership with TjDeeD Technology & DSOA here
  • [Arabnet Riyadh 2015 – Startup Demo] Vanoman qualifies for the international semi-finals of GITR here
  • [Arabnet Summit 2010 – Startup Demo] FOO gets majority stake acquired by Zain here
  • [Arabnet Beirut 2016 – Startup Demo] Reable gets selected to join Techstar’s Barclays Accelerator in Cape Town here
  • [Arabnet Riyadh 2012 – Startup Demo] Foodpanda acquires Hungerstation in Saudi Arabia here
  • [Arabnet Riyadh 2015 – Startup Demo] B8ak earned $10,000 in the 8th MIT Arab Enterprise Forum here
  • [Arabnet Beirut 2015 – Startup Demo] Mini Exchange launching KSA site here
  • Wuzzuf and Eventtus are on the list of The 20 Most Promising Egyptian Startups here
  • [Arabnet Riyadh 2015 – Startup Demo] Jellyfish to Silicon Valley. Monica & TopShou at Speed@BDD Demo Day here
  • [Aabnet Cairo 2011 – Startup Demo] Mai Medhat, founder of the Eventtus, sits with US President Obama here
  • [Arabnet Summit 2012 – Startup Demo] Reserveout raises $4M Series A from Silicon Badia here

The agenda is not finalized so I didn’t get permission to share it with you guys.

To register for the event please visit the link below:

How to deal with obstacles in entrepreneurship


Khalid Al-Mutawa, Kuwaiti who started his own company right after the college, and built hundreds of projects for other companies, is the star of our newest blog post. Since he is very active in Kuwait’s startup community and also an entrepreneur for the last couple of years, recently we had a chat with him about obstacles in business and how to deal with them.

At this moment he is focusing on three main startups – StudentHub (recruitment platform for students and fresh graduates), Plugn (Instagram comment management for teams), and The White Book (event planning platform). On August 2nd he will be a speaker at Coded Talks, where he will share his previous experiences in startups with the audience.

Anyway, Khalid says the biggest obstacle for him was shifting from a developer/tech mindset to a business mindset.

His initial thought process was next:

  • I’ve heard its difficult creating a company license, so ill hire someone else to do that for me.
  • I like building things, so I’ll do it for free for whoever asks me to do so.
  • I can do this in 5 minutes, do I really charge for this?
  • Do we really need to talk about pricing?
  • Why do I need to do accounting? I can count what’s in my bank account.
  • What’s an investor? Do I need that?
  • I can just get more employees and it will increase the amount of money I make.

This is what he realized along the way:

  • People fear what they don’t know and make it sound difficult. Just because someone else couldn’t do something, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it yourself.
  • Creating a company is not difficult if you go through the process yourself and learn the process and requirements.
  • Everyone likes free stuff, you do something for free and people will take advantage. Be sure to always get something in return even if it’s of low value.
  • If it was something someone else can do as well within 5 minutes, they wouldn’t be approaching you in the first place. Your 5 minutes are probably worth 5 hours to someone else.
  • Pricing is always important to discuss, there’s no reason to avoid the topic.
  • I believe building a business requires basic knowledge of what investors are and why they invest, just to make sure nobody takes advantage of you.
  • Recruiting the right people is difficult, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

As an entrepreneur, Khalid advises you to do your best to stay motivated and keep working regardless of what obstacles you face. You should fail, learn from your mistakes, and start over keeping in mind what to do to avoid or bypass that same obstacle.

He believes there is no obstacle that an entrepreneur can’t pass with the correct mindset. The biggest obstacles are psychological ones: fear, greed, lack of patience, and emotions faced when things are not going the way you planned them to.

We would like to summarize this blog post in two funny images chosen by Khalid, which describe what he sees as being the biggest obstacle for entrepreneurs – emotions.



Main photo: niu

Coded Talks: Abdullah Al-Dabbous – The MyFatoorah Story

This blog post appeared on Coded blog on July 18th, 2016. It is published on StartupQ8 blog with the consent of the author and Coded.

Author: Ana Tadić

Coded started off with their Summer Full-time Bootcamp, which is taking place at Mefazec from July 17th to September 10th. And that means Coded weekly events are back again. The first Coded Talk will be with Abdullah Al-Dabbous, founder of a startup called MyFatoorah.

Coded: Could you tell us more about yourself?

Abdullah: I graduated from Arizona State in 2008 joined Arcapita in London for a year then EY transaction advisory services for 3.5 years. After that I did my MBA at Insead. When I came back I started MyFatoorah.

Coded: How long have you been involved with startups and how?


Abdullah: I have always been a business-minded person looking for opportunities to venture with. I guess I have been influenced greatly by my father who is a businessman himself. While I was a full time employee, I started an exchange business which involves buying and selling physical currencies and an online currency platform from there. Furthermore, I enjoyed setting up a GMAT Boot Camp where many of the students joined top universities.

Coded: Could you tell us more about MyFatoorah? What is it about and when was it founded?

Abdullah: MyFatoorah is a unique online payment solution which has over 1000 registered vendors today. I started it in early 2015 and approached vendors in September that year. MyFatoorah gives you the key to simple SMS invoicing, online payment collections, and simple connections with your customers. There’s no need to download any software, as this sophisticated payment platform can be integrated to any new or existing site. You can bill clients via the web or their device, making it more convenient than ever for them to press ‘pay’ with the touch of their finger.

Coded: Can you share few main topics you will talk about on Tuesday?

Abdullah: On Tuesday, I will talk briefly about my background. How MyFatoorah started, how it works and the key challenges in working on a startup. Then I would like to share the key takeaways entrepreneurs should keep in mind when starting their own business.

Coded: Who should benefit the most of your talk?

Abdullah: People involved in tech, developers, existing business and people thinking of starting a business.

July 19th, 7:30 PM, Mefazec – be there!

Top 3 websites to learn coding

With all available resources that we are surrounded by today, it’s easy to learn anything you want. Coding or programming, whatever you call it, is much easier to learn nowadays than 15 years ago. Video tutorials, online courses, you name it – knowledge is just a few clicks away thanks to easy access to the information.

Since Hamad Mufleh has been on all sides of software projects; as a client, manager, developer and UI/UX designer, we asked him to recommend few websites that he finds useful for people who want to learn coding.

  1. Codecademy

Codecademy is an online interactive platform that offers free coding classes in 11 different programming languages. Some of those are Python, Java, PHP, JavaScript (jQuery, AngularJS), Ruby, SQL, as well as markup languages HTML and CSS.  It’s free, and difficulty level is easy to intermediate. This website allows you to quickly and easily gain familiarity with a variety of coding languages with little to no prior experience. If you are a beginner, this is a good place for you.

  1. Code School

Code School is an online learning destination for existing and aspiring developers that teaches through entertaining content. Each course is built around a creative theme and storyline so that it feels like you’re playing a game, not sitting in a classroom. They combine gaming mechanics with video instruction and in-browser coding challenges to make learning fun and memorable. Code School offers almost 60 courses covering Ruby, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, iOS, Git, and databases. Their courses are more in-depth to train, they can turn you into an expert with the industry’s best practices. Difficulty level of Code School’s courses is intermediate to hard.

Some of their courses are free and some of them are $29 per month. If you decide to go with an annual plan, it will cost you $19 per month. They also have a blog where you can read interesting pieces of advice and helpful tips.

  1. Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow is a Q&A website site for professional and enthusiast programmers. It’s built and run by the community as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With the help of community members, they are working to build a library of detailed answers to every question about programming. On Stack Overflow you can use the tags or browse the lists of questions, or simply use the search box. It’s pretty sure you will find some solution to your coding problems there. If you don’t find what you needed, you can go directly into the chat rooms arranged according to languages and platforms.

You can start with those resources, or you can apply for Coded’s part-time bootcamp and become a professional full-stack developer in 14 weeks.

%d bloggers like this: