As they revealed their successes, challenges, and failures, the entrepreneurs we chatted with on Wamda this month had great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. Coming from diverse backgrounds, they each have a piece of advice worth considering as you build your startup or idea and look forward to 2013.
1) Have a developer or technical
- Gaith Kawar, TakTek (Jordan).
Though Jordanian startup TakTek Games recently closed up, founder Gaith Kawar has a word of advice; launch with the talent you need in your founding team, especially at a tech venture. Whether this means finding a cofounder who is an engineer or developer herself, or learning the skills you need before launching, don’t rely on lower level hires to maintain your startup. When they exit, and eventually they will, your startup’s capabilities will leave with them. Plan ahead and make sure that your startup can survive as inevitable turnover takes place.
2) Offline events don't convert directly to online
- Yasmine El-Mehairy, Supermama (Egypt).
For offline businesses, it’s important to have an online presence to boost customer awareness and drive traffic to your store. For tech businesses though, an offline presence might not be necessary. After a costly and difficult offline event, Egyptian startup Supermama decided that perhaps the online realm is where their services are best suited. Stick to what you're good at and know what you’re getting yourself in to.
Disclosure: Wamda Capital has invested in SuperMama.
3) Always strive to learn more.
- Alemşah Öztürk, 41?-29! (Turkey).
Turkish entrepreneur Alemşah Öztürk explains that an entrepreneur should always seek to learn more about their sector, new technologies, and their competition. Even more important than a university education are the lessons people learn from experience. As an entrepreneur, always push yourself to reach out to and speak with experts and other thought leaders in your sector to learn from their experience and maybe even find a new mentor or two.
4) Let your product be the proof.
- Abed Al Hamid Al Fioumi & Mohammed Belbol, Sanabel (Gaza).
As they build tech startup Sanabel, Palestinian entrepreneurs Abed Al Hamid Al Fioumi and Mohammed Belbol seek to demonstrate to the world the ability of Arab developers to create quality and useful apps. Without fancy ads or unnecessary frills, these two entrepreneurs merely want to create the best mobile apps they can to put Gaza on the map in the mobile development space. Put simply, the best way to attract new customers is to have an awesome and relevant product.
5) Invest in scalability.
- Sohaib Thiab, Wizards Productions (Jordan).
As the ex-CEO of Wizards Productions, another Jordanian gaming company that recently closed, Sohaib Thiab has some advice (11 tips to be exact) about the lessons he learned over the past 4 years. A critical one was the need to build for scalability. Wizards painfully learned this lesson after having to rebuild their most popular game, Arabianhitman, from scratch, to allow it to scale. Yet the downtime and re-launch lost the company a loyal userbase that it never quite recovered. So, as Thiab advises, it's critical to bring in a technical expert who can help build products to scale.
6) Share your culture.
- Walid Sultan Midani, DigitalMania (Tunisia).
When Walid Sultan Midani discussed his Tunisian gaming startup DigitalMania and their first social game DefenDoor, he made it clear that Tunisian culture was the defining trait of his design style and goals. Just as Japanese and American game developers have a unique game development style, Midani hopes to put Tunisia on the game development map and share his culture with others through new online gaming titles.
7) Keep it local, fresh, and fast.
- Hazem Turab, Ayaady (Egypt).
Egyptian startup Ayaady was founded by entrepreneur Hazem Turab to simply provide fresh, local meat to customers in a reliably fast time. Though their product is sometimes more expensive than imported produce, Ayaady is quickly gaining a following from those who want to support their local economy and buy the freshest product available. Keep it simple and familiar, and give people what they want.
8) Interdisciplinary collaboration is key.
- Aman Merchant, The HUB Dubai (UAE).
Coworking spaces are popping up across the region and Dubai’s latest addition, The HUB Dubai, has cofounder Aman Merchant excited about the increasing importance of collaboration. Such coworking spaces offer members the ability to sit side by side with designers, developers, entrepreneurs, and freelancers who may just become their next partner or team members. The amount of innovation and growth that comes from casual interdisciplinary interaction has driven the global popularity of these spaces. Don’t be afraid to share and innovate together, you may just come up with something you would never think of alone.
9) Build a strong office culture.
- Mansour Mansour, Javna (Jordan).
Jordanian entrepreneur Mansour Mansour has worked hard to instill a specific office culture at his startup. By rewarding hard work, loyalty, and commitment to his project, Mansour seeks to encourage employees to feel valued in their work and genuinely enjoy being part of the “Javanese” team. Find ways to keep your office culture fresh and focused to boost your team’s morale and keep energy high.
10) Risk tastes good.
- Youcef Es-Skouri, GeekFtour (Morocco).
When 19-year old Moroccan entrepreneur Youcef Es-Skouri started GeekFtour, an annual gathering of tech geeks from across Morocco, he and his cofounders didn’t exactly have a concrete plan. They just did what they loved and found out that it worked. By gathering the tech community together, GeekFtour, now in its fourth year, took a huge risk and just went for it, ignoring steep government regulation and naysayers. The team hasn’t looked back since. Es-Skouri boldly says, “Walk, run, jump, fall and get up, ... fail, fail, fail and restart again until you get what you want.”