A Tale of Five Founders: What I wish I had known on day one

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‘I wish I had known then what I know now’ is something that must be on the mind of every founder. 

Imagine if you could go back in time to just before you started work on your business and whisper a few words of wisdom to your former self. What would you say? Be more patient? Focus on revenue streams? Find and win over loyal customers?

Over at the Payfort blog, we wanted to delve into the mind of five business leaders to see what they wished they had known on day one - that way the rest of us can profit from those hard-learned lessons.

Read on to hear from the leaders of Duplays, travelstart UAE, FishFishMe, El Wafeyat and Hatch, and what they wish they knew on day one of their startup. 

"I wish I had known that I would have to be patient" - Remo Giovanni Abbondandolo, General Manager at Travelstart Middle East

“I wish I had known that I would have to be patient. If you want to build a successful startup you need to be able to execute fast, and along the way you might face several roadblocks that could slow down your operations.

In fact, time is probably the biggest challenge: getting all the requirements to start a new business, completing the setup to start enhancing the sales, as well as recruiting the right people as quickly as possible… Sometimes you wish you could get things done a bit faster to focus more on growing the business.

Therefore, knowing and facing the fact that things will take longer than expected, can definitely help plan the business better and sustain growth.”

"I wish I had known how important it is to have a few loyal customers" - Abdullah Alshalabi, CEO of FishFishMe

“I wish I had known how powerful it is to have a few loyal customers that love your startup and what you are doing. I should have focused on having five close customers per week instead of focusing on reaching 1,000 customers online and trying to get 50 to convert. We get obsessed with doing everything online and forget that at the end it's all about people and offline experiences. To get people to love your startup and get engaged you need to touch them at a personal level. 

Creating a Meetup group is always a good start. The customers that I went fishing with at the beginning are now our best sales team. If I were to do it all over again I'd have a target of reaching 100 loyal customers.  These people would be our friends and an extension of our team. 

My advice is to not get too obsessed with growth hacking and focus on your offline relationships; they mean everything even if you run a tech startup.”

"I wish I had known how important it is to have the right team" - Yousef ElSamma, CEO of El Wafeyat

"I wish I had known how important it is to have the right team. At the early stages of any business the only thing that matters is the team, investors will look at that more than anything else. Having the right team members that you can work with, spend most of your time with, and complement your skills and talents is very important."

"I wish I had known that I would have to be completely focused" - Ravi Bhusari, Co-founder and Managing Director of Duplays

“I wish I had known that I would have to be completely focused. We had quite a lot of success when we launched our pay-to-play recreational sport service when we first started, and I immediately had visions of branching out into building our own sport facility. 

Besides being a huge cash suck, it also distracted us from doubling-down on what made us money on a daily basis developing and marketing our well-organized sport leagues that players (our customers) valued.”

"I wish I had known it would be that much fun and enriching on a personal level. I would have done it earlier" - Nisreen Shahin, Founder at Hatch

It’s very easy to look back with perfect hindsight and say what we should have done. But it’s much harder to make those kind of decisions when buried in investor decks, behind schedule website launches, shipping problems and the myriad other challenges that confront founders across the Arab World.

But we can learn from the leaders around us. Perhaps that can help us find some shortcuts through common problems and launch more successful startups in the Arab World. 

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