Top 6 questions raised at Mix N'Mentor Dubai

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The Mix N'Mentor crowd during the morning opening session. (Image via Abed Kataya)

As promised, Mix N’Mentor Dubai, took Wamda’s signature event to a new level.

Eighty entrepreneurs and 30 mentors attented the festivities at the Hult Business School in Dubai Internet City, held on December 10.

The Marketplace Edition was introduced to Dubai for the first time. The five participating corporations were Careem, Payfort, Emirates Airlines, DMS Choueiri Group and Aramex. They each sat with around 15 startups and agreed to schedule meetings with the ones they saw as having potential for collaboration.

During the market place sessions. (Image via Stephanie Nour Prince)

Hot topics

Some of the hottest topics raised during the day were around business growth and development, and co-creation.

“It was very impressive to see the eagerness among startups to look for an opportunity to collaborate and co-create a novel product with the enterprise world,” said Sanjay Sharma, manager of IT Innovation at Emirates Airlines. “I think it’s a very powerful combination which brings the best of both worlds together to offer smarter services to the consumer.”

Other discussions focused on next year's downturn, in terms of how it will impact startups and VCs.

“This will help entrepreneurs come up with solutions that will deliver better value at a lower cost, which if they can achieve while maintaining profitability, will put them at a great level when the market bounces back again,” said Mansour Salameh, Facebook's MENA client solutions manager for retail and ecommerce.

Nevertheless, fundraising and investment remain the most popular topics.

“Don’t get side-tracked by stupid money not every dollar invested in a startup is smart money, if the potential angel investor wants to sit on the board of your startup and he has no appreciation for your vision, better wait until you find an investor that supports your plans,” - Prashant Gulati, founder and maker-in-chief at The Assembly.

“Be very lean. Delay all luxury for your startup and learn to survive with little money until you get the exposure you need to negotiate better with your investors.”

During the discussion break up groups (Image via Kamel Al Asmar)

Mentors' top six questions

We asked the mentors about the most interesting question they heard from an entrepreneur during the day.

“I hear more and more that Facebook is not highly effective in delivering scaled volume of sales at low cost. How we can use Facebook for better performance?”

“Imagine Facebook to be a car, you need a good driver to be able drive it and win the race. For that you need first to hire great people who are passionate about Facebook and train them to become the best. Second, you need to tune it. This is similar to integrating your business with Facebook technology, i.e. Pixels and SDKs [software development kits] to be able to improve performance via achieving a better accuracy in targeting and optimized performance. Third, you need to constantly A/B test and optimize the key levers from creative, to targeting, ad placements and format, and finally bidding. And last, tie up with a marketing partner, which can take your performance to the next level given their knowledge about our API and products. If you are doing these correctly, then your performance should be on the right track.” - Mansour Salameh, Facebook.

“Should I be spending my time as a founder selling?”

“The best person to passionately sell your company's value is you. No one can do it any better. So often it's not the words you say to your clients that stick but rather how you deliver your pitch. It is the emotion and passion and carry for your company that has to show your client, and no one can deliver this better than you. While all of the other hats are important and depending on the company's stage, you should eventually focus on supporting other team members to wear the hats as early as possible to allow you to focus on a hat or two and sales is always one of these.” - Abed Agha, managing director at Vinelab.

“How about appointing partners and distributors for a B2B business?”

“It is very risky to let others tell the story at this stage. It's much better to build a strong customer base and depend on direct sales or different distribution channels (such as online) instead of hiring partners.” - Hany Bayaa, director of operations, Commercial and Marketing at GE Healthcare.

Wrapping up the day with a fireside chat (Image by Abed Kataya)

“How do you convince someone from a corporate environment to join a startup?”

“Not everyone with a corporate background is ready to give up that comfortable life for a startup. However, we are finding that more people are willing to make the change in order to work in a startup environment that is dynamic, challenging, entrepreneurial and allows them to feel that they are part of something they are building." - Yousef Tuqan, Entrepreneur-In-Residence at Wamda Capital.

“What’s the biggest fear of an enterprise while engaging with a Startup.”

“There are many factors for an enterprise to consider while engaging with the startup like budget, scalability, agility, innovation etc. The most important point is the real-time support. Considering the point that an enterprise supports millions of customers and they cannot afford to let any of their services fail, it is very important for startups to show their capacities providing 24/7 support post the implementation.” - Sanjay Sharma, Emirates Airlines.

“Many entrepreneurs were sharing how they discovered or stumbled upon new revenue streams and were wondering if they should explore further, even if it wasn't part of their original business plan.”

“It doesn't hurt to explore new opportunities, if it doesn’t distract them too much from building their core, more lucrative revenue stream. If the core isn't panning out, then new revenue streams would be a welcome pivot. Found it interesting how all these start ups began with what they thought would be their business model and how overtime, their models evolve.” - Ziad Khammar, strategy and development director at DMS (Member of Choueiri Group).

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