Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi welcomed its first ever cycle of entrepreneurs at its boot camp last week to help entrepreneurs from the UAE and abroad evolve their ideas and eventually scale to regional and global markets.
The week started with team building exercises that included kayaking and board games, all to help them develop their value proposition. They also conducted a venture assessment, which they will re-evaluate each week for product-market fit.
Mentorship match up was also critical in the first week so as to focus not just on the chemistry between mentor and entrepreneur, but on the customer data driven process - thinking about selling and getting traction in the market, rather than just pitching to investors. “At the end of the day, we at Flat6Labs are ultimately building a community to improve the chance of a startup’s success in real time,” said Nina Curley, managing director.
Based at twofour54, Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi boasts a large office space with abundant natural light. This newly opened branch of the Cairo founded accelerator is continuing its work by providing startups with seed funding, office space, strategic business training workshops, one-on-one mentorship, and access to a network of investors. The boot camp was created with Scott Gilespie of T2VC and Warren Haber of Exoventure.
“A founder-friendly and customer-driven culture is something I have worked to cultivate since day one,” Curley said.
Jibin Jose and Abimanyu Nair, cofounders of Flip Technologies.
One of the promising startups in the first cycle is Flip Technologies, something that could be described as “Fit-Bit for skateboards.” The hardware device fits under the skateboard and tracks rider fitness and activity performed, and includes a mobile dashboard.
Over the past year, the cofounders, Jibin Jose and Abimanyu Nair, have complemented each other with backgrounds in hardware and software technology. Due to its diverse community they see the UAE as their test market, and one day would like to break into the US market.
While at Flat6Labs they’ll be testing their hypotheses, gaining feedback to better their product, and finding sponsors in the region to host events, providing them with more exposure. “The Flat6Labs mentor line-up and customized road map has been the best part of boot camp for us. The experience is key,” Jose said.
As fresh graduates, unlike many of their friends who have taken jobs in government and the private sector, Jose and Nair have opted for the riskier route of building their product, moving to the UAE and focusing on their start up. The founders admitted that they have had to push through moments of self-doubt, but they absolutely love what they are doing, and what they do now could not give them the same satisfaction if they had taken a job straight out of college like many of their friends.
Valerie Konde, founder of Pavilion 33.
Another startup is Pavilion 33, founded by Valerie Konde, an INSEAD graduate who left her job at Google to build her art ecommerce site focused on emerging economies. Tied to 15 art galleries across the MENA region Pavilion 33 hosts over 400 art pieces on its site and will be having its soft launch next week.
The idea behind the site is to give everyone access to affordable art - it even offers a trial period of three months before purchasing. The art ecommerce site will be providing art lovers from around the world with pieces from the Middle East, North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Konde plans to launch the full platform in May which will include information and videos on things to know before purchasing art, and other educational content for the buyer.
Pavilion 33 will partner with art galleries rather than individual artists. Galleries will be the curators, Konde noted, while the website offers marketing and exposure for the galleries and artists, while providing another avenue to push inventory.
Konde explained that though she has only been in the boot camp for just three days, the people she has met there challenge her, and will enable her to grow her startup faster. Her goal is to expand to other emerging economies in South Asia and Latin America.
Entrepreneurs were also pushed to practice their pitches.
Haitham Al-Khatib, cofounder of Sakkini.
A particularly strong pitch came from Sakkini, an early-stage venture operating in the real estate space in the UAE. Unlike many of its competitors, it employs unique geospatial technology which allows the user to have a more comprehensive and interactive experience navigating property listings, including an ability to view nearby properties and amenities. The founders, Faisal Al Husseini and Haitham Al-Khatib just found out during bootcamp that they have been chosen as finalists for the prestigious MIT Enterprise Forum. They will be traveling to Kuwait in mid-April on an all-expenses-paid trip to train in business skills, pitch in front of an eclectic group of panelists, and will compete for a grand prize of $50,000. Instabug, a platform for mobile developers was a former first place winner and a Flat6Labs alumnus.
Program participants can look forward to weekly training and coaching sessions. Entrepreneurs will be encouraged to get close to the customer, gather data, and reiterate - build, measure, and learn. The daily process will include hands on workshops on financing options, sales and marketing, a lean canvas model, product-market fit, social media, value proposition, investment, and how to engage with the customer.
Then, each Wednesday, members of the community will be invited for dinners where entrepreneurs will pitch their business idea. Stay tuned for more innovative ideas coming your way.