“You don’t necessarily have to be a founder [to gain experience],” said Abdullah Hamad Al-Jouan, the chairman of The National Fund for SME Development, while attending the Nu8.3 event, which was organized by The Fund, Wamda and Nuwait. The event, which took place on Sunday, July 30, gathered around 80 people including entrepreneurs, speakers, students, and professionals.
Al-Jouan believed that young Kuwaitis should look for the right knowledge first by working in startups, before launching on their own.
New faces filled the room at Reyada Collaborative Workspaces. The crowd consisted of a mix of students looking to launch startups, established entrepreneurs, corporate representatives looking for small investment opportunities, in addition to inspirational speakers.
The event kicked off with the speech of Bader Al-Mutairi, public relations and communication manager at The Fund, who reassured their commitment to support youth in their endeavors.
Four talks followed: ‘From an idea to an operational business’ by Fahad Al Falah, managing partner at archiving solutions company Menafile; ‘Talk to tomorrow’s customers, today’ by Morison Ksi business advisor, Afwaz Alkhuzam, a business consultancy advisory firm; ‘Trends in the creative industry’ by creative network Youraok cofounder Ruba Al Saleh, and ‘Trends in IoT’ by AEA Manufacture founder Ali Ashkanani.
Although topics were varied, the main discussions revolved around the basics of launching a product or a service and how to iterate it as you go.
If you’re in a hurry, take your time.
When she first launched her venture, Al-Saleh wasn’t lucky enough. Worried about the competition and about other players that might race her to add more features, she rolled out numerous features on Youraok website before she realized that this confused her users.
She advised the crowd not to stress much on overdoing things, but rather focus on one service that will make the business stand out.
“Our website took the longest time [and money] to see the light, as we didn’t know about MVP (minimal viable product),” she commented on the dangers of perfection. “By the time it was in the market, there were a lot of competitors. We [offered] things people didn’t need.”
Al-Falah viewed competition as a proof of concept validation. “If [the] government sees one player [only], they might think that the industry is too early stage.”
Ditch the ego trip
Many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of falling in love with their ideas, to a point where they no longer accept any feedback. “Ego kills. Practice humility, be open to suggestions, communicate, and collaborate,” advised Al-Falah.
Ego and honesty don’t go together, stressed Al-Saleh. For her, Kuwaiti entrepreneurs won’t unlock their full potential unless they open up to others and share the challenges they were facing.
“Be honest with the person asking you how is your business doing. We end dressing up everything but forget that the person asking may be raising common challenges. If we’re honest, we might imitate the Silicon Valley experience,” she said referring to the open collaborative spirit that exists in Silicon Valley.
Let’s get down to data
Alkhuzam, who advises startups and businesses on a regular basis on how to do proper marketing strategies, claimed that Kuwait has a social media penetration rate of 96 percent, the highest globally. “No one is taking advantage of it,” he commented.
Data pulled from social media marketing is crucial to help businesses transform their core models, according to Alkhuzam. She identified two types of data entrepreneurs pull out from any digital marketing campaign: structured, which is clean data that translates into insights, and unstructured, which is the raw data.
Showcasing a Google Analytics dashboard, she advised entrepreneurs to focus on referral sources, acquisition (how did people know about the service), activation (the moment that led to the acquisition), retention, and revenues (which could be clicks or subscriptions).
“To make smart marketing decisions, deliver a compelling personalized experience uniquely positioned for that ideal customer,” she said.
The day concluded with an engaging Q&A session that tackled everything from the fear of sharing ideas, the region’s promising IoT industry, SEO practices, and disrupting traditional companies.
“In 2008, internet connected things were more than people,” said Ashkhanani. In 2020, “the internet industry will be valued at $14 trillion. Get in motion, see what’s happening outside and get inspired.”
The community in Kuwait is not only growing, but also diversifying. Students, part-time entrepreneurs, as well as corporate representatives showed up to learn, get inspired, and see how bigger entities can give back to the smaller ones.