In conversation with Abdullah Boodai of Kuwait's Snapbook
Snapbook is a Kuwaiti startup that began as a photo-printing service. Today, it likes to describe itself as a gifting service, offering customised and personalised products like mugs, cushions and keyrings.
The company closed a multi-tranche seed funding round of $1.5 million from Faith Capital in 2018 and is now looking to raise up to $3 million in a pre-Series A round.
We spoke with Abdullah Boodai, Snapbook’s founder and chief executive officer about his entrepreneurial journey.
Why did you become an entrepreneur?
I began my career as an investment analyst in an investment company. One of the many responsibilities was visiting our portfolio companies and reviewing their performance on a regular basis. During that time, I also had my own web development startup.
Working as a part-time entrepreneur and witnessing those portfolio companies grow, I discovered my passion for running businesses and building something from scratch. During the period, I co-founded and managed several businesses in several sectors including healthcare, real estate, manufacturing and retail.
How did the idea for Snapbook come about?
In 2014, my wife and I returned from a trip and wanted to print the photos that we captured on our iPhones. The process was tedious and inconvenient having to go through a series of steps such as transferring the photos and visiting photo studios to print your photos. I realised an opportunity existed, which was to simplify the photo printing process.
As a result of my experience as an investment analyst, I knew that printing photos was too narrow of a business to scale. I began researching international companies and decided to offer printing and gift customisation services. We did not reinvent the wheel, we simply adapted it to this region’s needs.
What do you feel is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?
The biggest sacrifices are family time, social life and financial stability. As an entrepreneur the actual success comes a few years down the line if you sell your business or scale, you should always keep an exit strategy in mind and if you don’t, you will just be an employee of your own business.
There is an everlasting imbalance between social life and business. In order to succeed, you have to accept that and live by it.
What are your main challenges?
Being the first of its kind in this region, finding talent is very difficult. Another main challenge in this market is managing cash on delivery, which could reach 85 per cent of total sales. Since we are producing a customised product prior to receiving payment, the risk of payment loss is increased. We created a system capable to reduce such occurrences which allow us to easily manage those orders.
You have kept your production team in the Middle East, why is this?
This region relies heavily on photo privacy. Our female customers would only feel comfortable if females handle their photos. Considering this important requirement, we have decided to keep our production and customer service team members strictly females, which we refer to as “100 per cent pink service”.
What will your industry look like in the next decade?
If you rewind back 20 years, Kodak capitalised on giving customers the ability to save their photos. They referred to this as the “Kodak moment”. Through the years, Kodak failed to keep up with the technology. Technology might have changed, but people and their sentiments have not. They still want to cherish their memories through print, but with convenience. Rather than visiting a store to create a personalised gift or print a photo album, you can do so from the palm of your hands. Technology will continue to evolve and we will continue to evolve with it. This is rooted in Snapbook’s DNA.