LinkedIn is there to help | MENA’s Talent Head teaches you a lesson
The host with the most The Middle East
and how ‘treps makes the world go round Hospitality movers and shakers tell you their tricks of the trade MASTERING BRAND BUILDING TECHNIQUES
YOUR SME IS MISSING THE ONLINE VIDEO BOAT
RENEGING ON YOUR EMPLOYMENT AGREEMENT
Marketing pro Tina Wells helps you formulate an identity
Digi video pro Todd Cavanaugh tells you how to jump on the bandwagon
Ethics and your commitment to the job
KUWAIT CITY MANAMA DUBAI
DOHA ABU DHABI MUSCAT
MARCH 2014 | ENTREPRENEURMIDDLEEAST.COM | UAE AED20
Lenovo ThinkPad 8
INNOVATORS: HOSPITALITY LEADERS The host with the most From apps and online booking to tourism, nightlife, and franchises, we pick a few of the industry’s finest.
If you build it Ibrahim Ibrahimov is the game changer in the CIS. He’s decided to build an island that’s more extravagant than anything you’ve ever seen.
TECH: SHINY Float like a butterfly Lenovo’s got some brand spanking new stuff on the market in the UAE.
I’m all yours Alpine Oetker is target-marketing you, and you, and yes, even you. Their newest properties are significant in more ways than one.
ONLINE ‘TREP The game changer: Online video FTW Is your SME missing the biggest opportunity yet? Todd Cavanaugh thinks so, and we tend to agree.
The mother of invention is… competition? Evgeny Kuzin, one of the Bulldozer Group’s triumvirate talks about their Dubai strategies for Toko, Sass Café, and he even reveals a secret or twolike when they’re launching their next outlet.
Cultural emissary: Mandilicious F&B franchiser Fayez Al Nusari tells you how he made his entrepreneurial plans a reality, and what’s in store for the GCC-based brand. 4
Azeri billionaire developer Ibrahim Ibrahimov visiting Avesta Concern’s Khazar Islands project site.
MOBILE TECH Becoming a “Glasshole” We were given Google Glass for a 24-hour test spin, and it was sort of like being in a DeLorean. In 3D. Except not in 3D.
WEBSITE TO WATCH My portal made it possible Expatwoman.com is expanding and this is why they’re doing so well. Here are some of the methods that worked, and how you can learn from these online ‘treps.
GEEK The three types of tweeps that crawl out of the woodwork when you get verified on Twitter Our editor tells you what went down when that all-important blue badge showed up.
EDITOR’S NOTE By Fida Z. Chaaban
‘TREPONOMICS: MARKETING Linkedin tips for your SME Ali Matar, Head of Talent Solutions for LinkedIn MENA, talks about the ways you can improve your SMEs web presence using the networking platform. Make the most of your digi-presence with some lesserknown tools.
ASK A PRO Camera ready: Five pointers for your televised appearances Octavia Nasr on mastering a TV interview, and maximizing your airtime.
ESQUIRE GUY Momentum and the art of the investor pitch Ross McCammon tells you how to navigate that boardroom… without breaking a sweat.
‘TREPONOMICS: MARKETING Switched on: Keys to brand building Tina Wells discusses the appropriate avenues for building your brand identity, and what will make it sustainable.
ETHICS A reformed slacker shares tips on productivity Are you keeping up your end of the bargain? May Rostom, Senior Lifestyle Editor at MSN Arabia, talks about not reneging on your contract to produce, and how she kicked her bad habits. 6
STARTUP FINANCE Vimeo On Demand changes your position Startup filmmakers can crowdfund their way to film, and then release it themselves. Vimeo’s Greg Clayman tells the details of their 10K program for winning candidates.
PayPal’s Laurent Wakim, Regional Manager MENA
STARTUP FINANCE Seed capital: The breakdown Simon Hudson discusses the process of generating your much-needed money, and how he went about it.
CULTURE: TRAVEL The frequent flier’s guide to healthy skin A skincare expert tells you how to keep your skin looking rested and alive, despite the weekly work trips. LIFE Cooking the books So you wanna start a resto? Take a gander at a few of the Master Chefs who did and the books they’ve released.
BUSINESS UNUSUAL Diamonds really are forever Rinaldo Willy, CEO and Founder of Swiss-based Algordanza, is marking 10 years of success in the diamond industry. But they aren’t the diamonds you’re familiar with.
DESIGN Attracting clients is easier than eins, zwei, drei A former British American Tobacco executive thinks about crossing-borders for his latest ‘trep undertaking.
MONEY: VC VIEWPOINT Attack of the Clones Wassim Mourtada gets all analytical on you, and your VC tactics.
ASK THE MONEY GUY Let’s be pals PayPal’s Laurent Wakim talks moolah in the MENA region, and how they’re cashing in on e-commerce in the GCC.
YOUR MONEY Dividing equity between co-founders Ryan Himmel, founder and CEO of online marketplace BIDaWIZ.com answers the question.
START IT UP: WACKY IDEA Journeyman: Apps of Hajjnet Hajjnet CEO and Founder Ali Dabaja discusses being a ‘trep, his success in the region, and how it all happened.
Swiss Algordanza lab
MIDDLE EAST EDITOR IN CHIEF Fida Z. Chaaban email@example.com MANAGING DIRECTOR Walid Zok firstname.lastname@example.org +971556500688 PUBLISHER Nehme Abouzeid email@example.com CREATIVE DIRECTION Concept and execution Entrepreneur Middle East ONLINE LIAISON Kareem Chehayeb firstname.lastname@example.org WEB DIRECTOR Haydar Mtayrek CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Arie Amaya-Akkermans Todd Cavanaugh Amal Chaaban Youmna Chagoury Kareem Chehayeb Jane Drury Ali Harb Ryan Himmel Simon Hudson Mohammad Hijazi
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In addition to our print edition, we’re bringing you all sorts of industry news on our web mediums. Joining us online means getting relevant business and startup content in real-time, so you’re hearing about the latest developments as soon as we do. We’re looking forward to interacting with our readers on all of our social media and web platforms- like any thriving business, we’re looking to give and take. #TrepTalkME is already happening on all of our digi platforms, and all good conversations go both ways. See you on the web!
EntMagazineME @EntMagazgineME | @FidaChaaban Entrepreneur-me EntrepreneurMiddleEast EntMagazineME EntMagazineME EntMagazineME
OFFICIAL LAUNCH PARTNER
The pleasure and the greed
hat’s actually the title of a song by a band called Big Wreck and it’s over a decade old. I sat down to write my letter for this issue, and I could think of nothing else since it really summed up how I feel about the reception that we at Entrepreneur Middle East have received since the release of our inaugural issue. Where “the pleasure” comes in? I’m really fortunate to have gotten such a warm welcome in the print/digi media scene considering the fact there are so many exceptional business publications already in circulation in the UAE specifically, and in the GCC as a whole. And “the greed”? Keep your comments coming! The more feedback we get on our social media platforms, the more we want! I appreciate you reaching out to the magazine on Twitter and on Facebook, and I love that a few of our readers reached out to me specifically. A lot of media outlets claim to be creating a dialogue on social media, and I am heading up one of them- I’m keeping my promise by talking back to you and addressing your comments. Thank you for your tweets (some of them can be found on our “Feedback” page), I’m glad you found us relevant enough to take the time to comment online. This issue, our cover story is devoted to a few angles of the hospitality industry. In our “Innovators” section you’ll find hospitality professionals discussing entertainment, food & beverage, and franchising. The hotel side is such a huge part of the money-makes-the-world-go-round ethos of the UAE so we’ve place a few throughout the issue. The food & beverage sphere is another big moneymaker when done correctly, and finally the franchise side is what I consider one of the most challenging arenas to navigate as an entrepreneur. The people we’ve chosen have singled themselves out as ‘treps who have important knowledge to impart. I personally have learned a lot from them by reading the interviews, and I’m optimistic our readers will too.
Another interesting facet of the Entrepreneur brand is our “Business Unusual” section. It’s exactly what it sounds like: Highlighting business that have created an unusual niche for themselves with demonstrated successes to share. In this issue, we talk to Algordanza CEO Rinaldo Willy about his entrepreneurial venture, and yes, it is quite unusual. Another feature that I think you should make a priority this issue? My picture is a bit of a tipoff: I took Google Glass for a spin and the results were… hilarious? Join us on all of our digi platforms and make liberal use of our hashtag #TrepTalkME. Certainly tweet at me directly with your comments as I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
Fida Z. Chaaban Editor in Chief Follow me @fidachaaban Email me email@example.com
WHAT READERS ARE SAYING
Following the tradition of our parent magazine, we’re sharing some of the comments that came our way this month on Twitter. You can give us your feedback on any of our platforms and via email firstname.lastname@example.org
| from the web |
Liberals and conservatives polarize as Facebook wades into the gender identity sphere In light of the big US$12 billion acquisition of you-know-who, something very interesting (and highly controversial) got a lot less mainstream media attention. On February 13th, the Facebook Diversity page stated that they “want you to feel comfortable being your true, authentic self. An important part of this is the expression of gender, especially when it extends beyond the definitions of just “male” or female.” So today, we’re proud to offer a new custom gender option to help you better express your own identity on Facebook.” Facebook-users can now choose from just under 60 “gender designations”, but which specific users are able to access it is a bit unclear: The official Facebook announcement said that those using the social media
monster-site in “U.S. English” could opt for the new feature, but media outlets nearly all reported it as Facebook users actually living in the States. We tried it, and we were able to view the choices despite using a Dubai-based Facebook profile. A post by Peter Weber on Slate pointed out the grammatically-awkward new pronoun -it can now refer to you as “their” or “them” instead of just him or her- and he also gave an extremely comprehensive dictionary of sorts for the multitude of new gender identities. People who want to use these alternative gender descriptors can choose up to 10 for their profile or choose to keep it private completely, and they can also tailor their privacy to allow (or deny) access of this particular information to their Facebook friends.
Some of the lengthy explanation by Weber that stood out? “Cis-gender” and “Non-binary”. Just when we thought Facebook had narrowed complicated human informationgathering down to an art, they manage to push the bar even further.
SHINY | WEBSITE TO WATCH | GEEK | MOBILE TECH | ONLINE ‘TREP | THE FIX
FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY...
Lenovo wants to go everywhere with you
For those of us living airport to airport, Lenovo’s new ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch might be heaven-sent. Touted as “the world’s lightest 14-inch Ultrabook™”, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch is the third in the line of lightweight slim models by Lenovo. Launched in the UAE last month by Dilip Bhatia, Vice President of ThinkPad Product Marketing, and by Oliver Ebel, Vice President & General Manager Lenovo Middle East & Africa, the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch weighs in at just 2.8 pounds. Layover between flights? The new PC boasts a “Rapid Charge” technology, meaning that you can
expect an 80% charged battery in less than an hour. A fully charged battery gives business travelers up to nine hours of battery life, and there is also the option of built-in 4G capability. Lenovo has steadily gained market share, with “number one sales in 11 EMEA countries, and an additional 39 countries with double-digit market share,” according to Ebel. On a global scale, Lenovo’s market share ranked “number two in PC and tablet computing devices in 2013 and fourth place in smartphones,” he added. Discussing the design of the newest in the ThinkPad range, Bhatia explained that
the company has “tried to maintain our own identity; the previous model won 82 awards, and the design was inspired by the bento box.” What does Bhatia fly with? “I go everywhere with the ThinkPad 8. It really does everything a PC does.”
KUMAIL HUNAID OF DUBIZZLE WINS ARABNET DEVELOPER TOURNAMENT Kumail Hunaid, a 23 year-old software engineer for Dubizzle, took home the grand prize -a cool US$2500- at ArabNet’s Developer tourney. “I joined the competition to have some fun and get challenged, which I did. I was working as fast as I could and I hardly made the clock. It really was quite hard but I managed to make it in time,” says Hunaid. “The tournament consisted of three elimination rounds, each of which required the participant to build a web application. The applications I built had well designed interfaces, I gave that part a lot of thought. I also finished on time which was important,” explains Hunaid. What does this developer intend to spend his winnings on? “I might just fund my next trip!”
What apps from the MENA region do you find impressive? “I’ve been following the work that Syed Ahmed and Iba Masood are doing with Gradberry and I love the direction they’ve taken. Gradberry helps university students spruce up their CV by taking online courses and apply for jobs through their job board. They might just figure out a way to bring Khan Academy-like education to the region and successfully run a business around it. I also like what Omar Kassim is doing with JadoPado. I haven’t seen anyone in the UAE sell products online as well as them. They also figured out how to integrate fulfilment right into their business model, which is key in providing customers with a seamless experience and insanely quick delivery times.”
What MENA region website or portal do you find are examples of great development? “I work at Dubizzle and [I] am constantly amazed at the massive amounts of traffic we manage to serve. Serving well over 280 million page views makes everything harder. Second, Wamli is also doing some excellent stuff with their online store. Their work seems topnotch!”
THE HOST WITH THE MOST HOSPITALITY MOVERS & SHAKERS IT’S A CINCH Ibrahim Ibrahimov
GO BIG OR GO HOME Fayez Al Nusari
He’s in the process of shelling out US$100 billion dollars on his Khazar Islands project. He’s pretty sure that if you build it, they will come… all the way to Azerbaijan.
Which came first, the brand or the franchise? This ‘trep explains how from the very beginning, his brand was structured to encourage GCCwide penetration… and he’s planning on going global.
TRIUMVIRATE Bulldozer Group Toko, the group’s latest high-end venture, has quickly become Dubai’s nightlife darling. On the agenda is another of their outlets launching this month, and in tandem, they’re letting you in on a big secret.
HEIGHT IS MIGHT Crystal Group With numbers like One Sheikh Zayed Road and a perch on the fortieth floor, the Crystal Group is at it again, and they’re playing to win. The hospitality ‘treps show us around their newest digs.
ERBIL BEIRUT CAIRO AMMAN
IF YOU BUILD IT,
THEY WILL COME IBRAHIM IBRAHIMOV’S FIELD OF DREAMS IS COSTING HIM A FORTUNE… AND HE WANTS YOU TO COME & SEE IT FOR YOURSELF By Fida Chaaban
here are developers and there are emerging markets, and then there are the developers in these emerging markets. There are developers who hope to foster new communities, and yes, even live in those communities. Ibrahim Ibrahimov is all of the above, and if a man’s home is his castle by default making him a king, then a man’s island is his… domain? The Khazar Islands will be Ibrahimov’s domain, but rather than considering himself a monarch, he says he is both a subject and a patriot of his country- and with good reason, since they’ve given him the A-ok to execute one of the most ambitious development projects in recent history. He’s in the process of shelling out US$100 billion dollars to make his vision a tangible reality, and he’s pretty sure that if you build it, they will come… all the way to Azerbaijan. >>> MARCH 2014
Ibrahim Ibrahimov and his deputy Shahin Talibov at the Qatar Embassy reception staged at the Four Seasons Hotel Baku
“Deputy”. During my 48 hour visit to Baku, I spend the bulk of it with both Talibov and Ibrahimov, later meeting his wife of 20 years at their sprawling waterfront property where I hear more about his sons and learn about his upbringing in a small Azeri village. Ibrahimov, as part “The Khazar Islands will be ready of his philanthropic measures, has to fully open in 2020. In 2016 I will have a soft-opening, and you will come been a patron saint of sorts to that very same village and to other villages to see it again and see how fast it has as well: “I have brought water to 10 changed.” Ibrahim Ibrahimov isn’t villages. I invested US$5.5 million in asking me a question, he’s basically that project.” He has a personal interjust informing me that I will be back est in engineering and construction; and that by then, the splendor of his bright, new world will be over half-way a “hobby” that he has channeled into his charitable endeavors, and recently to completion. His right-hand man into his for-profit ones including Shahin Talibov nods, “Mr. Ibrahim Khazar Islands. While Ibrahimov is will bring you back to see it again. It will be very important.” Talibov (who the face and the mastermind of the acted as my liaison for this interview), project, it’s actually an Avesta Concern undertaking. Avesta Concern acts as has travelled extensively with Ibraan umbrella company for Ibrahimov’s himov and has been working with various businesses- many of which are the building magnate for some time sourcing the ever-expanding Khazar now, is referred to as the billionaire’s
“THERE IS A DIFFERENCE IN VISION BETWEEN DUBAI AND BAKU. WHAT I’M DOING IS BUILDING A CITY TO LIVE. DUBAI IS A CITY TO WORK, IT’S A TRANSIT CITY” 18
Khazar Islands project site
Islands with things like labor, stone, and much more. Likened to an “oligarch” in an indepth feature about him in The New York Times, Ibrahimov refutes the comment when I ask him about it over tea, and laughs it off as he does much of the criticism that comes his way. He’s emblematic of the potential of the new guard of cash-healthy entrepreneurs out of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Formed during the disbanding of the former Soviet Union, the CIS is comprised of several newly independent countriesmany of which are now the booming emerging markets that people are eager to break into, like Astana, Kazakhstan, and yes, like Baku. According to the World Bank, in 2012 the Gross domestic product (GDP) of Azerbaijan was $66.60 billion. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook lists Azerbaijan’s estimated 2013 GDP at $100.4 billion -roughly the projected cost of the Khazar Islands- and the numbers boast significant economic growth across the board. The Asian Development Bank reports that in the first half of 2013, Azerbaijan’s GDP grew 5% “outperforming the Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2013 forecast in April and well above the 1.5% recorded during the first half of 2012,” with petroleum accounting for less than half of the GDP. The ADO report also notes that construction grew
THE CROWNING GLORY OF THIS DEVELOPMENT WILL BE THE AZERBAIJAN TOWER, AND “IT WILL BE TALLER THAN ANY OTHER BUILDING IN THE WORLD.” by a whopping 35.5% in tandem with soaring investments. Boomtown really is booming- the increasing (already-large) gas and oil exports are significant, and crucial sectors like real estate, banking, and of course construction are seeing major growth spurts as well. All of this is good news for Ibrahimov, and only stands to get better despite some analysts predicting a tapering of growth by 2016. On a socio-cultural level, Baku hosted Eurovision 2012, considered by some to be one of the biggest panEuro draws, subsequently bringing the much-needed television cameras their way. In June 2015, Baku is set to host the European Games, another pan-Euro event that stands to bring them a slew of international footfalls, and the much-needed exposure that comes with large-scale sporting events. Azerbaijan also won the bid for the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games (ISG), scheduled to take place in 2017. It’s worth mentioning here that the first ISG was staged in Saudi Arabia, and the edition scheduled for Iran was cancelled reportedly due to disputes over terminology and labelling: Persian Gulf versus Arabian Gulf. Why is this relevant to my discussion with Ibrahimov? Be-
Khazar Islands project site
cause Azerbaijan’s population is primarily Muslim and predominately Shiite. When asked if he expects more cash influx from Iran or the GCC, Ibrahimov says all are welcome- and this is in line with the general jargon of Azerbaijan- hence why staging the next ISG in Baku makes sense. “Money is money. Everyone’s money can buy property, and everyone’s money is good for investments, the country it comes from doesn’t matter,” shrugs Ibrahimov. The jovial and friendly Ibrahimov is Muslim, but he’s very much the type of practicing Muslim seen across the CIS- devout and fairly familiar with religion, but not concerned with the sectarian divisions that are rocking the Arab world. I see ornate Koranic texts, Islamic artwork in gold calligraphy mostly, adorn his personal space at the Avesta Concern head offices, his boardroom on the Khazar Islands project, and in the sitting room of his home. He doesn’t out and out refuse to discuss the MENA region’s sectarian conflict, rather he dismisses it, admitting that he finds Arabs overly emotional. >>>
Khazar Islands rendering
“THE PROJECT MANAGERS HAVE MY MOBILE NUMBER, THE WORKERS HAVE MY MOBILE NUMBER. MAYBE THE MAN UNDER THE MANAGER HAS A PROBLEM THAT THE MANAGER DOESN’T WANT ME TO KNOW ABOUT, IN THIS WAY I WILL ALWAYS KNOW EVERYTHING. EVERYONE CAN CALL ME, ALWAYS.”
Azeri billionaire developer Ibrahim Ibrahimov visiting Avesta Concern’s Khazar Islands project site.
“MONEY IS MONEY [...] EVERYONE’S MONEY IS GOOD FOR INVESTMENTS, THE COUNTRY IT COMES FROM DOESN’T MATTER” 20
When I tell Ibrahimov how difficult it was to get into Azerbaijan, even as a Western passport-holder, he tells me this a minor errand for his staff, and in future “not to worry.” While that may be true for Ibrahimov and his Avesta Concern staff, it certainly is a problem for the rest of the people trying to visit the CIS member-state. “It’s getting easier to come to Baku. Things are changing, many people are visiting to
see the Islands and what we are doing here.” I work up the courage to do the inevitable comparison between his lobster-shaped islands -that he’s already knee-deep into construction onand Dubai. “There is a difference in vision between Dubai and Baku. What I’m doing is building a city to live. Dubai is a city to work, it’s a transit city- people come, they make money and then they leave. Khazar Islands is to live, not to stay for a short time and then go. I’ll be the first one to live on Khazar Islands,” he says indicating the residential areas on the 11-foot map of the development that takes up a full conference table in Ibrahimov’s main offices. The 56 year-old is adamant that his “city of the future will be where everyone wants to live.” Why? Because the man has culled the best of the best from his globetrotting, and decided that it can be improved upon- such is the scope and scale of his plans. The amenities of Khazar Islands include a high-penetration, state-of-the-art public transportation system, and highways “unlike Dubai that have exits so you don’t get stuck when you miss the turns.” The crowning glory of this development will be the Azerbaijan Tower, and “it will be taller than any other building in the world.” The plans are both expansive and expensive, and in addition to a pro golf course and the de rigeur Formula 1 racetrack, he wants a slew of F&B outlets (over 80), and a labyrinth of ho-
Khazar Islands architectural mockup
tels (18). Baku is already home to some of the best hotel brands in the worldthere is a Four Seasons, a Fairmont, a Hyatt Regency, and the list goes on, yet Ibrahimov is undeterred that the fine hallmarks of hospitality will come, and soon, to the Khazar Islands. Despite his insistence that it isn’t similar to Dubai, there are undeniable parallels, most noticeably the futuristic architecture favored by the GCC. In the GCC and most other nations that he visits, Ibrahimov is greeted by heads of state- he jokes that this is a sign that he has become a “grown up.” Indeed, during his last trip to Qatar, he met with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, both in the context of the Khazar Islands development. While Ibrahimov doesn’t confirm
whether the Qataris will be wading into the Azeri pool, he speaks highly of his trip. In general, the businessman is optimistic, confident, and quite a man of the people so to speak. “Before we had 500 people working for Avesta, now we have 2500, specifically for the Khazar Islands. We have about 500 employees that we outsource. I have a problem, we cannot find enough skilled labor, so we must bring them.” Ibrahimov visits the project site daily, and over lunch admits that while he does leave the country periodically for work, he manages everything via phone constantly. “The project managers have my mobile number, the workers have my mobile number. Maybe the man under the manager has a problem that the manager doesn’t want me to know about, in this way I will always know everything. Everyone can call me, always.” When I visit the Islands with Talibov, I am shown around the never-ending stretches of manicured greens and stately bridges by a cousin of Ibrahimov’s. In total I spend approximately two hours on the new Islands, escorted from one to another sometimes by jeep and sometimes by foot. The bridges are being laid with fine-quality stonework, sourced from Ibrahimov’s mines, and the roads too. The project is well lit, and decorated in festive, colored lights- red, green, and blue to reflect the national colors of Azerbaijan. He remembers the beginning of the project fondly, and reminds me that despite Khazar Islands project site the naysayers, it will be done. Apparently Khazar Islands is such a tangible reality to Ibrahimov that he doesn’t even talk about it much to those in his personal life anymore. If that’s the case, what’s on his mind these days? “Now? I’m thinking of the second city.” If he builds his second mega-city, then yes, we will come.
“BEFORE WE HAD 500 PEOPLE WORKING FOR AVESTA, NOW WE HAVE 2500, SPECIFICALLY FOR THE KHAZAR ISLANDS. WE HAVE ABOUT 500 EMPLOYEES THAT WE OUTSOURCE.”
KHAZAR ISLANDS: THE PROJECTIONS Cost US$100 billion Soft opening 2016 Grand opening 2020 Islands 78 Bridges 150
Residential Flats 250,000 Permanent Residents 800,000 Tourist Accommodations 200,000 Hotels 18 Green space 75%
KING KONG ADDRESSES DO MATTER
DUBAI NIGHTLIFE ‘TREPS LAUNCH NEWEST ROOFTOP VENTURE
“The sound system is definitely one of our standout features. We’re using Architettura Sonora,” explains the Crystal Group’s Managing Partner Jad Matta gesturing skyward at the futuristic-looking sound installation. Architettura Sonora is known for both quality of sound-experience both in and out of doors, and also for their singularly interesting design schemas and material-usage. In addition to music executed by a selection of international DJs, Crystal Group guests have a lot more to look forward to adds Matta: “The 40Kong client appreciates a really striking skyline- we’re the first building on Sheikh Zayed.” Indeed, when it comes to addresses, 40Kong’s impressive One Sheik Zayed Road locale certainly garners them a bragging right or two- and so does their extremely elevated digs on the fortieth floor. Situated on the rooftop of the H Hotel, 40Kong
officially opened its doors late January of this year. The hospitality group also operates already-successful UAE concepts like People by Crystal –a large format club- and Sake No Hana Dubai by Crystal at Souk Al Bahar. Their newest venue seats “130 guests and can hold up to 250 guests at full capacity,” opening each evening at 6p.m. for the après-work crowd looking to enjoy a scenic Dubai sunset over cocktails, and remains open until 3a.m. each evening. 40Kong’s menu, based on the sharing concept favored by higher-end hospitality destinations, offers a selection of crafted options including desserts. The Crystal Group is headed by Managing Director Samir Kerchiched, and their newest food & beverage outlet employs 40 people from management to service and support staff, under General Manager Philippe d’Amat. Height is might indeed.
Aerial view of 40Kong by the Crystal Group. The new venue is situated on the rooftop of the H Hotel.
Oetker Collection Fregate Island Private, Seychelles
COLLECTABLES | PRESTIGE PROPERTIES ALPINE OETKER IS OUT TO GET YOU Oetker Collection hotels had just added a new property to their already impressive list- and now they’re targeting the Middle East client hoping that the winter-fresh climate will lure you their way. L’Apogée Courchevel includes a wellness center and spa, and is situated in Le Jardin Alpin a short drive away from a private airstrip. Overlooking Courchevel village, the property is owned by Xavier Niel (Free ISP owner), with interiors by Iranian architect and interior award-winning designer India Mahdavi and colleague Joseph Dirand (of Monsieur Bleu, Palais de Tokyo fame). L’Apogée Courchevel is comprised of 33 suites, 20 double rooms, and one penthouse that offers guests a private terrace to enjoy the mountain-view. For the palate, Oetker’s brought forward Domaine de
Terre Blanche veteran Chef Franck Ferigutti to head the property’s signature resto, Le Comptoir de L’Apogée. Another true gem in the Oetker Collection portfolio? Fregate Island Private in the Seychelles. Take me Oetker, I’m yours. Oetker Collection Palais Namaskar, Marrakech
business unusual | LIFE | TRAVEL | DESIGN
TRAVELLING ‘TREPS KNOW YOUR ACCOMMODATIONS By Ali Harb
JUNIOR EXEC STAY FOR BUSINESS Mena Hotel | Riyadh
FOR BUSINESS OR PLEASURE Crowne Plaza | Muscat
Riyadh’s Mena Hotel is reviewed as a “typical business hotel”. While your junior execs won’t be in the lap of luxury, it does offer a free, high-speed WIFI, conference facilities, and airport pickup services. Located in the center of the Saudi capital, Mena Hotel has two conference rooms (each able to accommodate up to 70 people), with built-in data projectors, screens, boards, flip charts- meeting kits and tech support are also available.
A slew of business travelers have opted for the Crowne Plaza in Qurum Heights, perched on a hilltop overlooking city of Muscat and the Gulf of Oman. During your downtime visit the outdoor swimming pool, private beach, various F&B outlets, fitness center, and spa. Other than the beach and their 10 acres of landscaped gardens, it’s situated 20 minutes away from the airport and a 10-minute drive from Muscat’s business district.
Ramses Hilton l Cairo Ramses Hilton overlooks the Nile is located just north of Tahrir Square, puts guests within a short distance from Cairo’s most popular historic and cultural destinations. The property has seven F&B outlets, a fitness center and a heated, outdoor swimming pool from which you can see the river. Ramses Hilton offers an onsite business center, health clinic, and banking facilities. The concierge is accessible 24/7 to arrange sightseeing tours around Cairo. Valet parking is available.
The Kuwaiti connection | Business dining By Mark Makhoul | Founder 248am.com
EATING WITH COLLEAGUES Koryokwan | Korean Restaurant Koryokwan, a Korean restaurant that’s been around since the early 80’s, is still considered to be one of the best, even providing catering for Korean embassy events. Located on the ground floor of Carlton Hotel in Kuwait City, it’s a three-star hotel that was refurbished awhile back, but the exterior of the building still looks aged. The interior of Koryokwan on the other hand is beautiful, one of those places where once you enter, you feel like you’re no longer in Kuwait. I had the same feeling when I first visited the now-Singarea Korean restaurant in Dajeej. The place is definitely worth trying out, but mostly for the experience of something new.
EATING ALONE Saravanaa Bhavan | Indian Vegetarian Restaurant Saravanaa Bhavan serves authentic Southern Indian dishes and I think it was my first time having it since there were a lot of things I hadn’t tried before. The restaurant is located in Humur Towers, Fahaheel and overlooks the Kout Mall marina. I ended up having Plain Dosa, Poratta Curry, Idli Sambhr Chutni, Curd Vada, Cheese Dosa Poori Bhaji, and Payasam. It’s a great place and very affordable. Saravanaa Bhavan is located in Humoud Towers, Fahaheel. To read these posts in their entirety, and more on both hospitality and Kuwait’s happenings, visit 248.com. Mark Makhoul’s professional background includes Art Direction for some of the most relevant multinational agencies operating in Kuwait. His blog-turned-portal is one of the most highly visited sites in the GCC country, and acts as a reference for both those living in Kuwait and those outside of Kuwait looking to stay in the loop.
THE FAMILY BIZ ChoCo’a For the husband and wife team behind ChoCo’a, recruiting Belgian Chef Levi Angelo was the key to bringing their business to fruition. Angleo’s lengthy resume in the finer art of chocolate making includes world-class institutions, most notably Valrhona, Belcolade, and Callebaut. Assem and Dina Hamzeh now export their fine wares throughout the GCC, and as far away as Australia and Japan with expansion plans on the horizon. A key factor in their success? Showcasing in international exhibitions like World Food Moscow and Birmingham’s annual Food & Drink Expo. Now isn’t that sweet? www.chocoa.ae MARCH 2014
Toko Dubai at the Vida Downtown Dubai Hotel. This is the second Toko globally, the first is in Sydney, Australia. Toko Dubai is franchised in the UAE by Bulldozer Group.
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THE MOTHER OF INVENTION IS...
COMPETITION? The Bulldozer Group’s Evgeny Kuzin is a ‘trep with an agenda By Fida Chaaban
I have a song stuck in my head as I sit down to interview Evgeny Kuzin. I’m smiling at him somewhat foolishly as he talks about the Bulldozer Group’s newest outlet, and it is extremely difficult to keep the joke to myself. Why? Because “I’m crazy but you like it, Toko Toko Toko,” is what I’m thinking. I doubt Evgeny will find this as amusing as I do, so I will myself to stop adlibbing Shakira, and instead, I focus on the collected and calm determination that the Russian entrepreneur exudes. Why that song? Maybe because hearing Kuzin detail the fearless six-month execution timeline of Toko makes me think that together with his partners, Maxim Vlasov and renowned restaurateur Alexander Orlov, these businessmen are a bit loco… in a good way. >>>
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ince the moment we shook hands with the brand owner in Sydney, it was six months to open the restaurant. Nobody will believe it,” he says smiling. If you haven’t been to their newest outlet situated in the Vida Downtown Dubai Hotel, then you cannot appreciate the challenge of launching something of this caliber and this scale in only six months. The waterwalls in the garden alone are a feat of master design and engineering -especially when taken in the context of Dubai, and the suspended aerial Asian parasols further attest to the planning behind the architecture and the interiors. The “garden” -properly named the terrace- is both expansive and sophisticated. I half expect a Japanese Koi-pond to materialize next to Kuzin at some point- such is the energy of Toko.
Evgeny Kuzin and Maxim Vlasov
“You have to give the people something nice. It wasn’t a question of saving any money on this project. We just wanted to deliver something that people would walk into, and have a wow-effect. No one can imagine that such a terrace can exist downtown in the center of the city.” The partners are hands-on, they personally adjusted the architectural direction to ensure flow and circulation, as well as comfort for their guests. The first plans for Toko’s architecture were “completely changed.” The whole layout was reworked says Kuzin, explaining that whatever attractive first draft is put forward by an architectural firm, you’ll inevitably have to change it otherwise it won’t work. “They try to make it nice, but from an operational perspective, it doesn’t work,” adding that approximately 25 revisions of Toko’s layout were made before he and his partners were satisfied. “Unless we
created the right seating and the right layout, where people could still see each other and have privacy, it would be no good. In terms of the big groups -it’s very different from Europe and anywhere in the world people like to come in table of 15, a table of 20- it doesn’t happen many places in the world.” I decided to request an interview with the Bulldozer Group after I’d dined at Toko on a Monday evening. The combination of elegant service (my table was attended to by a woman named Francesca), the terrace’s subdued-opulence, and finally the artful cuisine convinced me that I should know more about the people behind the concept. I can comfortably say that I’ve eaten at some of the world’s best restos, and yet, Toko managed to make an excellent impression. The next morning I fired off two emails- the first to the reservation addy to thank them for a splendid evening, and the second was to Copia Group, the public relations outfit that manages Toko’s press coverage. After a series of exchanges, the interview is confirmed so I begin to research the three men who’ve gone to such lengths to create this… this what? This resto-lounge? The descriptor hardly seems fitting for such an interesting experience. I find out that both Kuzin and Vlasov are originally from the South of Russia, near Sochi. “It’s become a very famous city now due to the Olympics. I’m very proud. Maxim is from the same region, Novosibirsk.” Kuzin and I discuss the emerging Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) markets initially, >>>
CUT TO THE CHASE INVESTMENT “Toko was over US$10
million. Sass was over $7 million.” ROI “Two years. We are pushing it, but this is according to our experience. If the places work well and it works right, it should happen like that.” SETBACKS “There’s always challenges in any project but every challenge you have to know how to solve it. There are so many examples- daily things are happening that you need to sort out.”
WORK/LIFE BALANCE “It’s hard. It’s quite difficult. Honestly speaking, it’s getting tougher and tougher. When you’re busy, you’re busy, but of course you have to always find time. It’s the most important thing we have in our lives, our kids and our families.” #MYDUBAI “I think it’s one of the best
city for high-end hospitality business. It’s such a nice city, you have so many different nationalities, a beautiful crowd. Very good clients who like to go out to good places to get good service, good food, get a good product. That’s exactly what we’re bringing to them.” VANTAGE POINT “The beauty of Toko is that you don’t have any dead areas. When you’re sitting inside the restaurant, you’re watching the open kitchen and at the same time you’re watching outdoors. Even from outdoors you can see how they’re cooking.” DISH “Scampi fois gras- this was the first dish I tried in Toko Sydney when I went there to see the brand and study it and I was absolutely shocked.”
Toko Dubai interior
Toko Dubai interior
and I try to figure out why Kuzin and Vlasov, already extremely successful in Russia, aren’t taking advantage of the booms in CIS cities like Baku, Azerbaijan and in Astana, Kazakhstan. Isn’t that where everyone wants to be- specifically those who already have a strong handle on CIS industry tastes and market trends? “We find Dubai is very attractive. I came here six years ago and I used to stay in Abu Dhabi. We came here for the investments and properties, and then we turned to the F&B business. Movida was a challenge, our first.” He’s referring to his initial foray into hospitality, and at that time it was only him and Vlasov, who is also Kuzin’s first cousin. The partnership between the two is under the Billionaire Group, and once Orlov joined in, they developed their now-company Bulldozer Group. “Billionaire Group is me and Maxim -two of our clubs Movida and VIP Room- and then we created Bulldozer Group which is the restaurant division with Alexander. He has over 60 restaurants in Russia.” Vlasov and Kuzin were active in real estate prior to venturing into F&B, and Kuzin says the shift was primarily born of personal interest: “I like this industry. I like to go nice places, travel around the world. We chose Movida because it was one of my 30
“IT WASN’T A QUESTION OF SAVING ANY MONEY ON THIS PROJECT. WE JUST WANTED TO DELIVER SOMETHING THAT PEOPLE WOULD WALK INTO, AND HAVE A WOW-EFFECT.”
favorite clubs in London, and we decided to bring it to Dubai.” For their upcoming launch of Sass Café, Bulldozer Group is on a similar ambitious timelineset to open this month. “I love Sass Café, it’s one of my favorite places in Monaco. Samy Sass is a very good friend of mine. It’s a great brand, it’s a great concept. It’s been 20 years in Monaco and in September they’re celebrating their anniversary. For me, it’s a first stop; when you arrive in the South of France at the Nice airport, you go to Sass Café first thing.” Sass Café is located in DIFC and Kuzin says that “the more places there are, the more people will come. Five years ago you didn’t see so many international people coming to spend time and enjoy Dubai. Now it’s becoming up to the level of Monte Carlo, people are coming here because there’s so many choices.” Is there too much of a good thing relative to Dubai’s dining scene? “We’ll try and we’ll see. The market is big- everybody is busy, all the restaurants are doing well, all the nightclubs are doing well. I believe that much more competition is always better. It makes you more focused on your business and makes you produce better products.”
Kuzin admits that it is important for them to be onsite, and more so even during the development phase. “We spent quite a lot of energy on this project and quite a lot of time during the construction to be here to watch what was going on, what’s happening with the quality of the finishes and everything. We use a lot of natural materials here.” How involved are the partners when it comes to staffing their outlets? “I’ve met about 90 percent of the staff personally. You have to know the people who are going to serve your clients. You have to see them, how they look, how they talk, what personality they have.” When discussing positive reinforcement and staff strengths, Kuzin says that “there is a staff incentive program in
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“YOU HAVE TO BE THE RIGHT PERSON TO OPEN THE RIGHT VENUE. WE KNEW THE MARKET, FROM VISITING AND FROM LIVING HERE IN DUBAI.” place.” What’s a bit more relevant here is that the partners foster a healthy amount of competition and between their staffs at the separate venues. It seems that competition itself, be it internal or external, is a pervasive motivator for the ‘treps in every aspect of how they deal with their businesses, F&B or otherwise. From a cuisine perspective, Kuzin is a man who enjoys finer foods and he’s quick to point out that higher-end hospitality dictates a certain need for ingredients not readily available in the market. “We’re importing top quality beef from Australia. The great thing about Dubai is that the logistics are so good here, you can get anything from anywhere in the world, whenever you want- it’s just a question of the money. When you are in the right volume, you pay very similar to what it costs in the home country. We were quite surprised,
especially when we entered the F&B industry here, and we needed to import all the high-end products from overseas. When our chefs came we went to the suppliers and we found out that it’s just absolutely great, you can have anything you want at a competitive price,” agreeing that they don’t take a hit as much as they would in other cities relative to Dubai being a global transportation hub. In a challenging arena like hospitality, there are many factors that influence success, “but the most important thing is synergy,” according to Kuzin. “You have to be the right person to open the right venue. We knew the market, from visiting and from living here in Dubai. You have to exactly know what you want to deliver about the project. When you know what you want to give to the people and what you like yourself, and you’re proud and passionate about it, it’s simple.” I list business stereotypes: Americans are efficient, Japanese are formal, and English are prompt, and I encourage Kuzin to do the same for Russians. “You describe it,” he suggests,
and this is an answer in itself since the only word I can think of is shrewd. On another global note, what establishments does he frequent? “I really enjoyed Tao restaurant recently in New York; it was a great venue. And I love Novikov restaurant so much, in terms of service and atmosphere. I love everything about it,” he says smiling. Kuzin beams at me just a touch more and tells me a little (big) secret: “And by the way, we’re opening it here in September.” I’d been hearing the industry whispers, and one of the media outlets had suggested that this was the case, but now I have a confirmation. Zdrástvujte Novikov. I’ll see you and this triumvirate of nightlife in the fall.
“THE GREAT THING ABOUT DUBAI IS THAT THE LOGISTICS ARE SO GOOD HERE, YOU CAN GET ANYTHING FROM ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, WHENEVER YOU WANT- IT’S JUST A QUESTION OF THE MONEY.” MARCH 2014
CULTURAL EMISSARY MANDILICIOUS F & B franchiser Fayez Al Nusari talks shop… How he made it happen & GCC feasibility
hen Fayez Al Nusari decided to leave his position at Majid Al Futtaim Leisure & Entertainment as Head of Sales and Marketing to become an entrepreneur, he says that his initial decision was a now-or-never scenario. “I realized that I had to go for it and that time was going by and the only thing lacking was the courage to take that first step.” It’s something a lot of the corporate workforce thinks about- whether or not they can handle the relative risk of being their own boss, and the financial implications of finally taking the plunge into a ‘trep endeavor. “It was really about abandoning the steady income and stable lifestyle and getting mentally pre-
pared for a whole new lifestyle. I felt I was finally ready. Now, I wish I had done this a few years earlier,” says the Mandilicious Managing Director. Al Nusari’s stint with a large-scale UAE company gave him a good basis in management and corporate structure. “At Majid Al Futtaim, I had my first
MANDILICOUS FACEBOOK ACCOUNT PAGE © FACEBOOK.COM
encounter with a large conglomerate. Heading a team of professionals and the job responsibilities was a great aspect of the whole thing. However, I had to keep up with the demands of a large corporation of that size, some of which I had not been used to. That was the hard part!” Prior to Majid Al Futtaim, Al Nusari was a tour guide, quite the leap despite the tertiary industry connection. What did that part of his career bring to the table in terms of his franchise? “When I started as a tour guide, the main aim of this wonderful job was to explain to people all I can about our rich culture, our heritage, and history. I did this with a lot of passion. I remember initiating plays in the evenings for some of the tour groups where we recreated
THE LOGISTICS ANGEL INVESTORS “Indeed.” ROI “The business module of Mandilicious is a little different [than] the classical F&B chains, so each of the units/outlets is an independent profit center. In that aspect, our ROI for the different outlets ranges between 14 and 20 months per outlet.” STARTUP FUNDING “We wanted to start right, start strong and start big, so we initiated the project with US$10 million. The initial investment to kick start was done by me, but the main investment was through a senior investor, who is now our senior partner.”
HQ “There is nothing easy in business, however the UAE is the best country in the region to operate in and specially to start a new concept from. It has a good mix of the international standards and quality control as well as a certain amount of ease in procedures. Its inhabitants are a great testing-audience as they are spoiled for choice, used to the best, multinational in nature, and on average quite knowledgeable.”
-together- how the traditional weddings were celebrated. It was interesting, fun, informative and people remembered it fondly. Today, with Mandilicious, we don’t just serve food, we want people to understand and appreciate our food as an integral part of our culture. We will take Mandilicious everywhere and when we do so, we will not just be carrying the food into those countries, but the tales, the history, and the flair with it.” This is perhaps why Al Nusari’s clever marketing strategy is such a hallmark of the brand.
“Being in the F&B business, [...] I was totally against the mascot being an animal, so we had to go for a human”
How much is influenced by Al Nusari? “I think quite a bit of my personality appears in the brand! It needs to reduce, but in a startup like this, I believe it is inevitable that this happens,” adding that he’s been having internal discussions trying to reduce his influence on the branding of Mandilicious and “aiming to get it under control.” For many ‘treps the lineage of brand to founder is inevitable; Al Nusari admits that initially “Mandilicious was connected to my name in people’s minds and even on some people’s phonebooks. When Mandilicious continued growing to multiple outlets, other people appeared in the picture, I started appearing less and less in every single frame of work, so that disconnect started to be achieved, which was very important to me.”
STATUS QUO “Our most successful location –many will find this strange, but it’s true- is the outlet in JAFZA [Jebel Ali Free Zone]. It requires minimum manpower, opens only five days a week and only for lunch, but generates excellent returns in those few hours and with that minimal investment.”
MOVING FORWARD “Plans for Mandilicious is to take it international. We are now finalizing talks to open throughout the GCC and will thereafter start looking at the global growth plans. We are part of Dubai and so we are part of the Expo 2020, however, it has limited impact on our current situation, however it will affect our choice of new outlets. Expo 2020 will only have pros to the F&B sector.” MARCH 2014
How has he integrated this into his corporate structure? “I have empowered quite a few of the team members to a great extent and even in some small catering jobs. I create a project out of it and let them manage it as complete project managers. That gives them the sense of ownership and responsibility and ultimately makes them the face of the company with these clients.” The 41-year-old Yemeni national is the child of a diplomatic family, and on both personal and professional fronts has put his globe-trotting history to good use. “Through living within different and diverse cultures for periods up to four years each time, there was a certain amount of adaptability required, an open-mind to other points of view of almost every aspect in life as well as the importance of one being a true ambassador of their culture wherever they are. These are practices and values that I have carried with me throughout my career and have proven to be of great use being an entrepreneur.”
“I have empowered quite a few of the team members to a great extent and even in some small catering jobs. I create a project out of it and let them manage it as complete project managers.”
BAS outlet Abu Dhabi
When asked about the role his cultural background plays in his approach to business, Al Nusari is frank discussing stereotypes: “Being Yemeni -unfortunately- equals being misunderstood! And this is only recent! So -and I think this is in the back of the head of almost every Yemeni that lives abroad- it becomes a continuous motivation to show the real Yemeni culture in our behavior.” In regards to Yemen’s current business climate, Al Nusari describes it as “quite critical and bad at the moment, but I believe they will get better in the near future.”
In terms of McDonaldization and franchises, Al Nusari says that the brand’s mascot “Nawaf” was a way to facilitate his global plans for Mandilicious. “When it [Mandilicious] one day arrives in USA, UK, India etc., how will we market it? The marketing in those countries will have to have an educational -or let’s call it an awareness-building element- so we needed to invent a way to educate people on the food and its background. Being in the F&B business, and also personally being an enemy of dancing chickens on poultry product advertising, I
personally like the MORE franchise as well as hoping to see Tribes go into franchising. The main things to keep in mind is the social-cultural acceptance, finding the right franchisee, continuous and dependable source of raw materials, and finally, the right locations.” Finally, in terms of downtime, this ‘trep says he switches off by “watching football, and funnily-enough, cooking at home.” That sounds about right!
“The main things to keep in mind is the socialcultural acceptance, finding the right franchisee, continuous and dependable source of raw materials, and finally, the right locations.”
was totally against the mascot being an animal, so we had to go for a human,” adding that Nawaf, with the characteristics of a cute, animated child would be the emissary to potential and existing customers. “We did McDonaldize some other aspects of the business, but those were in the processing areas and not in the marketing.” When asked about other franchises in the GCC that originated locally, Al Nusari is optimistic: “I
THE CHALLENGES STAFFING “The labor law and its situation in the UAE is very tough when it comes to the F&B sector. For example quota, getting visas, allocated jobs etc.” IN HINDSIGHT “That would be in some of the things in the CPU which I would do differently today and would [have] impact in better use of space and lower investment. Those have been done now, but as amendments they end up costing more. But in general, there isn’t too much that I would change!”
WORK/LIFE BALANCE “Even if I wanted to, it is hard to maintain that work/life balance especially in the F&B business and even more for a new startup. However, I believe that a professional is only complete if they can achieve that balance and only one themselves will know how to get there as the code is different from one to the other. Work hard and play hard is true, but if it turns into work hard and work harder, then it isn’t a complete businessman personality. Unless one knows how to delegate correctly, one isn’t an achieved CEO! I am slowly but surely going to get there. At the moment, it is 80% work and the [remaining] balance 20% distributes differently, but without a specific plan.”
SHINY | WEBSITE TO WATCH | GEEK | MOBILE TECH | ONLINE ‘TREP | THE FIX
| ONLINE ‘TREP |
WEB READY! PLAN, BOOK, GO... ONLINE By Pamella de Leon
ARABROOMS FOUNDED BY HATTAN AHMED | KSA
www.arabrooms.com If you’re travelling with a big family, Arabrooms is perfect for you. Although it can be compared to being the Middle East version of Airbnb, Arabrooms caters to a more niche market of “economy lodging”. It lets users book serviced apartments, where it has a hotel-like set up with more space to accommodate Middle East families and travelers. Having a network of 45,000 hotels around the world, Hattan Ahmed, CEO and Founder of ArabRooms, aims to “build a global brand with a local identity.” Ahmed, besides founding three other startups, was also a finalist at the Startup Demo Competition during the ArabNet Digital Summit 2012.
FOUNDED BY BLAGOJA HAMAMDZIEV, JOHN FOHR & MARC MEUNIER | UAE
FOUNDED BY MUDASSIR SHEIKHA & MAGNUS OLSSON | UAE
Turn your ordinary online reservations to memorable VIP travel experiences, all the while rest in the knowledge that you’ll get the lowest price and free perks or complementary upgrades. As hotel booking sites go, TravelerVIP raises the bar by being the Middle East’s first online travel club, and has extensive curated travel reviews in English and Arabic customized for the Middle East traveler. TravelerVIP is also one of the first members of the Majid Bin Mohammed Innovation Center in5, an incubator for promising companies in the UAE.
At the push of a button (or more like, a tap on your smartphone), you can get around the city in style. Using the iPhone or Android app or your browser, you can summon a Careem car to come and collect you from your location. Gone are the days with horrible taxi experiences; Careem drivers are punctual and know their way around. Popular features include being able to pay with a credit card, tracking progress in real-time, and receiving receipts online. Careem (the word for generous in Arabic) was initially popular with women and customers who wanted a safe ride in remote areas.
| MOBILE TECH |
WHET YOUR APP-ETITE By Youmna Chagoury
EVERNOTE FOOD APP Android & iOS This one’s a favorite amongst foodies all over the planet with over one million downloads on Android alone. Evernote Food does everything a foodie wants it to do- not only can you search for recipes on the internet (and somehow, it more often than not presents you with the best blogs and the most beautiful culinary photography), you can also clip them in your own Evernote cookbook, log your meals to keep track of your day regimen and search for restaurants according to your location. 36
URBANSPOON BlackBerry 10, Android & iOS Looking for a resto to try when visiting a new city? Shake your phone and take your pick. That’s how the app works on iOS anyway (there’s also manual random search for those of us who are not iFans). You can choose total randomness or log in a neighborhood, cuisine, and price range to find more specific dining spots. If you try and access this one in the UAE using BlackBerry World, it will tell you it’s not available- get it on your next trip.
ALLRECIPES.COM DINNER SPINNER Android & iOS This app does the same thing as Urbanspoon’s, except it’s for recipes. The “Dinner Spinner” option lets you choose a recipe randomly, or you can log in a few filters like the cooking time or the main ingredient- shake and choose. If you’re not a fan of surprises, you can search for specific recipes yourself; the app offers other filters like “vegan”, “low sodium”, or “no wheat” categories. With one of the largest recipe database on the web, there’s pretty much everything you can think of available.
ETHICS | ESQUIRE GUY | MARKETING | PRO
Tips for small business owners to leverage By Ali Matar Head of LinkedIn Talent Solutions, LinkedIn MENA
s a small business owner, growing your business contacts and networking is central to your business success. With over 10 million MENA professionals on LinkedIn and more than 259 members worldwide, LinkedIn is a convenient and cost-effective networking platform
for SMEs. LinkedIn’s network is a great place to build your professional identity, increase online visibility, grow your network, engage with likeminded individuals, and recruit new employees from a pool of highly skilled candidates. Here are some tips on how LinkedIn can work for you.
1. RAISE YOUR PROFILE
2. CREATE A COMPANY PAGE
3. GET RECOMMENDATIONS
Having a profile on LinkedIn puts you amongst potential clients, employees, and industry partners and gives them a way to contact you. The more details you have on your profile, the easier it will be for people to find you through search engines. Make sure your summary is complete and include a photo of yourself to increase your credibility. Customize your public profile URL and claim your piece of digital real estate. Sharing content via status updates on LinkedIn is a quick way to showcase your knowledge and start conversations with your network.
Company pages give members an opportunity to view information about each company and builds your business’ identity. Include details such as its description, number of employees, and the industry it operates in. The Products and Services tab on the Company Page is a powerful way to showcase what your business has to offer. As an SME owner, recommendations from customers can serve as testimonials for your business. Using the Featured Update functionality, you can highlight important content by promoting it to the top of your Company Updates stream.
Recommendations are one the best ways to secure new clients because this is the feature looked for most when viewing a new profile. They enhance your professional credibility and create a great impression on people reading your profile. Ensure you request LinkedIn recommendations from happy customers willing to provide testimonials. Satisfied customers are the best source of new customers. Add Skills to your profile to highlight your expertise and be found by others seeking those abilities. Build your skills reputation by getting Endorsements from your connections. 4. ENGAGE WITH YOUR CONNECTIONS AND POSITION YOURSELF AN EXPERT IN YOUR INDUSTRY
Join groups for small businesses or entrepreneurs to engage with like-minded people who can provide you support and answer your business-specific questions. Joining groups which are related to your industry or other small business matters is also a great way to make new connections. Potential clients can find you through groups, as the group members have the ability to directly message each other, even if they aren’t directly connected.
5. IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY THROUGH LINKEDIN MOBILE
6. LEARN FROM INFLUENCERS AND STAY UPDATED WITH LINKEDIN PULSE
Accessing LinkedIn on the move through iPhone, Android, Windows or BlackBerry apps enables you to update your profile and connect with business acquaintances at events and conferences. You can use the LinkedIn mobile application to pull up background details of the person you are meeting on-the-go, putting you in good stead for a great introduction and conversation points.
Many professionals visit multiple news sources each morning to stay ahead of news that will impact their day. LinkedIn Pulse saves you valuable time by efficiently aggregating the top articles being shared by your trusted connections and by professionals within the industries you care about, all in one place and across multiple sources. You can choose to “follow” specific industries, news sources, or even individuals like Barack Obama and Richard Branson to get credible insights and information from the original content shared by them on LinkedIn.
Ali Matar joined LinkedIn Middle East and North Africa in 2012 as Head of Talent Solutions. Based in Dubai, Ali is responsible for growing the in-house sales team and taking LinkedIn’s suite of Hiring Solutions to clients across the Middle East and North Africa. An experienced sales professional with close to a decade of experience, Ali has held senior regional roles at SAP where he last served as a Sales Director. Ali has proven expertise in identifying business leads, growing C-suite client relationships and talent acquisitions and development. Ali began his career in the construction industry before moving to Oracle as a regional sales consulting manager for the GCC countries. A native Arabic speaker and citizen of Lebanon, Ali is a qualified Civil Engineer, a certified supply chain consultant, and holds an MBA in Strategic Management from the Lebanese American University in Beirut.
THE FRENCH ARE COMING RATP Dev pitches for KSA bus system The Saudi Public Transport Company (Saptco) and RATP Dev, a subsidiary of French group, Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP), are pitching to operate a bus network in Riyadh. The two companies are expected sign contract soon since the Saudi Arabia High Commission of Public Transportation has given pre-approval, pending the final decision- which rests with H.R.H. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. RATP Dev is hoping to be involved in the GCC for the first time, and currently operates metros, busses, trams, and railways internationally in several countries: Morocco, Algeria, South Korea, Italy, India, Brazil, and their native France. In October 2013, RATP Dev renewed its contract in Seoul to operate Line 9 of the Seoul subway system for another 10 years. MARCH 2014
ETHICS | ESQUIRE GUY | MARKETING | PRO
I’M A REFORMED and I hope my boss SLACKER doesn’t read this
FIVE BAD WORKING HABITS I KICKED FOR A BETTER WORK ETHIC By May Rostom | Senior Lifestyle Editor MSN Arabia
eing a 20-something and in the “professional world” for a few years now I’ve come to learn that in business, there’s no room for slacking off! There’s always someone who’s going to do it better, more efficiently, and perfect the technique 10 times more than you even thought possible. These are the pros that are in it to win it; people who love what they do and who aren’t just in it for the money. It’s not just an issue of self-improvement, it’s an ethical issue as well. When you are using your work hours to do things other than work, you are not fulfilling your end of the bargain- you are reneging on your contract to produce and to do so in a timely and effective manner.
Having said that, I’ve come to the conclusion that if I want to keep my job and move ahead in my company, and if I want to be good at what I do, I have to offer more. I recently noticed that I haven’t been giving my 100% and so decided to cross off five bad work habits that facilitated my career boredom and hindered my productivity levels.
1. The “F” word
Before you think I curse off my boss or colleagues, the “F” word here is Facebook. If I spend half the time I spend on Facebook doing an ever-required report or compiling a good article, I could make something out of myself. Let’s admit it folks, checking Facebook “one last time” does not exist. That also applies to Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest (Oh God Pinterest!).
2. The three-hour coffee break
I’m not really a coffee person; I’ve only developed a recent love for coffee because it gives me an excuse to stall during work hours. I know you do it too! I realized that I don’t need to spend three hours hanging out at the water cooler or sipping on cold coffee only pretending to work, but rather get my work done quickly so I can leave early… It’s like taking your coffee break at the end of the day.
If I spend half the time I spend on Facebook doing an ever-required report or compiling a good article, I could make something out of myself. Let’s admit it folks, checking Facebook “one last time” does not exist. 40
3. Putting the Pro in Procrastination
When it comes to procrastinating, I’m your go-to girl. Nobody does it like May Rostom, let me tell you! I could win an award for that, I’m writing this article right now when I should be at a friend’s birthday party. It’s a disease that I can’t get rid of. Whenever there’s something that has to be done or that has a deadline, I end up doing everything but that. As much as I wish I kicked that habit completely, it’s still a work in progress. I’ve learned to slightly manage my procrastination problem by doing other things that were also being put off. Having a to-do list is extremely important in helping you focus on tasks that should be done. It also gives you options to pick from, rather than being forced to finish only one task.
4. Get Some Shut-Eye
We all do it. As much as we hate to admit it, we do it! We yawn at our computer screens, doze off during meetings (with eyes open like the zombies that are so pervasive in pop culture lately), and >>>
Whenever there’s something that has to be done or has a deadline, I end up doing everything but that.
TWO DECADES OF ONLINE ED IN THE MENA REGION Stafford is celebrating 20 years of providing online and distance learning in the Middle East. Established in 1993, the Dubai-based organization has become the Middle East Resource Centre for five universities out of the United Kingdom, including University of Nottingham and University of Leicester. Headquartered out of Dubai Knowledge Village, Stafford has grown extensively since their inception, offering a variety of courses including bachelor, master’s, and doctorate programs. In addition to their UAE-base, a partner agent in Saudi Arabia and a branch office operating in Lebanon, 5,000 students across
the Middle East have graduated from Stafford’s programs over the past 20 years. Refaat Kazoun, Stafford CoOwner and CEO, says that this is just the beginning: “Our plans in the near future involve an expansion into Eastern Europe and possibly a dedicated blended learning center for working professionals.”
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we arrive at the office 8a.m. sharp in sleep walking mode. My love for sleep has never changed and never will, but then again, if I love sleep so much, why don’t I go to bed early? That sentence right there was the reason behind my improved sleep pattern. Instead of watching three episodes of Breaking
Bad before heading to bed, why don’t I postpone that to when I’m having lunch after work the next day? There are 24 hours in a day, there’s plenty of time to do what you want to do, just space it out right.
you’ll definitely foster a more peaceful working environment for both you and for your team members. By ignoring the little things that piss you off at work, you will be happier and more productive. It worked for me.
5. Hate mail
It’s never too late to quit a bad habit; all it takes is 30 days of persistence to kick it, and a set mind dedicated to improving your work ethic. The equation is a simple one: Being a dedicated employee is being an ethical employee. Not only will it be appreciated by your boss, but also it will also push you forward in your career. Okay, so if my boss does end up reading this, at least my commitment to improve is in print! Consider this my binding contract.
Hate mail doesn’t really get you anywhere. It doesn’t get your things done; it doesn’t improve your relationship with your colleagues, and it most certainly does not please your boss. Being aggressive in emails is something that is completely controllable and unnecessary. By learning to manage your anger, assess the situation before pressing “send” and lashing out at your colleague on the receiving end,
APP-SOLUTELY ADORABLE? “YOU’VE BEEN FRIEND-ZONED!” Mukhi Sisters launch digital love translator campaign The trio of Mukhi Sisters, namesakes for their high-end jewelry brand for the hip, decided that this year their marketing investment for Valentine’s Day this year was going to be strictly digital. In collaboration with their agency, Republique, the Mukhi Sisters gave their clients the gift of a download link… to a Love Translator. Available on iTunes, the Application that translates from “Female to English” cost $3000 to create and launch, and is a follow up of their 2013 Love Translator print
campaign. “We went for something new. Going for a digital campaign is a new adventure for us. We wanted to test it and check the outcome. Last year, Love Translator was our print campaign and was really successful,” says Maya, the eldest of the three. Why an app? “We wanted to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the jewelry campaigns that are in Lebanon and Republique understood that. Ever since, they’ve proposed new ideas and we’ve been trying them together. It’s fun,
it’s promoting the brand mainly, and letting Mukhi Sisters spread around more and more through virality on social media.” In addition to the App, a clever minute and a half YouTube video demonstrates what exactly the Love Translator is supposed to do for you and your significant other. How did they decide on an agency? “Republique is the agency we’ve been dealing with since the beginning. A few years ago, we created iPhone cases with our own jewelry on them as gifts for our clients.” Meena and Zeenat, the middle and youngest of the Mukhi Sisters respectively, say that their clients are finding the App amusing and “just loving it! Women are happy, they’re having fun with the App. We’ve gotten comments like, ‘Finally an App that helps men understand women.’ Now of course, that’s not the entire purpose of the App. The purpose is that at the end of the day- say it with jewelry.” Now that really is adorable.
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LAYOVERS, RED-EYES, DOUBLE DAILIES? YOU LOOK EXHAUSTED! By Leslie Iddison
Frequent air travel wreaks havoc on your skin; try some of these tips to ensure that you arrive at your destination looking fresh-faced. Get ready to run from the baggage claim straight to the boardroom. 1. DOUSE DEHYDRATION The dehydrating effects of cabin pressure are well known to frequent fliers. The feeling of tightness is irritating and uncomfortable and leaves your skin parched on the inside. Slather on a moisturizer that replenishes your skins water reserves. Products with Hyaluronic Acid draw moisture to the skin’s surface and will restore comfort and plump dehydration lines. For ladies, Clarins Hydra Quench Cream-Gel, a patented complex of Katafray Extract and Double Hyaluronic Acid that combat water loss, while pomegranate extract mattifies and refines pores. For men, Clarins Super Moisture Gel with a powerful dose of Calcium Hyaluronate that strengthens the skin’s protective barrier while packing water in. A bonus is the soothing effect on shaving irritation.
2. FIGHT FATIGUE We all know the signs of a midflight snooze; a little puffiness and those dreaded sleep lines (AKA pillow creases). Wake your skin up in a hurry by applying an energizing facial balm right before you land. These products will restore radiance in a flash. Great when you need to head straight from your flight to the office. For ladies, Clarins Beauty Flash Balm that brightens and tightens to leave your skin looking smooth, toned and radiant. Dab a little on and follow with your favourite tinted moisturizer. For men, Clarins Fatigue Fighter to energize, soothe, and tone the skin. Sunflower auxins firm and tighten, giving an immediate smoothing effect. Apply a thin, even layer and look polished post-flight.
THE QUICK FIX Avoid wearing makeup when flying, however if it’s an absolute must make sure you have some wipes handy for quick-fixes and a fast, easy cleanup without carrying liquid cleansers. Try M.A.C. Wipes infused with Vitamin E. These handy oversized wipes work fast to remove all traces of even waterproof makeup. Resealable packaging makes them perfect for your carry-on. If you tend to have an oilier skintype, blotting papers are a must-have for travel. Keep these close by to absorb shiny
patches without disturbing your makeup. Another benefit of using a blotting paper versus a mattifying powder is that it respects skin moisture levels and won’t leave you looking dry or cakey. Pick up M.A.C. Blot Film- this patented material quickly absorbs shine while makeup stays put. Press the film onto oily areas instead of rubbing it across the surface of the skin. Men, these work for you as well to control oil and give you a more polished look.
Leslie Iddison is a Regional Training Manager for Clarins and a frequent business traveller.
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Execs visiting Riyadh can challenge the Browns between meetings The Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Centre has teamed up with Riyadh Golf Courses for complimentary access to both their Greens Course and their Browns Course. The hotel will arrange for transportation both to and from the course for maximum ease for their guests. Golf-lovers will be pleased to know that their Greens Course qualifies as an official Championship course and is a mammoth 7,503 yards- one of the longest in the Middle East. Bonus? The Country Club onsite has swimming pools and a tennis court. Get your game on!
GETTING SMARTER BY THE DAY?
LG FOCUSES ON INTEGRATING TECH INTO ALL SPHERES OF YOUR LIFE
Three unhealthy eating habits that damper your processing power By Shoug Al-Nafisi
RED ALERT Long periods of time without food cause the body to think it’s in a state of emergency, and so most processes are slowed down to conserve energy. This causes a much slower rate of energy release, causing you to be restless. Hypoglycemia (or a below-normal blood sugar level), results in irritation, difficulty in focusing, and other energy demanding tasks. Food is a basic need, and with that not being met, your productivity level is most likely way below par. DRY DOWN Ingesting fluids with meals is definitely not a good idea- they fill you up faster and they also take the place of much needed nutrients from food. Your stomach is an elastic tissue, so having a drink with your meal only serves to stretch it out, creating more room to fill the next time around. Finally, instead of easing food transit, the movement of large amounts of food can cause irritation as digestion takes place.
LG Electronics have made their way into the fitness tech market, after unveiling the LG Lifeband Touch and LG Heart Rate Earphones at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that took place in Las Vegas. The LG Lifeband Touch is a wristband and smart activity tracker, compatible for connecting with heart rate monitors and even your smartphone (iOS or Android) via Bluetooth. It measures various performance indicators, such as distance, calories, speed, steps, and more. The LG Heart Rate Earphones use sensory technology by PerformTek®, allowing it to measure blood flow signals from the inner ear to measure heart rate and oxygen consumption. It looks like LG is trying to make your life good at the gym… and at home? LG has already released smart home appliances, like
THE LONG HAUL Paperwork, jumping in and out of meetings, and managing your life on a few hours of sleep each night is soon forced to stop. Stress from daily hassles, inadequate food choices, and sleepless nights result in lowered immunity, increasing the likelihood of recurring illness. For career endurance and resilience, choose foods rich in magnesium, such as nuts and fish (rich Omega-3 fatty acids), and my personal favorite, milk for its mood-boosting property, as well as its protein, calcium, magnesium, and potassium content.
washing machines that let you know when your washing cycle is done or fridges that can display your smartphone’s reminders with catchy responses. Our favorite? “I’m flattered by your interest!” With the way things are going, we’ll be waiting for LG’s next brainwave- maybe a treadmill that cajoles you into running faster? LG Lifeband Touch
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02.22.2014 CARTIER INTERNATIONAL DUBAI POLO CHALLENGE
IMAGE SOURCE CARTIER INTERNATIONAL DUBAI POLO CHALLENGE IMAGES BY CHRIS JACKSON/GETTY IMAGES FOR CARTIER | 2014 GETTY IMAGES
Under the patronage of H.R.H. Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, Wife of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the highly anticipated Cartier International Dubai Polo Challenge took place at the Desert Palm Hotel on February 22, 2014. One of three polo events hosted by Cartier annually, the Cartier team took home the win against CNN with a final result of 11.5 – 7. MVP Raul Laplacette was
awarded the La Martina Most Valuable Player Award by H.H. Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also presented the team prizes accompanied by Mr. Laurent Gaborit, Regional Managing Director of Cartier Middle East, India and Africa and Mr. Ali Albwardy, the owner of Desert Palm. In addition to the match, the House’s latest collection, Amulette de Cartier was presented at the Villa Cartier exclusively for guests of the event.
Highlights: H.H. Sheikh Mansoor Bin Mohammed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Ali Albawadi & Regional Managing Director of Cartier Middle East, India & Africa Laurent Gaborit in the Cartier Villa on the final day.
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CAMERA READY FIVE POINTERS FOR YOUR TELEVISED APPEARANCES Mastering the tv interview means keeping it simple
By Octavia Nasr
ranting TV interviews is not a matter of choice anymore. In the age of 24-hour specialized media outlets and sleepless, borderless, limitless, consumer-filled social networks, brands and their leaders are in a constant race to remain relevant and engaging every second of the day. Thus, it is becoming essential for executives and professionals, in their quest to promote and market their businesses, to be pro-active and not only accept TV interview requests but also seek them. Whether you feel excited, shy or fearful about being interviewed on camera, it is important to be comfortable. To achieve that, my advice is always to keep it simple! With a little effort and homework, you can deliver a stellar performance. Here are some tips to prepare for your interview, ace it, and have fun in the process.
Verbalize your message and break it down to a simple outline. Having a plan helps you stay focused and on-message. It takes the guessing game out of your answers and keeps you on track with the most important information shared first. This is your safety net. You can answer the questions anyway you like; but having written an outline down beforehand will organize your thoughts to be better prepared for anything that will come your way.
Method • State your main point in one complete sentence. • Summarize who you are and how you plan to achieve your goal. • List five talking points about your efforts in order of importance. Go through them in the order you have set out. Depending on time, the least important of them will get eliminated naturally. • Have a clear conclusion highlighting what you would like to achieve and projecting to the future. 2 APPEARANCE
Dress the part but don’t forget to be yourself. I always advise clients to prepare ahead of time what look they would like to have. If a hat is part of your personae, keep it during the interview. Same goes for any special style of clothing such as jeans, glasses, vests, rolled up sleeves… Style your hair away from your face to avoid shadows. Method • Don’t wear a suit to an interview if you are not used to it. In the same token, don’t wear jeans and a turtleneck just because you think it’ll project a cool image. Stay true to yourself. • Don’t wear loose and dangly jewelry. They will distract away from you and your valuable information and they can cause a noise nightmare to the crew and ruin your interview. • Keep the wardrobe simple by sticking to solid colors. Stay away from large patterns or stripes. Avoid busy accessories. My personal favorite TV color is red and the darker shades of grey. Except when Chroma Key is used, blue works very well on camera as well as green. White is the camera’s enemy. Avoid it altogether if you can. • Most broadcasters will have makeup artists on location, but don’t take a chance. Make sure you (women) have your regular makeup on and make sure your skin (men and women) is not oily or shiny during the interview. Don’t rely on others to tell you how you look, check a mirror or your camera phone to see what the professional camera is seeing. Make adjustments as necessary.
Keep your hands off your face and hair. Do not start gesturing just to be more interesting.
Gesture as you would in your normal life but if you are behind a desk, keep your hands on the desk most of the time. Don’t let them cover your face and overshadow your facial expression. 3 COMPOSURE
Be calm and be yourself. Calm yourself down by taking several deep breaths before the interview to avoid being fidgety and nervous-looking. Method • Tell yourself that you will have a good time chatting with the interviewer. • Tell yourself that you are here because you have something interesting to share. • Remind yourself that you know your topic well and you will ace this interview by just enjoying it and being yourself. 4 BODY LANGUAGE & THE IMAGE YOU PROJECT
This determines how the audience receives you and whether or not more interview requests will follow. Method • Gesture as you would in your normal life but if you are behind a desk, keep your hands on the desk most of the time. Don’t let them cover your face and overshadow your facial expression. Keep your hands off your face and hair. Do not start gesturing just to be more interesting. • Get ready for all situations: Sitting, standing, outdoor, indoor, live or remote interviewer. • Sit up in a nice comfortable position. No slouching, no swaying or rocking. Stay still, projecting an image of confidence and calm. • You might be asked something that makes you uncomfortable. Prepare yourself ahead of time. If you do expect “tough” or “trick” questions, put on a poker face ahead of every question with a neutral gaze into the interviewer’s eyes. Allow your face to regain life as soon as that split second of uncertainty is over and you know the question is safe. • Keep your eyes on the interviewer. Don’t move them around; don’t look away, down or up. Don’t look at the camera unless you’re asked to. In this case, keep your eyes on the camera lens as if it is the interviewer. • Putting on a kind a smile makes you look down to earth and friendly. Smile kindly, as long as it is not inappropriate.
5 GENERAL GUIDELINES
• Use the bathroom before the interview • Keep a glass of water handy; but drink only in an emergency. • Always keep your mouth one second behind your thoughts. A good rule of thumb? Think first; speak last. • Even if something is bothering you, pretend life is great for the duration of the interview. During the interview, worry only about the interview. • Have fun and show it. For non-professional broadcasters, appearing on camera can be a dream come true or a nightmare. While some of the above tips might be unattainable at first try, they are definitely achievable with training and experience. First impressions are of prime importance in an age where the attention span is measured in seconds- take your televised opportunities in hand and really benefit from the exposure. Octavia Nasr is the founder of the United States-based Bridges Media Consulting (BMC). Specializing in integrating traditional and digital media, media and newsroom management consulting. BMC also executes staff training, talent coaching, in addition to reputation building and management. BMC serves an elite clientele of brands, businesses, and individuals in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, the U.S. and Asia. Nasr moved to the entrepreneurial world in 2010 after a long career in journalism, 20 years of which were in various senior positions including Executive Producer, Anchor and Senior Editor of Mideast Affairs at CNN. Nasr’s first job was with LBC in Lebanon; she served as Assistant News Director, Executive Producer and later War Correspondent. To read Octavia Nasr’s opinion editorials, visit her blog octavianasr.com and follow her updates on Twitter @octavianasr. MARCH 2014
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SWITCHED KEYS TO ON BRAND BUILDING INNOVATION, INTEGRATION & IDENTITY By Tina Wells
ith the ever-growing popularity of entrepreneurship, it seems that more and more small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are popping up around us. In the process of SMEs’ development, failure, and perseverance, it is an undeniable fact that branding has become a large component in their success. Of course, tangible and financial investments are crucial to the achievement of company goals– but one must not disregard the power of reputation. As an entrepreneur and founder of Buzz Marketing Group, I’ll be the first to admit that it can be easy to forget how important branding can be. To establish the reputation that you want and need as a company, the following are a few steps that you can take as a business owner, an entrepreneur, or even as an aspiring leader whose sights are set on starting your own company one day.
GOOGLE COMPANY PAGE © GOOGLE
CREATE A REAL MISSION STATEMENT. Figure out what you stand for. It’s not enough to mention that a shoe company makes shoes or that a cleaning company provides cleaning services. You need a one-sentence summary to guide how you do business instead of simply what you create or supply. Although it is good to be specific, don’t afraid to get a little abstract in your mission! For example, consider Google’s mission, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” or Amazon’s statement, “to be the earth’s most customer centric company.” A good statement is one that encompasses the character and overarching goal of your business.
A good statement is one that encompasses the character and overarching goal of your business.
DEVELOP YOUR BRAND AND REPUTATION AROUND THAT MISSION. Once you have created a mission statement, use every possible tool to establish a brand through the lens of that mission. Make sure that the style of your product, the labels and packaging, and the consumer experience jive with the envisioned brand. This brand does not need to be complex, but it should be consistent. If your mission is, for instance, to make consumers feel like celebrities, make sure that you follow through with that mission in the way you write emails, the way you talk to clients, the way that you design your product
or service, and the content you post on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, etc. This brand should be more than just a superficial statement or a visual façade. Let the mission statement permeate all facets of your business, and it will truly nourish your brand to grow and expand.
Gathering information on your brand does not always require strangers’ opinions. Sometimes the best feedback comes from those you work for– the customers and the clients.
EMBODY YOUR BRAND, BUT DON’T BE AFRAID TO ADAPT Consistency is important in developing your brand and maintaining a reputation, but keep up with the trends! Add the appropriate brand extensions. Update and upgrade yourself and your image to maintain general interest in your company. There are ways to keep your company up to date while maintaining the essence of your mission and vision. The most powerful brands are those that are not afraid of makeovers but maintain staying power –you and your company should strive to achieve this approach.
KNOW WHAT OTHERS SEE. Once you start developing your brand, it is important to determine how others perceive it. When you’re working on something that can be so intangible, it can be easy to start drinking your own Kool-Aid and never stop. Don’t just keep pushing a concept based on your own ideas and assumptions (or the assumptions and ideas of your partners and employees). You might think that the yellow and orange design on your logo is bright and beautiful, but others may just be reminded of Big Bird and associate your brand with childishness. That is why it’s important to keep an eye out on what others are saying about your company and your brand. It can be as simple as doing a Google search of your business or as extensive as conducting surveys and collecting information from focus groups.
MAINTAIN A STRONG RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CLIENTS AND CUSTOMERS. Gathering information on your brand does not always require strangers’ opinions. Sometimes the best feedback comes from those you work for– the customers and the clients. Although this may seem a bit obvious, it bears restating– do everything in your power to maintain the loyalty of your current customers, and that will help you get the attention of prospective customers. Create an environment in which there can be constructive discussions about your company with clients, and don’t be afraid to receive criticism; from the bad will come good if you are open minded and if you use that feedback to better your image.
Tina Wells, CEO and founder of Buzz Marketing Group, earned her B.A. in Communication Arts graduating with honors from Hood College in 2002. Currently a Wharton School of Business student for marketing management, Tina continues to create innovative marketing strategies for numerous clients within the beauty, entertainment, fashion, financial, and lifestyle sectors. Tina has worked with clients including: Dell, Girl Scouts of the USA, Maidenform, SonyBMG, PBS, P+G, Sesame Workshop, and American Eagle Outfitters. Tina’s long list of honors include Essence’s 40 Under 40, Billboard’s 30 Under 30, and Inc’s 30 Under 30, just to name a few. She is the author of the tween series Mackenzie Blue, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, and the youth marketing handbook Chasing Youth Culture And Getting It Right. Tina is also a celebrated blogger on The Huffington Post and Blackenterprise.com. She serves on the board of directors of The Philadelphia Orchestra Association, The Franklin Institute, and The Young Entrepreneur Council. Tina is also a member of the United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council. MARCH 2014
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CHANGER By Todd Cavanaugh
treaming video is one of the fastest growing sectors of the web. According to a study by Cisco®, consumer Internet video traffic will account for 69% of all consumer Internet traffic by the year 2017. And this trend is most notable in the Middle East and Africa, where video traffic is growing faster than anywhere else in the world 1. Jumping into online video is a bit intimidating for small and medium sized businesses, especially when you consider the mammoth advertising budgets spent by enterprises on commercials. But there hasn’t been a better time for SMEs to
ONLINE VIDEO FTW IS YOUR SME MISSING THE BIGGEST OPPORTUNITY YET?
start using video as technology advancements and plummeting equipment costs have made professional quality films attainable by anyone. I realized online video was a gamechanger in 2010 when I wrote and produced a viral video for less than $400. That small investment drove millions of impressions and led to national radio and television appearances, including Fox News TV. I was managing a $10,000/ month Google Adwords campaign, but my $400 video was getting more results! Adding video to your marketing arsenal provides numerous benefits. Consider:
• Email Companies sending emails including video content had 21% higher conversion rate and a 24% higher average order value than emails that featured static images, according to one study2. • E-commerce Product videos overcome doubts and encourage consumers to buy. At Zappos.com, purchases increased by 10% when a product video was present3. • SEO Video is considered a high-quality type of content, so Google and other search engines favor sites that offer it. It also tends to bring other fringe benefits that boost search engine rankings, like longer visits to your site and more engagement.
But perhaps the most amazing quality of video is its capacity to spread. A funny, whimsical, poignant, or emotional video can blast your company into the spotlight and grab the kind of media attention you can’t buy. Take product subscription service Hello Flo and its viral YouTube hit The Camp Gyno. In the ad, a pre-teen girl is the first at summer camp to get her period- or the “red badge of courage” as she humorously calls it. All the other girls look up to her as their source of information and tampons until they discover a better solution: Hello Flo’s monthly packages containing tampons, liners, and candy. http://www.cisco.com/en/US/solutions/collateral/ns341/ns525/ns537/ns705/ns827/white_paper_c11-481360_ns827_Networking_Solutions_White_Paper.html http://go.experian.com/forms/experian-digital-marketer-2012?expid=yb 3 http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748703899704576204413874760334 1
VIDEO STILLS © YOUTUBE.COM
Video is considered a high-quality type of content, so Google and other search engines favor sites that offer it.
Hello Flo’s video obviously struck a chord. In one day, the video received over 80,000 views. It currently has nearly 7 million. The video’s irreverent humor and youthful personality completely disrupted everything we thought about feminine product ads, which are typically sterile and tend to tiptoe around the subject matter.
A funny, whimsical, poignant, or emotional video can blast your company into the spotlight and grab the kind of media attention you can’t buy. The ad -made without an agencytransformed Hello Flo’s business overnight. “What took me a month, I now do in an hour,” said Hello Flo founder Naama Bloom4. She said the overwhelming success of The Camp Gyno and the corresponding surge in sales has given her hope. And it all stemmed from a video conceived from a few people coming up with marketing ideas over a bunch of Thai food.
4 5 6
Probably the best example of the power of video for SMEs is the launch video for Dollar Shave Club, a membership (subscription) service delivering razor blades monthly for as low as $1 plus shipping. The company had been operating for almost a year, but it wasn’t until the release of their debut video Our Blades Are [...] Great when Dollar Shave Club rose from obscurity to Internet stardom. The cheeky ad cost only $4,500, but men were obviously drawn towards the simple message, over-the-top swagger, and ridiculous gags. In less than 48 hours, 12,000 customers signed up and catapulted Dollar Shave Club into the upper echelons of subscription commerce startups. Less than 9 months after their first video launched, they went on to raise $9.8 million in Series A funding and have since grown to over 300,000 active members.5 Dollar Shave Club founder
and CEO Michael Dubin commented, “[The videos] help drive organic acquisition above average and they also help keep our paid efforts below [average costs].”6 Like Dollar Shave Club showed the world, you don’t need a lot of money to make videos that get results. Last month, I decided to start looking for a new job. I wasn’t happy with the results I was getting just emailing resumes, so I produced a creative video resume for $150 and put it on my website at toddcavanaugh.com. In just a few days, it had over 4,500 views and I had several interviews. What do these case studies teach us? Perhaps the most important lesson is that your great idea is now as good as anyone else’s great idea. The Internet and affordable technology have leveled the playing field, so now you don’t have to compete for paid advertising with companies boasting million dollar ad budgets. You can earn attention by tapping traits entrepreneurs are known for -creativity and risk-taking- in your marketing. So what are you waiting for?
After graduating with an MBA, Todd Cavanaugh excelled as the chief marketer for a rapidly growing nonprofit for five years. He and his work have been featured on The Huffington Post; Fox News TV; the front pages of AOL, YouTube, and Reddit; and other media hubs. Todd currently consults small and medium sized businesses to help them conceptualize and produce captivating content through films, presentations, online content, and live events in order to spread meaningful stories to millions of people. He currently resides in Rochester, NY.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2013/08/02/like-santa-for-your-vagina-tampon-startup-hello-flo-takes-on-that-time-of-the-month/ http://www.adexchanger.com/ecommerce-2/dollarshaveclub-com-ceo-sees-a-fifty-fifty-future-in-paid-media-viral-video/ http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/2683546288001/the-secret-to-dollar-shave-clubs-success/#sp=show-clips MARCH 2014
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NEURAL PATHWAYS LEBANON FTW New Minister of Telecommunications appears to tweet the path to his (or someone else’s) hard drive? Online hilarity ensured shortly after Mr. Boutros Harb, Lebanese Minister of Telecommunications, tweeted what appeared to be the path of a hard drive. The newly appointed Minister has big shoes to fill as the outgoing previous head of the Ministry of Telecom, Mr. Nicolas Sehnaoui, was a huge online advocate and extremely well-integrated into Lebanon’s online community with an active and influential social media presence. According to Liliane Assaf, a Client Solutions Manager at Facebook based in Dubai, Mr. Harb’s tweets are links to news coverage from local Lebanese media. Assaf, who has a degree in Applied Mathematics with an option in Computer Science and a master’s
of Science in Computer Science, said it appears that Mr. Harb’s “Facebook account is linked to his Twitter account. Basically he’s not tweeting. He’s updating his status on Facebook, which is linked to his Twitter. So that’s why in the tweet you see a shortened link with fb.com which is supposed to link back to the Facebook status.” Why does it appear to be a hard drive pathway? “A possible scenario is that whatever app they have properly publishes the link on Facebook, but messes it up on Twitter by downloading it locally then re-sharing thus showing a local hard drive address.” The name embedded in the character stream tweeted by Boutros? “Youssef Howayek.”
DON’T YOU DARE!
The hawthorne effect dictates that we keep our opinion to ourselves about Kuwait’s online crowd
The GCC is pretty switched-on, so when a tweep (@WHMullally) pointed out some hilarious shenanigans on social media by a few Kuwait-based fast food chains, we became avid followers of the accounts. He was careful to caution us not to let them know what social media faux pas they were making… because of the Hawthorne Effect. For those of you unfamiliar with the famous theory coined by Henry A. Landsberger, in short it means that workers will alter their behavior when they notice a change in their environment. Also called the Observer Effect, Landsberger’s work was tested in factory conditions by changing lighting and workstation cleanliness. How does this all tie in to Kuwaiti fast food outlets? If we tweet at the accounts to let them know what the (hilarious) problem is, they’ll stop doing it- and we miss out on all the fun checking for any developments. All that said, if the John Henry Effect comes into play –knowing that they’re the control group in this social media experiment- then the improvement will be short-lived anyhow. Randomness personified! 54
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GOOGLE GLASS IMAGES © GOOGLEGLASS.COM
“GLASSHOLE” A full day of being a Google Glass explorer… and the unbecoming results By Fida Chaaban
ou look like you’re from the future, ma’am!” I actually do look like I’m from the future- the future of wearable tech. “What’s this thing, ma’am?” The Chanel specialist at Harvey Nichols in Mall of the Emirates keeps sneaking shy glances at the Borg-like apparatus on my face. Finally, I ask her if she likes my accessory, pointing at Glass (mine is in the aptly-named shade of “Sky”). I had to get rid of the elephant in the room.
I’m a bit intimidated by the look of it; it’s sort of a monocle-type prism suspended from a silver frame. 56
“What do you think it does?” “I don’t know, ma’am.” No one seemed to know. No one I asked anyway. After The Online Project’s Amad Mian contacted me on Twitter offering me a day in the life of a Glass Explorer, I began to plot what sort of article would come out of this test-run. It wouldn’t be a tech review –it’s been done to death by people far more qualified than myselfand it wouldn’t be an essay. Or would it? That’s when it hit me. I should test the way people react to Glass by wearing it in public and interacting with a business-as-usual attitude. In this case, business as unusual since the apparatus is still relatively rare. Some background: I’d been stalking Google Glass for a long time. I didn’t try and
submit for the Explorer program via tweets back when they first announced it, primarily because I didn’t think that I really deserved the thrill of being one of the first to take the interesting (and somewhat unsettling) tech development for a spin (and also because I never thought they’d choose me). I think –hang in there- that I manifested this whole experience with The Online Project because earlier that day I’d been researching NameTag (check out the last page of this article), and then all of a
Our Editor trades in her Ray-Bans for Google Glass
Amad Mian of The Online Project wearing Google Glass
“It’s a machine to make it 3D?” Make what 3D? “It’s like a 3D machine!” Okay.
sudden I was being given Google Glass to try in real life. The first five minutes of being with Glass are strange. I’m a bit intimidated by the look of it; it’s sort of a monocle-type prism suspended from a silver frame. Glass looks heavy and it seems awkward as I gingerly lift it from the minimalist box. I’m wrong- they’ve engineered it so that the weight balances nicely despite the fact that it’s actually heavier on one side. It perches evenly on the bridge of my nose, and after an hour or so, I even kind of forget that it’s there… except
that I don’t because everyone stares at me for varying lengths of time. Some do double-takes, some out and out gape, others forget social niceties and blurt out whatever they’re thinking. “It’s a machine to make it 3D?” Make what 3D? “It’s like a 3D machine!” Okay. “It’s a camera?” At its most basic, yes, that’s one of the features. “IT’S LIKE ZERO ZERO SEVEN IN MOVIES!” Forgive the caps lock, but he actually shouted that in my face, and yes, he meant double-o-seven. >>>
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“It’s an iPhone?” No, and I doubt Google would appreciate that, although you can make calls from it and you can sync it to your iPhone (or Android device obviously). “It’s specs! The Google-Thingey! It’s the Google Eye!” It’s sort of all of those things, and none of those things. “I don’t know…” Me either. “You look sophisticated.” Thank you, I think? “It’s the Google Glasses!” Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner, folks. After interacting with random strangers for three hours -who hail from at least 30 different countries with varying levels of education and cultural capital awareness- finally someone nails it. Sort of.
Glass really is a lot like the videos online, except about a million times more awesome when you’re actually using it, and at least a thousand times creepier when you start to realize how much you can actually do with it. While the reaction of the general public was hilarious, it was also strange since so few people that I spoke to had ever even heard of Glass. Where is the flow of information? A product like Glass, developed and marketed by one of the most powerful forces of this millennium, should be a household name by now, or at the very least a pervasive urban rumor. Glass is poised to change the way people interact with their technologies, and it did affect my behavior- I tweeted a selfie, for the first
“It’s the Google Glasses!” Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner, folks. time ever. It listens, it responds, and it becomes very normal after a while. The new normal. Google’s normal. The most important thing I learned from Glass? That it takes you to the mothership and indoctrinates you. “What do you think Google Glass does?” “It takes you to Google.” Indeed. Special thanks to Amad Mian and The Online Project.
NAMETAG IMAGE SOURCE NAMETAG.COM | U.S. SENATOR AL FRANKEN’S LETTER RELEASED IN PDF NAMETAG.COM
WE’RE GONNA STALK YOU NEW FACIAL RECOGNITION APP FOR GOOGLE GLASS STIRS UP SOME DRAMA
Preying on people’s fears is never a nice way to launch your business, but it has proven to be a lucrative one for a lot of companies out there. Taking all this into consideration, the developers behind NameTag, a new real-time facial recognition app for Google Glass, have put together a snazzy little vid about sexual predators and the girl next door. How does this marvel of modern privacy invasion work? It scans the face of your new friend and compares it to online data like social media networks, online dating sites, and yes, the national U.S. sex offender registry. The startup FacialNetwork.com instills the fear of… cyberspace in you, and also in U.S. Sena-
tor Al Franken apparently. After hearing of NameTag, Senator Franken penned a letter to Kevin Tussey -the wunderkind behind NameTag- asking whether or not it would be an opt-in program (the answer is most likely no), and whether Tussey had considered the implications of the app in the context of stalking (the answer is most likely yes, but Tussey
doesn’t care). Check it out for yourself, and next time you hear someone say, “Ok Glass, NameTag!” try not to imagine the wealth of online info about you that the Glass-wearer is able to access. Oh, and the news gets even better: NameTag is coming soon to iTunes and Google Play. www.nametag.ws
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MY PORTAL MADE IT ALL POSSIBLE
Successful web platforms are built for & by their users | WEBSITE TO WATCH |
xpatwoman.com started as a guide to life in Dubai and quickly showed there was a voracious appetite for information on living in the UAE, from which schools were the best through to where you could buy certain foods. The combination of forums, which have hosted widespread conversations, debates, and answered thousands of cries for help, comprehensive original editorial feature and guides and supporting community have created a powerful community resource. Most expat websites around the world seem ‘blue’ to us –formal in their tone, given over to banking, insurance and financial services. By contrast, ExpatWoman.com has always been written by women for women, serving expat community meeting a broad spectrum of information needs. Now that community is expanding beyond the Middle East, where ExpatWoman hosts seven sites including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, KSA and Qatar, with the launch of new sites in Azerbaijan, Singapore and, imminently, Hong Kong.
It’s a perfect example of timeliness– the very need for this globalized information resource is being driven by the technology that makes it possible: The Internet. A new generation of younger, more independent professional people are joining an increasing number of families on the move as globalization
kicks in and people with skills and talents to share find matches for those qualities away from home. We see clear patterns in Expatwoman.com traffic as people research new locations, gaining insight and knowledge –and guidance about their lifestyle decisions– from the communities the
site represents. Where to live? Which school? Which bank? What phone, what car, what clinic, what salon? The list of family needs is endless and recommendation and guidance, along with the tacit ExpatWoman endorsement of advertorial feature, are powerful pointers to what are, in fact, consumers making consumer choices. MARKETWATCH One reason behind the launch of ExpatWoman.com MarketWatch, was to help marketers better understand the minds of women consumers, from single women following an international career through to wives supporting the family as it moves with a husband’s job. ExpatWoman.com MarketWatch is focused on providing insight and information to help marketers make more effective and focused decisions based on the needs, desires, and aspirations of internationally based females. Based on market research and analysis of the large and growing community, MarketWatch builds connections between brands and their customers that foster smarter, more aware and credible marketing initiatives. It’s part of a broader initiative to help marketers come to terms with the challenges, opportunities and tools presented by web-based marketing, from content marketing through to driving audience participation and engagement. Never have the opportunities been so great – and yet marketers still struggle to switch budgets from outdated advertising media and fully embrace the Web. FACING THE MARKETING CHALLENGE Brands have typically been used to selecting the right media –appropriate editorial environments with a believable circulation– for their message then using tools such as advertising to reach their audiences. The Web challenges that model, tending to turn it on its head as consumers increasingly decide which content they are exposed to, when and –in our mobile world– where. And while
it can be stunningly granular, or atomized if you prefer, the Web also punishes disruption and ‘old fashioned’ marketing approaches. The relationships are more intimate and yet are supported by remarkable volumes of data. It’s combining those two that’s the real skill –using the rich data Web-based relationships generated to build engagement and foster useful, timely relationships between brands and consumers. Increasingly, brands are discovering the key to this is content-based; that questioning consumers respond well to being presented with answers in a contextually relevant way. This is where content marketing plays such an important role in building successful online campaigns, linking brands with consumers at a number of levels to help build awareness, understanding, acceptance and preference for a brand. In short, every brand manager’s dream. CONTENT & CONTEXT With MarketWatch, ExpatWoman.com is aiming to help brands better understand the important and powerful market the website and its community represents. ExpatWoman.com delivers the attention of some of the most valuable consumers in the region’s market and it’s up to brands to communicate to that audience, a combination of the right messages at the right time to engage consumers and promote their relationship with the brand.
Increasingly, we find we’re being asked to work with brands to help refine that process, to build campaigns that make the most of the impressive reach, breadth and engagement of our targeted online audience. With the launch of the new sites, we will be looking to take our experience and roll out those opportunities on a global stage. As the ExpatWoman development team have found, each new country presents an individual set of needs for both readers and clients but the core information, set up and site integrity remain consistently, reassuringly true to the brand.
Formerly a management accountant and auditor at Unilever based in London and then Milan, Jane Drury founded ExpatWoman.com in 2001 and has established the site as a major international hub and community resource for expatriates, primarily in the Middle East and now extending to Eastern Europe and Asia. ExpatWoman.com had over 37 million page views and 4 million unique monthly visitors in 2013 alone and has a readership spanning over 225 countries. ExpatWomanFood.com, features thousands of restaurant listings and recipes. With interests in digital advertising and marketing, online start-ups, e-commerce and commercial partnerships online and offline, Jane runs Expat Web Services, a holding company focused on developing online media properties in the Middle East and other global markets.
business unusual | LIFE | TRAVEL | DESIGN
COLOR MY WORLD
Samia Halaby’s lifetime achievement in Dubai at Ayyam Gallery Having taught at the Yale School of Art as the first fulltime female associate professor for over 10 years, and celebrating a momentous five decades as a prolific artist, Samia Halaby’s work will be on exhibit at Ayyam Gallery until the end of April. The Arab American artist attended the opening of her exhibition on February 19 at the prominent Al Quoz gallery, Samia Halaby: Five Decades of Painting and Innovation, which includes paintings, drawings, prints, computer-generated kinetic works, and hanging sculptures. The exhibit is curated by Maymanah Farhat, New York-based art historian and art editor/contributor to several prominent print and web publications. The comprehensive showing includes over 50 Samia Halaby works, representative of the artist’s evolution and experimentation. Halaby’s work appears in prestigious and influential collections globally, some of the most notable: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art both in New York and in Abu Dhabi, Washington’s National Gallery of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Samia Halaby: Five Decades of Painting and Innovation Until April 30, 2014 Ayyam Gallery | AlQuoz, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1 Dubai, UAE www.ayyamgallery.com +971 4 3236242
A PENCHANT FOR PORSCHE AT THE QATAR MOTOR SHOW 2014 Porsche revealed two new eye-catchers at the 2014 Qatar Motor Show in Doha late February that they hope will be groundbreaking in the sports car market. The 918 Spyder is a hybrid supercar with features that Porsche claims will showcase the brand’s efforts in transferring tech from the racetracks to the streets. They’re touting both direct fuel injection for fuel efficiency and its Doppelkupplung (PDK) double-clutch transmission. The 918 Spyder uses E-Mobility fuel-cell technology, and taking into consideration the fact that it’s a hybrid vehicle, it’s pretty speedy as cars go. The 918 Spyder accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in a mere 2.6 seconds with a top speed of 345 km/h and if you’re opting for green in autos, it can reach up to 105 km/h when using only its electrical power reserve. Their other big unveiling? The new 911 Targa 4S -keeping many characteristics that made the original model a hit- but also brings forward new features that Porsche is optimistic about. The Targa 4S has a top speed of 296 km/h, and can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.4 seconds with the optional Sports Chrono Package that basically kicks your engine up a notch. While the Targa 4S has a moveable roof section like the classic model, it’s been enhanced to open and close in 19 seconds. Speed is of the essence, even when it comes to the details. www.qatarmotorshow.gov.qa
business unusual | LIFE | TRAVEL | DESIGN
Dine or die trying Noma’s cult craze By Youmna Chagoury
lease note this is a request for a place on the waiting list and not a actual booking. You will only be contacted by the restaurant if a table becomes available.” This is the message you get when you try to book a table at Noma, the famous Nordic cuisine restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. Last year, I personally tried to dine in the then-number-one-resto in the world, but it was just not meant to be. Whether through their online booking system or by phone, I just couldn’t get through. I even tried to reserve a table through my hotel but the receptionist laughed out loud at my request. The Web is abuzz with stories of people who tried, and failed, and tried again. Some have been trying for over a year, others just got lucky and got a reservation on their first time trying. You see, you can’t just call and book a table; Noma only opens up reservations the first Monday of each month at 10a.m. (CET) for the following four months and the restaurant is usually fully booked by 10:30a.m. The chances of getting a Noma table are
Noma interiors | Space Copenhagen
Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine
basically just as likely as you winning the lottery. Voted “Best Restaurant” by San Pellegrino’s The World 50 Best Restaurants Awards for three consecutive years (from 2010 to 2012), Noma dropped one spot this year, giving way to Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca (have you heard of it? Neither have I). The fact that Noma lost one ranking place hasn’t hindered the restaurant’s reservation craze- people are still trying… and failing. I say you try too, and if you don’t get through, do what I did: Get the Noma book. Chef René Redzepi’s Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine gives you an insight of what Noma is all about- the philosophy, the creativity, and even some recipes. It’s just like dining there, minus 20 courses and their paired vinos. www.noma.dk/reservations | +45 3296 3297 MARCH 2014
business unusual | LIFE | TRAVEL | DESIGN
COOKING THE BOOKS So you wanna be a restaurateur? Master Chefs do it better By Amal Chaaban
You’re a foodie and a businessperson. You’re a game changer and an entrepreneur. You want to do it all and make a living off of it? Pick up any of our choices for the published works of Master Chefs who did just that. The biggest names in the entrepreneurial F&B biz all started our somewhere- some of them in a single-burner kitchen. THE ALL AROUND GOOD GUY MASTER CHEF Jamie
Oliver | FOODIE BOOK Jamie’s Food Revolution
Multi-award winning chef, author and restaurateur Jamie Oliver could be forgiven for resting on his laurels given the amount of success he has seen in a career that began in the kitchen of his family’s pub. Instead, each year he brings forward new and exciting projects, not the least of which is Jamie’s Food Revolution in which he endeavours to teach everyone about healthy eating at a low cost. Mr. Oliver also has a series
THE LOOSE CANNON MASTER CHEF Anthony
Bourdain | FOODIE BOOK Kitchen Confidential
Anthony Bourdain, Culinary Institute of America grad and veteran of several of the world’s best kitchens, is no stranger to controversy. The Kitchen Confidential author is known for his scathing critiques of the Food Network even going so far as to include them in his 2009 op-ed for The New York Times. Bourdain is potentially the most uniquely positioned to criticize his
own industry as he is not only a chef and an author, he also hosts television shows related directly to food and travel, most recently Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on CNN. In the midst of all of the media execution, Bourdain retains his ties with Brasserie Les Halles in New York (where he was Executive Chef for many years). They still refer to him as their “Chef-at-Large”.
of restaurants which include a restaurant/training school as a way to give back to the hospitality industry which helped him along (the latest is called “Fifteen”).
THE PERFECTIONIST MASTER CHEF Eric
Ripert | FOODIE BOOK Avec Eric
Chef, author and sometime judge on the hit show Top Chef, Eric Ripert is a tremendously talented individual no matter how you slice it. Considered to be a master with seafood, Ripert’s New York City restaurant (he is part-owner) Le Bernardin is Michelin three-starred. Le Bernardin is also one of the only restaurants to receive a four-star rating every time it has been reviewed by The New York Times, and it
is also listed as 19 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list (sponsored by highbrow H2O’s Acqua Panna and S. Pellegrino). Ripert also shares a place with our honourable mention Giorgio Rapicavoli on Business Insider’s Sexiest Chef Alive list. His show, Avec Eric, is currently aired by PBS and he also has posted a series of videos on quick and easy meals on his website aveceric.com.
THE ARTISTE MASTER CHEF Pierre Gagnaire | FOODIE BOOK Reinventing French Cuisine
Three-starred Michelin Chef Pierre Gagnaire doesn’t like to be referred to as an artist, but a quick visit to pierre-gagnaire.com and a look at his body of work (shared by year), and you might have no other appropriate descriptor. Gagnaire wasn’t successful by conventional standards his first time around owning restaurants, but when he decided to reopen his Paris outlet, he managed to create a winning formula. He went
on to open several other restaurants including his highly-regarded namesake, fine dining outlet in UAE: Reflets Par Pierre Gagnaire, situated in Dubai Festival City. His cookbook Reinventing French Cuisine shows his love of the artistry found in good food. Special mention for another of his printed works goes to Pierre Gagnaire: Reflections on Culinary Artistry.
THE MEDIA MAGNATE MASTER CHEF Gordon Ramsay | FOODIE BOOK Healthy Appetite
Described as “hugely talented” by Anthony Bourdain, Michelin-starred Chef Gordon Ramsay has cut a swathe through multiple areas in the media world with multiple successful books and television shows. His show Kitchen Nightmares was wildly successful in North America and further fuelled the sales of his published works. Ramsay is
also noteable for his less-than-pleasant temper when he’s displeased by the performance of any of his staff (or even contestants) on his highly-viewed shows. A winner of several awards, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London holds the record for holding three Michelin stars since 2001, and several of his other F&B outlets are also Michelin-starred.
HONORABLE MENTION THE CHILD STAR | GIORGIO RAPICAVOLI At 27, Giorgio Rapicavoli became Miami’s first ever winner of Chopped (the Food Network’s highly-acclaimed TV show). This cuisine prodigy took his $10,000 in winnings and opened Eating House, a pop-up resto that soon became one of the must-eat places in Miami (and all of Florida State). Not content with immedi-
ate success of the Eating House, he followed up with the launch of a pop-up bar he dubbed the Drinking Room. While he has yet to put out a book, Rapicavoli (a Business Insider’s Sexiest Chefs Alive lister also named on Urban Spoon’s inaugural list of America’s Sexiest Single Chefs) will likely have one on the horizon soon.
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THE THREE TYPES OF TWEEPS
that crawl out of the woodwork when you get verified on Twitter By
| GEEK |
he other day I woke up to some real magic. Like Hogwarts kinda magic. Like I couldn’t believe my eyes kinda magic. The magazine’s Twitter account got verified! Just as the initial shock and elation at the magazine’s verified badge started to abate, my heart was thrown for another loop: I got verified. Yes, me personally! I spent the next 30 minutes refreshing my Twitter account bio to see if the beautiful blue badge would disappear. Was it a mistake? Was I imagining things?
My first tweet after getting verified was directed at the Editor in Chief of Cloud 961 magazine (and contributor to Entrepreneur Middle East), Mohammed Hijazi. He was the quickest to tweet publically about my new blue-eyed baby. I, a writer, was at a loss for words. If you ask anyone who has met me, I am never at a loss for words. (It’s perhaps inelegant even to always have that much to say.) But you people, you @Verified people, you rendered me incapable of tweets, and yes, incapable of speech. Each time I opened my mouth to talk about my verification, I felt a roil of nausea. It was like my first date… and my best date, and even my worst date all rolled into one. @Verified, that’s one heck of a gift! So, as a thank you gift to you Twitter and to you #MyPrecious, here are the three types of tweeps I encountered post-verification in order of relevance (not volume).
You people, you @Verified people, you rendered me incapable of tweets, and yes, incapable of speech. 1. #INTERNETKARMA These are the tweeps who publically celebrated my verification and sent great energy my way. I got hearty well-wishes and tons of favorites. They are goodintentioned tweeps who have, in my previous experience with them, always cheered both my little and big successesand this for me, is probably one of the biggest in my career since Twitter is my all-time favorite social media platform. 2. OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS I’m going to say it publically once and for all: I have no pull at Twitter. I can’t help you get your cousin Bill the YouTube Juggler verified. I can’t help you get your publication or blog or even your TV station verified. I can’t email Twitter and ask them to verify you because you have
TWITTER STILL IMAGES © TWITTER.COM
73,000 followers, because I wouldn’t even know who to ask (and more importantly I don’t think that it’s my place to do so). Just like everyone else, I rushed to read the FAQ about verified accounts right after I got verified. You know as much as I do about the criteria for verification, and all I can say about this is that I think good #InternetKarma works like yogic karma: You get what you give in this world. Be kind and the universe will sort it out. On our website, I placed this article in our How-To section, despite the fact that my advice is just to be active on the timeline and engage with your fellow tweeps- that’s all I have done and it worked for me. 3. HATERS GONNA HATE These are the people that ignore your verification completely… as though the beautiful blue checkmark didn’t pierce them right in the eyeball. Their entire timeline is filled with you responding to the flood of congratulation tweets and celebratory remarks. Blue checkmarks make you green with envy? It’s not a good look for you, I promise. Yes, I felt your negative energy all the way across
the border. It’s inelegant and uncalled for, and yes, your negative stalking of my life and my social media platforms got back to me. I don’t think this kind of attention is flattering. You get what you give. It’s that simple. This is not directed at one person, it’s directed at several, and I’m sure you know who you are. Tweeps, I appreciate your constant support and never-ending good energy.
Find both myself and the magazine (@EntMagazineME) on Twitter, and tweet us your feedback. We want to hear from you in real-time.
Blue checkmarks make you green with envy? It’s not a good look for you, I promise.
DON’T COME TO US, WE’LL COME TO YOU
Twitter says it loud and clear For those of you not on Twitter, you cannot possibly realize the enormity of getting verified. I personally have read tons of articles about being Twitter-verified (and the lack thereof), and I was certain that I would never meet their extremely elusive criteria list. It is a great boost to both your digital standing and credibility, and finally to your professional morale and professional digital identity. Learn more about Twitter’s verification policy by visiting their Help Center. They have a (somewhat) clear message in their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about being verified.
ETHICS | ESQUIRE GUY | MARKETING | PRO
AND THE ART OF THE INVESTOR PITCH
By Ross McCammon
his isn’t about figuring out who to pitch to or what to wear to the pitch meeting or how to follow up on the pitch. This isn’t about any other part of the “sales tunnel” (mainly because I have no idea how you get to the sales tunnel or how long it takes to get through it or whether or not you can get reception in there). This is about the message you get across in 15 or 30 seconds that is the pitch. Which is a very simple thing, really. Because there are only two kinds of pitches: those you believe in and those you don’t believe in.
Here’s how to pitch an idea you don’t believe in: 1. Stifle the urge to weep at what you’ve become: a person who is pitching some idea he or she doesn’t believe in. 2. Try not to say um too many times. 68
Here’s how to pitch an idea you don’t believe in: 1. Stifle the urge to weep at what you’ve become: a person who is pitching some idea he or she doesn’t believe in. 2. Try not to say um too many times. Here’s how to pitch an idea you believe in: 1. Talk. I’m a magazine editor, and much of my job involves pitching- either receiving pitches from writers or pitching ideas to my boss. The problem with most pitches I receive from writers I don’t know well is that they’re introduced by a list of credentials. Placing credentials at the beginning of a pitch is an attempt at hypnosis, really. It’s a tactic. You want to set this kind of tactic aside. Tactics are for people who are going up against an enemy--generals, cops, parents of toddlers, people who work at an all-you-can-eat buffet. What you want to be is: cool. “The ones who plainly state, ‘Here’s the problem, here’s the solution, here’s why mine is better and here’s why I have been working my whole life to do this’-those are the ones we want to identify,” says David Lee, founder and managing partner at SV
Angel, a Silicon Valley investment firm/ angel fund with a focus on early-stage consumer media companies. “If they focus too much on the competition, and there’s a little too much bravado, then I usually back off.” The pitch should be thought of as the first of many conversations with a partner, not a battle to be won. “You need to be authoritative but not come across as salesy. Don’t be a crocodile salesman: big mouth, small ears. You need to balance listening with talking,” says Mark Suster, general partner at GRP Partners, a Los Angeles-based VC firm, and founder of startup accelerator Launchpad LA. “The best pitch meetings are debates, discussions- not presentations.” HOW A PITCH SHOULD GO The best way to hone your pitch, if you think it must be honed, is to pitch to yourself. And there’s really only one question to ask, which is: Are you bored? If you’re bored, then the people you’re pitching to will be really bored. And if you’re bored, you’re probably bored because you’ve buried the point. The
core pitch should be about 15 seconds long. One cliché states that you should be able to pitch any idea over the course of a single elevator ride. This is true. Even if you’re going only one floor up. Anyway, there are two parts to the pitch: 1. Here is what I know how to do. 2. Here is how what I know how to do can work for you. “The idea is to show what you’re about very succinctly. And then if you get the first meeting, to be able to show the value and momentum of your company,” says Sizhao “Zao” Yang, an angel investor and co-founder and COO of BetterWorks, a Los Angeles-based employee perks and benefits firm. “It’s all about momentum.” It really is all about momentum. The pitch itself is defined by momentum. Because the pitch is just a bridge. You’re already in good shape- after all, you got the meeting. The pitch is simply the first checkpoint. Momentum.
A FEW WORDS ON REACTIONS The best thing about a pitch is: Everyone in the room wants you to succeed. Which means you immediately know if it’s not working. You either get nothing or you get something. (And all you need, really, is something.) If your pitch results in an awkward stasis that makes everyone in the room feel uncomfortable, then that’s it. Because the bar is so low and because everyone wants you to deliver a good pitch, if you get nothing and you have nothing else to give, then it’s over. If it’s being received well, of course, you’ll get some sort of positive reaction, even if it’s only a raised eyebrow. The Hush of Doom or The Eyebrows of Hope. It’s pass/fail. (Note: If you get both the Hush of Doom and The Eyebrows of Hope, gather your things and walk away, because something isn’t right.) A successful pitch requires belief, confidence, deference and brevity. In that order. If you believe in what you’re
WORDS WORTH CONSIDERING FOR YOUR PITCH Safe and reliable Key Leading Best Pioneering Primary Finest Dominant Passionate Easier Powerful
Adventuresome Serious Triumphant Game-changing Best-ever Buzz Buzzy Fantastic Brilliant Stellar Jaw-droppingest
A liiiittle risky Conquer Explosive Severely Stimulate Urge Fever Agitate Killer Capture Dangerous
saying, then the rest is easy. Because if you believe, then all you have to do is talk. The pitch is just the beginning of a conversation- hopefully one that goes on for a long time. Years even. See this article in its entirety at Entrepreneur.com
KEY TECHNICAL MATTERS • The fact that you are “amped” is not something that needs to be pointed out to the pitchee. (Related: Never use the word “pitchee.”) • In business, a pitch should not involve a pitching motion. • It also should not involve a batting motion. • At no point should you say, “Now bear with me here.” • Or “Pleeeeeease?!” • At no point should you ask if anyone is “picking up” what you’re “putting down,” unless someone in the room is literally picking up objects that you are placing on a surface. • If your pitch is veering into “spiel” territory, remind yourself that you are not a carnival barker. • If your pitch is veering into “claptrap” territory, remind yourself that you are not in a screwball comedy from the 1930s. • If your pitch is veering into “jibber jabber” territory, wrap up the pitch while backing out of the room quietly, because this particular partnership will probably not be flowering. But leave your card anyway.
BOUTIQUE BOUNTY VILLA CLARA When we contacted Villa Clara to discuss the charming boutique hotel’s survival in the midst of Beirut’s current challenging situation, we were pleasantly surprised to hear from Marie-Helene Moawad that things are still going quite well. Moawad says that their initial investment was “US$1.4 million” with an optimistic ROI: “In our initial business plan we forecasted three years to make a return on investment, and we on are on track to achieve that.” According to Moawad, despite the constant civil strife the hotel’s winning formula is unaffected; their success stemming from several factors including that one of their main segments of targetmarketed clients are people who enjoy eating fresh, healthy food- hence the reason that Villa Clara’s restaurant menu changes
daily. “Our strength is our flexibility due to our size and our concept is unique. We have only 30 seats so we can custom make our product and personalize it. Having a French chef [Olivier Gougeon] and a homemade charcuterie definitely added to our value.” Several of Lebanon’s relevant art galleries work with Villa Clara, and a quick visit to tripadvisor.com assures you of only good things. In addition to a bevy of international broadcast journalism media who stay at the hotel during their assignments in Lebanon, Moawad adds that Villa Clara’s positive rating on booking.com has sent them a slew of guests “looking to discover the authentic Beirut in an enchanting environment.” Bonus for business travelers: Free WIFI and free guest parking. MARCH 2014
start it up
Wacky idea | who’s got VC | Q&A | STARTUP FINANCE
TRIP ADVISOR HAJJNET’S APP ANGLE
CEO & founder Ali Dabaja maps his journey into entrepreneurship
hile Hajjnet is technically either past the startup label or still “sitting on the cusp,” as CEO and Founder Ali Dabaja describes it, he says that he still sees his company that way- primarily because it’s a valuable motivator. “By keeping our startup spirit we continue to innovate and remain agile. I don’t want to lose that.” Dabaja, a veteran of investments (and yes, venture capital), says that his first foray into the entrepreneurial arena came because he was “made redundant.” Prior to Hajjnet, he oversaw a team at the Private Banking Unit at Standard Chartered Bank and while things were at crossroads, 70
it seemed like it was time to push his plans to fruition. “I got this idea simultaneously, so it wasn’t so much that I deviated but rather life deviated,” he says commenting on the drastic career change. Having served previously as Director of Investment Advisory, Foreign Exchange Trader, Portfolio Manager, and Advisor on Investment and Economic Development, Dabaja also had prior experience with launching and running startups. Dabaja says his employment history has facilitated Hajjnet: “My experience in investment, startups, and venture capital put us in a very strong position to manage our own business planning, legalstructuring and fundraising. It’s not that I am an expert in any of those fields, but we simply felt we couldn’t find anyone that could do a better job than if we handled it ourselves.” On the delicate topic of monetizing off of an app that’s functionality is religiously-oriented, Dabaja says that
it couldn’t have gone any other way, explaining that “it is essential to be sustainable and to create value for stakeholders. We would have a very hard time doing that as a nonprofit. Part of our own excitement is the fact that we can have jobs and a company and work wholly towards having a positive impact on our community and society.” Regarding Hajjnet’s all-important startup pitch, there was a lot of “emphasis on both refining our concept and creating a pitch that properly illustrated our business and opportunity to investors. We went to
“We simply felt we couldn’t find anyone that could do a better job than if we handled it ourselves.”
“Part of our own excitement is the fact that we can have jobs and a company and work wholly towards having a positive impact on our community and society.” great lengths in that exercise challenging ourselves and our assumptions along the way. We learned a lot and by the time we were finished our concept, market and potential were very clear to investors.” Insofar as startup costs go, Dabaja doesn’t give numbers but he does point out that they engaged a PR firm before they even had a product in the market. “We felt that a lot of people would be interested in us and our products and that our approach is unique and we wanted to communicate the right message.” He chose the agency based on both experience and on personal approach: “When I met Joe Akkawi, who handles our PR, he just got it right away and comes from a strong technology background. They’ve added value far and beyond just PR, so I guess we didn’t make the choice to hire a PR firm as such, we decided to hire Joe.” Headquartered in Dubai, Dabaja relocated to the UAE in 2005. He echoes what many regional ‘treps say about
choosing to be based in UAE over other GCC cities, insisting that the business climate is perfect for innovation. “What we have witnessed here in terms of development, and improvement in terms of quality of life and availability of opportunity, is incredible. A company like Hajjnet happens best in the UAE, we look around at the skyline, metro, and infrastructure and we know that we can dream and achieve.” As for the initial investment, how did he fund Hajjnet? “We first put together a great team of active advisors then went to friends and family for investment. We went to people we know and most importantly we only took investment from those that were willing to roll up their sleeves and help us and were capable of creating value.” Ultimately, when it comes to apps, isn’t it about added-value anyway? We think so, and apparently so do the users downloading Hajjnet’s customers, both those in the Middle East and abroad.
IN SHORT STATUS QUO “In 2014 UmrahSalam app has ranked as high as number one in seven countries, top five in 30 countries and top 10 in 38 countries in the Apple App Store and our Android version is scheduled for release next month.” USERS “In absolute numbers it is the United States store and then Saudi Arabia store, but that can be misleading because many people outside of the United States are in the U.S. App Store.” ROI “We measure our ROI based on numbers of users, their experience and feedback and we already see a return when measured in those terms.” EVOLUTION “When we started, iOS users were clearly the first adopters and deepest users of apps. We didn’t spend too much time thinking about operating systems other than iOS until we had proof of concept there. Our strategy was to achieve proof of concept on one operating system and in one language before proliferating out. The fact that our apps were only in English and on iOS for some time really upset a lot of users and some investors, but I’m convinced we made the right decision.” STANDOUT FEATURE “I […] really love our maps. The icons and content is really interesting and engaging. To be able to contextualize our history and religion is very powerful, by seeing where things actually happened in relation to where you actually are is very moving for me.” MARCH 2014
start it up
Wacky idea | who’s got VC | Q&A | STARTUP FINANCE
SEED CAPITAL How much should I raise and what is my idea worth? By Simon Hudson
| STARTUP FINANCE |
ny entrepreneur who believes they are ready to raise seed capital is wondering two things primarily: First, how much should I ask for? Second, what percentage should I give away? Having recently been through this process myself I wanted to share both my experience and advice. Before we jump into the numbers it is important to dig deeper into the term “seed capital”. This metaphor is money that you believe is needed to help you water and feed the idea during the startup stage. Just like an acorn needs the right weather conditions, an entrepreneur needs the right funding, support, and (in my view) network to help it grow.
BRAINSTORM: THE IDEA Since raising my seed round investment I am now asked to review people’s ideas and business plans and help work out how much they need to raise. Even before looking through these I always ask to see the prototype or any existing work that has already gone into the idea. From a test mobile app to 3D renderings and mood boards of a restaurant, this supporting information speaks volumes when trying to raise funds. The wonderful asset all ‘treps have is that they believe in their idea. When I am asked for advice, it’s obvious that these people have lived and breathed concept idea, day and night, 24/7 and have now presented a polished busi-
ness plan and an attractive five-year forecast. This was the case for me when I started to raise my investment, which actually started many years ago. I was your typical entrepreneur who had just discovered Apple’s Keynote software and how to use Photoshop in a very basic way. The end result was a 25-page singing, animated presentation with fancy graphics and buzz words. My financial forecast was basically the first-year estimates with a formula adding on 25% growth each year for the next five, making me a gazillionaire at the end of it. Armed with passion and confidence, I searched Google for investors and pinged out a few emails. My return
rate was zero and my confidence slowly dropped. It was during a phone call with an old friend turned investor who said it sounded great and to send over my prototype. After realizing my mistake, I set about making a prototype, investing my own money and time. It was during this build I realized just how different my idea on paper actually was to the real life product. I scrapped the tree-guzzling business plan and instead focused my efforts on getting test users and a product out there. The product was BBM Baby and the idea revolved around daily deals in Dubai via BBM. As you can see, an idea on paper is only that- execution is the key. BBM Baby didn’t fly, but did form the basis of brndstr.com, what is now my company. Without this prototype years ago I would not have raised the seed capital I did. It’s also important to point out that most founders of hugely successful companies such as LinkedIn and Airbnb raised millions with a pitch deck of seven pages or less.
“MOST FOUNDERS OF HUGELY SUCCESSFUL COMPANIES SUCH AS LINKEDIN AND AIRBNB RAISED MILLIONS WITH A PITCH DECK OF SEVEN PAGES OR LESS.”
ADDED-VALUE: YOU’RE SO WORTH IT So now down to the numbers: How much should I ask for and what percentage will I give away? First off, I try determine how many partners are part of your startup. The reason partners are so important is not only spreading out the risk, but also because it’s valuable to your idea to have access to sounding board and brainstorming sessions. Whether or not you’re the brains behind the idea, came up with the name, or own the domain, you are ultimately partners and a fair split from day one is the correct choice in my opinion. If you truly believe you should own more, set caveats in place for once the business is running and set revenue milestones are met. Just remember that it’s better to own a small percentage of something than a large percentage of nothing. Now that internal ownership is agreed upon, let’s talk money. A lot of people, including myself, started to calculate the amount needed based on salaries, company setup fees and expenses. I agree that this is important, but if on a finance sheet 60% of investment is to pay for salaries then investors will shy away. My advice, half your existing salary and put this on your forecast. It shows commitment and sacrifice. Regarding the actual amount of money to raise- this comes down to the business and sector you
“WHETHER OR NOT YOU’RE THE BRAINS BEHIND THE IDEA, CAME UP WITH THE NAME OR OWN THE DOMAIN, YOU ARE ULTIMATELY PARTNERS AND A FAIR SPLIT FROM DAY ONE IS THE CORRECT CHOICE” are entering. I can only speak for tech startups with either web or app based products, however I would say that if you have a prototype and believe you have a minimum viable product (MVP) you should be asking for in the region of US$200k with a pre-money value of $300k. This would give your investor a 40% share and a half a million dollars post money valuation. Given you have everything in place to start watering the seed you should be in a fantastic position. For a product or service valued at less than this, my advice is to join an incubator program; lean on the experience and advice of mentors to guide you through the startup stage. Basically, all of my advice originates from having experienced it firsthand. If you’re confident and you have what it takes don’t give up. I was once told failure is only feedback and a bad meeting is only experience. Good luck in your venture and stay creative.
Simon Hudson is the CEO and Founder of Brndstr.com. Having recently closed a large funding round, Hudson is well versed with the challenges ahead of any startup. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Hudson worked as Marketing Director for Trump Towers in Miami and more recently as a senior figure at Groupon Middle East. Over the past two years he has been busy helping to grow, build and develop the Dubai startup circuit. As the Founder of ThinkTank.ae, ex-Chapter Director for Startupgrind.com, moderator of the previous Young Arab Leader event, and a coach at this year’s Dubai Startup Weekend, in addition to contributing the monthly entrepreneur column for newspaper 7days UAE, Hudson is well positioned to offer help and advice to any budding entrepreneur. MARCH 2014
ask the money guy | vc viewpoint | startup financE | your money
How should we divide equity among co-founders? Q: I understand that one’s share of equity should be contribution-based. However, when you are making arrangements with co-founders, is there a generic rule of thumb that you must follow? If you want to control future decisions of the startup as originator of the concept, how do you make sure to retain the full control? QUESTION ANSWERED BY RYAN HIMMEL
There are many different ways to approach equity compensation for the founding team. There is not necessarily a one-size fits all answer to this question. However, I have some specific recommendations based on my experiences starting a company as well as advising many startups. First, discuss compensation upfront with your co-founder(s) before you get to work and put it in writing. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when starting a company is casually discussing equity ownership with your co-founder(s) and deferring the formal agreement until after you get the business started. You should be very clear as to the equity ownership percentages from the very beginning. Try not to be emotional and selfish when discussing equity ownership with your co-founder(s). Ideally, you should share a common vision with your cofounder(s) and acknowledge that the success of the company is more important
than your personal interests. Specifically, the amount of equity you and your cofounder(s) receive in the company should be dictated by a methodology that awards the highest-valued contribution and those bearing the largest risks. Factors that you may consider in reaching an appropriate equity percentage for each founder are: idea generation, capital contribution, ability to raise capital, business planning, domain expertise, operational management, total responsibilities and legal responsibilities. My point here is that you shouldn’t just split the company 50/50 if there are two founders. Rather, you should construct a list of the most important elements of the business and how much each founder is able to contribute to that part of the business. In addition, you aren’t supposed to necessarily reach a final equity percentage with your co-founder(s) quickly. It’s supposed to be a discussion and a negotiation. If you’d like to control the decisionmaking part of the business, you should
be the majority owner of the company and have the majority of the board votes or greater than 50%. Typically, the chief executive and chairman of the board will be the majority owner of an early-stage company, but it can vary by business. This article appears on entrepreneur.com
Ryan Himmel, CPA and registered securities analyst, is the founder and CEO of BIDaWIZ. com, an online marketplace where small businesses and entrepreneurs can obtain trusted answers to finance and tax questions from licensed professionals. Ryan has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Crain’s New York, among other publications. Contact Ryan at email@example.com, on Twitter at @BIDaWIZ and on Google+.
YOUNG OMANI ‘TREPS GET MOVING Oman’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs and future industry leaders have the opportunity to display their potential at Entrepreneur’s Conclave 2014 that will take place on March 29, 2014 at Oman Sail, Wave Muscat. The event is organized by Experiment Events, with Omran -set up by the Omani government to manage and invest in projects that help Oman’s tourism sectorand Sharakah -a collaborative initiative by the Omani government and private sector to promote entrepreneurship in the Gulf state- as strategic partners. The organizers are hoping for the event 74
to be a valuable networking experience for those involved in SMEs, having some of Oman’s industry leaders and senior entrepreneurs as brand ambassadors for the event, including founder of Qais United Enterprise Trading and Genesis International, Qais Al Khonji. Participants can register online and, if approved, can take part in the networking experience. Entrepreneur’s Conclave 2014 will also have a series of events, including a regatta competition, and an opportunity to present businesses plans to potential investors at a gala dinner. Gear up, this is your chance Muscat!
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Algordanza brilliant cut diamond
business unusual | travel | design | life
A DIAMOND REALLY IS
EVER CEO OF SWISS-BASED ALGORDANZA DISCUSSES HIS GLOBAL MARKET NICHE & THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
inaldo Willy has made more than his share of headlines. He’s the CEO of Algordanza, headquartered in Switzerland, and he creates diamonds. Yes, creates diamonds, not deals in diamonds, and they’re memorial gems- developed for his clients using the ashes of cremated loved ones. This year, Algordanza is marking their 10th year in the diamond industry, with their largest amount of clients from Germany. Along with business-savvy, Willy is striking mostly for his respect and delicacy in regards to the bereaved who make up his global clientele base.
Algordanza takes a few weeks to create a memorial gem, beginning with the separation of carbon molecules from inorganic substances, echoing the natural diamond process. After the extracted carbon is converted into graphite, a starter crystal is inserted into the graphite to facilitate the crystallization process, and it’s subjected to heat and pressure. The result is an Algordanza gem made from the cremated ashes of your loved one. Willy cleared the scientific hurdles early on, and he says that initially his biggest challenge wasn’t related to funding or execution, it was “credibility and
adequate communication… and the need [to] spread the news.” Another challenge that this entrepreneur faced unique to his industry? “Trying to avoid being a headline in a tabloid newspaper and put a clear focus on natural, serious PR.” Indeed, the idea of a remembrance diamond may strike some as macabre, but for others it’s a way to keep loved ones close and they report feeling that it’s much more of a suitable homage than an urn or a grave. A quick YouTube search turns up a multitude of videos of Algordanza clients being interviewed by various global media and they’re all quick to point out >>> MARCH 2014
business unusual | travel | design | life
that their diamond has provided them both solace and a feeling of connectivity to their dearly departed. Has Willy himself ever created a diamond from the ashes of a loved one? “I used a part of my grandfather’s ashes and turned them into a diamond, which I have set in his pocket watch that he has passed to me. It’s a family heirloom which I may give one day to my grandson.” When asked if he’s ever experienced uncomfortable lines of questioning about his company, Willy says that surprisingly it’s rare. Initially, to gage the likelihood of success with such an unusual concept, Willy spoke at length to priests and other religious figures to determine cultural
sensitivities, and eschewed a run of the mill feasibility study. Instead, “I just made a survey by interviewing pedestrian in the city of Bern and Zürich. It was for me just to get a feeling [of] how open people are about the idea.” Willy started Algordanza at 23 years-old while he was still a student at the University of Applied Sciences in Chur, Switzerland. His professional background prior to becoming an entrepreneur? Four years in the Swiss banking industry as a Project Manager. “My basic education is trustee and accountant. I grow up in the mountains close by St. Moritz. Now I am living with my wife by the Lake of Zürich.” As the CEO and Founder, Willy
Algordanza rough diamond encased in necklace
says that the idea of work/life balance is more of a “buzz word” than it is a reality, and he admits that during the first six years of Algordanza “there was no work/ life balance. You work because it was my life, you do something because you have the feeling it needs to be done. It’s your personal mission and it does not feel like work. Of course you need to watch to survive, but you just do it and you disregard your physical condition and you neglect your friends.”
AFTER THE EXTRACTED CARBON IS CONVERTED INTO GRAPHITE, A STARTER CRYSTAL IS INSERTED INTO THE GRAPHITE TO FACILITATE THE CRYSTALLIZATION PROCESS, AND IT’S SUBJECTED TO HEAT AND PRESSURE. As for P & L, how much money is Algordanza actually making? Willy says that their profit statements aren’t made public because “Algordanza is not quoted at the stock market, therefore we are not obligated to publish our balance.” Willy also declines to comment on diamond profit margins and on operational costs, perhaps as a measure of respect to Algordanza clientele, since dealing in the business of memorial diamonds dictates that Willy forgo the subject of monetizing on grief and loss. He jestingly points out that he has a cultural reason for doing so: “We Swiss are discrete and don’t like to talk about money in public.” 78
LOGISTICS WHAT WERE SOME UNEXPECTED STARTUP COSTS THAT YOU ENCOUNTERED?
“Travel costs. According to our strategy, we planned to focus at the beginning on the Swiss market but we had a lot of leads from other countries. We realized that we need to expand in these markets faster than we expected.” WHERE DID THE FUNDING COME FROM FOR ALGORDANZA?
“[Our] own funds- all savings that we had. At the start, we used to rent the lab and the machine only when we had an order meaning low fixed cost and very high variable costs. In this way we were not forced to invest in our own laboratory, which at the start we were not able to pay, not to mention the cost of a HTHPDiamond Press.” WHY THE NAME ALGORDANZA IN TERMS OF MARKETING?
“Well, our venture was always to offer our service globally. In this case, you need to use a name which is not yet used in the different markets to avoid any conflict with trade market registrations or occupied URLs. Algordanza is Romantsch -my mother language- an old Latin language which is used only by roughly 80,000 people worldwide, so I could be quite sure that nobody else was using it. The name has a direct [link] to our service- remembrance of the deceased. With the A in it, it also looked
graphically pretty enough to create use as logo. We have unfortunately some misunderstandings in the Spanish language and also by the Americans- who have difficulty pronouncing it, so we also use the extension Memorial Diamonds or Remembrance Diamonds.” WHAT ARE ALGORDANZA’S PRIMARY MARKETS?
“At the beginning until 2006, Japan was the largest market with a stake hold of almost 60%. Since 2008 is Germany the largest market. Nowadays Japan has just around 20%. Since 2005 we were able to open more local companies such as Hong Kong, Singapore and so on, and also our existing markets are growing rapidly. That’s the main reason why Japan has decreased as of 2005.” WHAT IS ALGORDANZA’S CORPORATE STRUCTURE FOR MULTINATIONAL OPERATIONS?
“We are working with agents and representatives in about 23 countries. It’s a mix of franchise and joint venture. We participate in the local companies, but the investment into the local market is always the responsibility of the local partner.”
service and we are aware that we are the pioneers, so it is also our responsibility to define high professional standards in this service. On one hand we claim the ethical code from the Swiss Funeral Association and on the other hand we were the first introducing ISO certification in the funeral industry in Switzerland. We also have audited our whole production process by an official Swiss notary. We do our utmost to [respect] the trust a family is giving us. Our doors are open, so any customer is able to come and visit us and to see our production plant.” DO ALGORDANZA CLIENTS REQUEST GEMOLOGICAL INSTITUTE VERIFICATION?
“Yes, we have sometimes customers asking for it- for Swiss, German, and Austrian families we used to have this as standard, for other countries it’s only by request. We work with many gemological institutes, some are famous such as GIA [Gemological Institute of America] others are very small ones from Canada or Hong Kong.”
WHAT DOES ALGORDANZA’S ISOCERTIFIED STATUS MEAN FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
“A specialist company has done an audit. We are the first offering this kind of
Algordanza princess cut diamond
MEMORIAL DIAMONDS BY THE NUMBERS
Algordanza brilliant cut diamond
Rough uncut vs. round brilliant 98% cut 2% rough Size of gems most often sold 0.4ct Size of gems least often sold 0.25ct Biggest diamond created by Algordanza 1.68ct Brilliant cut | 4.28ct rough Clients on average that opt for laser inscription Japan and Canada standard (every customer) other markets less than 1% Most expensive Algordanza diamond order Approximately €100,000 | Nine Diamonds for a family Algordanza staff 66 people worldwide Percentage of Algordanza clients that opt for jewelry About 95%. We only offer jewelry for Hong Kong and Japan. Ratio of male to female clients In Switzerland 74% women and only 26% men MARCH 2014
IN THE LOOP EXECUTIVE SUMMARY DOING BUSINESS IN THE ARAB WORLD 2014
GOLD MEDAL IT TAKES THE LEAST TIME TO GET SET, GET READY, AND GO! BUSINESSPEOPLE SETTING UP IN THE GCC GET IT DONE QUICKER IN THE UAE OVER THE REST. It takes the least amount of time to start a business in UAE, Egypt, and Oman. It’s no surprise to see the UAE up there, given its openness to business expansion, especially after winning the Expo 2020 bid. Given Egypt’s political situation, it might be surprising for some to see it there. In all three countries, it only takes eight days to start a business, the least amount of time in the entire MENA region. Oman requires only five procedures, one less than the UAE. While the UAE and Egypt require 0% paid-in minimum capital, Oman surprisingly requires 209.8%, more than Iraq, Algeria, and Yemen.
reps, the annual Doing Business reports are copublished by The World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, basically aiming to give you a look at the ease (and the difficulty) of establishing and running SMEs in different countries. We’ve given you the executive summary of some of the most relevant facts for doing biz ‘round these parts culled from their report. Entrepreneurs can (and should) use these reports to help evaluate whether their ideal locations to set up shop really are ideal. Making a decision for your SME isn’t solely based on regulations respective to specific nations, but it certainly is a factor when it comes to registering property, paying and filing taxes, importing and exporting, construction permits, and more. www.doingbusiness.org
LEGO MANIA GET YOUR HARDHAT ON AND YOUR BOOTS LACED UP IN BAHRAIN, BECAUSE IT RANKS FIRST WHEN YOU’RE TRYING TO GET THE SIGN-OFF ON CONSTRUCTION PERMITS. The tiny island state in the Arabian Gulf barely made it past the UAE to be ranked first when it comes to the ease of dealing with construction permits. While it doesn’t rank first in all the different indicators, it was the most consistent among those ranked at the top. It takes Bahrain 60 days to complete a construction permit, a few days less than booming Qatar, but 16 days more than the UAE. Bahrain is also ranked second in cost, with only 9.3% of income/capita, with Qatar only requiring 1.1%. An interesting fact is that while Bahrain and the UAE require 12 procedures, Iraq only requires 10.
BORDER CONTROL GET YOUR PASSPORTS AT THE READY RESIDENTS OF THE UAE- YOU’RE RANKED FIRST FOR CROSS-BORDER TRADING. Trading across borders is easiest in the UAE, ranking fourth globally- an impressive measure. The UAE only requires three documents to export, with regional competitors Saudi Arabia and Qatar requiring five. Lebanon and Tunisia require less than the former two, with only four documents. It also takes the least amount of
time to export in the UAE, requiring only seven days, as opposed to 11 in Bahrain, 10 in Oman, and 17 in Qatar. That said, cost is a factor since it isn’t the cheapest to export from the UAE, costing US$655 dollars/container. It’s actually less expensive in Egypt and Morocco, costing $625 and $595 dollars respectively.
6.7 KSA investor protection index
FLEX YOUR MUSCLES IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR INVESTOR PROTECTION IN THE REGION, YOUR BIG BRO IS KSA. THEY’RE IN YOUR CORNER FOR THIS ONE, AND IT’S CERTAINLY SOMETHING YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ranks first on the strength of investor protection index at 6.7, compared to UAE that scored 5.0, and Qatar that scored 4.3. In 2009, Saudi Arabia bolstered investor protection with new regulations. Earlier this year,
the UAE passed reforms that strengthen investors by providing additional disclosure requirements for related-party transactions, and allowing them to sue directors if these transactions are unsafe on the stock exchange.
POWER HOUR UAE MAKES IT THE EASIEST TO GET THE JUICE FLOWING FOR YOUR BUSINESS, AND ELECTRICITY IS ONE OF THE STAPLES FROM THE GET-GO. The UAE topped the vast majority of the indicators that determine ease of getting electricity, so it’s no surprise that it’s a regional powerhouse. It only takes three procedures in the United Arab Emirates to get an electricity connection. Its regional competitors Qatar and Saudi Arabia both require four, and fellow GCC state Kuwait requires seven. While it takes 61 days for Saudi Arabia, and 90 days for Qatar, it takes the UAE just 35 days to get electricity. The UAE recently omitted mandatory site inspections- playing a huge role in easing access to power.
YOUR NEW DIGS REGISTERING YOUR NEWEST PROPERTY ACQUISITION IS THE LEAST ARDUOUS IN UAE- IT’S A RELATIVELY EASY PROCESS COMPARED TO OTHER NATIONS IN THE AREA. The UAE ranked first when it comes to ease of registering property, requiring only two procedures, alongside Oman and Bahrain. Kuwait and Lebanon require eight, and Qatar requiring seven. It also only takes six days for the UAE to register property, two more than Saudi Arabia. Sudan is ranked third in that indicator, requiring only nine days. While it only costs 0.4% of property value in the UAE, and 0.3% in Qatar, Saudi Arabia is ranked top at 0, which perhaps indicates Saudi Arabia’s interest in significantly increasing its economic growth.
FIST BUMP: YOU’RE SOLID IF YOU’RE BASED IN BAHRAIN, THEN YOU’RE LUCKILY RANKED FIRST WHEN IT COMES TO EASE OF DEALING WITH INSOLVENCY. The island GCC state’s insolvency process is relatively efficient, taking 2.5 years as opposed to the UAE’s 3.5 years, Saudi Arabia’s 2.8 years, and Kuwait’s 4.2 years. With the UAE and Saudi Arabia requiring 20% and 22% of the estate in costs, Bahrain requires only 10%. Oman tops this indicator, only requiring 4%. Bahrain showed the fastest recovery rate, with 67.4 cents on the dollar. Qatar is second at 55.6, but the UAE and Arabia showed much slower rates at 29.4 and 28.3 cents respectively.
2.5 Bahrain’s insolvency process
11.3% Qatar’s tax rate
THAT’S TAXING! IN THE REGION, WHEN YOU’VE GOT TO SHELL OUT YOUR DUES, QATAR MAKES IT THE EASIEST TO GET YOU IN THE CLEAR. This ranking might be unexpected for some given the UAE’s ease on taxes for businesses, which is evident as it only takes 12 hours to pay taxes as opposed to 41 in Qatar. Like the UAE, Qatar only imposes four tax payments, but Saudi Arabia only imposes three. A key indicator that shows Qatar’s ease in paying taxes is its total corporate tax rate: Qatar imposes only an 11.3% tax rate, as opposed to the UAE’s 14.9%, and Saudi 14.5%. The UAE is pushing for greater ease, having setting up an online filing and payment system for social security contributions in 2013. What about rates? Egypt increased the corporate tax rate to 42.6%. MARCH 2014
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THE CLONES By Wassim Mourtada
magine the setting if you will: a corporate board room in the prestigious offices of the National Oil Reserves Investment Authority (“NORIA”), overlooking the azure waters of the Gulf. In this very room replays a time-honored operetta. Money managers of all stripes and from all four corners of our earth come to sell their wares: “The fundraising pitch”. They manage private equity funds, hedge funds, venture capital funds, commodity funds, stock and bond funds and options trading. At the other side of the table, the stewards of the capital, NORIA’s managers, cast their mindful and jaundiced looks on the well-appointed, tailor-suited money managers and process all that is said through their skeptical minds, in their quest to deploy this capital in a shrewd way, or at the very least, in a way that preserves their careers… Sweet nothings are always mentioned by the money managers: “Our expected IRR’s are north of 25% annually”, “We look at our investors as partners and not just a source of money”, “We manage the downside risk in a very methodical and proprietary way”, and “We look at 100 investments or trades before we do one”. The managers of NORIA respond in kind, “We are currently expanding our allocations into your asset class”, “Our investment committee review is swift and transparent, and you can expect clear communications as we go through our decision process”.
One occasion, capital changes hands, and these fund managers set off to ply their trade and make investments that range from studied prudence to (Russian) roulette. In most cases, the fund managers get put through the grind, sending further documents, case studies, references, more presentations and meetings, teleconferences, visits at their offices and the illusory “investment committee meeting” only to have NORIA demure, sometimes politely, mostly cryptically. “We like the team and the space and would very much like to make the allocation to your fund. We do, however, believe continued attrition amongst managers in this sub-sector of the asset class creates a maturation risk that is outside our strict investment parameters. We would like to certainly remain in touch and perhaps such consolidation would be complete in time of your next fund, when we would be in a position to reconsider.” So… no money for you. Contrary to popular belief, many fund managers do have it tough when they raise money, and usually it is a process that takes several years of active and dedicated work before even successful and established managers are able to close on another fund. The process that new fund managers face, as well as fund managers investing in a new space is an order of magnitude more difficult. There is likely no one particular breed of fund manager that has had a tougher winnowing process than
THE “PROVEN” BUSINESS MODELS ARE THE COPYCATS AND THE CLONES. FOR EVERY AMAZON, WE HAVE A NAMSHI. FOR EVERY GILT GROUP, WE HAVE A MARKAVIP. FOR EVERY GROUPON, WE HAVE A COBONE. AND SO ON. the venture capital fund manager investing in the Middle East. Which line manager of NORIA, in their right minds, will want to justify to his superiors such a risky and unlikely investment as this? Technology investment in the Middle East? Who do we think we are? The country whose name we cannot mention? There is no innovation in the Middle East. We have to worry about the Arab Spring. We have to worry about employment for the many. Too risky. Just too… “too”. Despite that, a few managers have cobbled together investment funds for exactly that, technology investment in the Middle East. For completing the first leg of this triathlon these managers deserve profound respect- the medals are given out at the end of the remaining two legs, investment and exits. Every entrepreneur who stands in front of them giving his pitch should realize that the VCs have it just as bad, if not worse, and they will exact their price, on the entrepreneur should he or she deviate.
How did they succeed? Along the way, the fund managers made some promises to NORIA. They needed to sound prudent. Wise. Practiced. Sober. They said, “We will only invest in proven business models.” Of course they would say that. Who does not like the sound of that? “Proven.” The heads assembled around the conference table all nod in acknowledgement of the collective wisdom. “We will invest in company managers with proven track records.” Yes. Bravo. We like the sound of that. With those sweet words, the NORIA managers signed off on the investment telling themselves “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” “Proven” “Track Records” these are our IBM. As needed as this may have been, this has a pernicious effect on what happens on the ground next. The “proven” business models are the copycats and the clones. For every Amazon, we have a Namshi. For every Gilt Group, we have a MarkaVIP. For every Groupon, we have a Cobone. And so on. To be fair and to be clear, the Namshis and MarkaVIPs of this world are successful in their own right. They provide a valuable service to the market and to the consumers, which is the only reason they encounter financial success. The entrepreneurs, teams and investors labored hard, executed well and delivered. This is neither a critique of those efforts nor of the results. Cloning is a successful industry in and of itself. One of the main cloners, Rocket Internet has generated billions of dollars in sales, investments and investor value, and are heavily active in the MENA. So successful are they, that the cloners themselves have been cloned in the form of iMena and, soon to be, others. Again, this is only a good thing. Perhaps we don’t like to think of it as pure cloning. “Localization” is the buzzword. There are sufficient obstacles, in the form of things as benign as the absence of proper street
There is likely no one particular breed of fund manager that has had a tougher winnowing process than the venture capital fund manager investing in the Middle East.
addresses for simple delivery, to the obvious such as language to the complicated such as lack of cheap and viable online payment systems that deter many international players from fully engaging in the MENA market. So it is left to the cloners. Sorry, the “localizers”. And who are the creative geniuses behind many of these localized startups? The credentialed set: Consultants, bankers, MBAs. Don’t get me wrong… Some of my best friends are consultants and bankers with MBAs. They are perhaps most suited for the problem solving requirements of “localization” as it does not require much in the way of real technology know-how, just rigorous process oriented problem solving. In this milieu there is something that works, so this is not an attempt to fix it. Ask yourself though, which were some of the biggest recent technology successes that you recognize? Google. Facebook. WhatsApp. What are the elements they have in common besides the very hefty price tags? They all had no viable, let alone “proven” business model when the real venture capital started coming in. Their founders did not have “successful track records” in their respective spaces. These were simply long bets that VCs, unconstrained by unnecessary promises, believing in their own judgment and believing in the creative energies of the people they were backing. They took a risk. Real value creation and real innovation comes from corners you least expect. We do have some genuinely innovative technology companies. Take for example Friendshippr. It is an app for “social shipping”. It provides a systematic answer for the ever-present requests: “Does anyone know someone travelling from Amman to Doha this week that can pick something up for me?” It works. It is scalable. It does not have a “proven business model”. This has the potential, executed-well, to create and capture its target space. How about QMega? They have developed novel technology to consolidate several relatively expensive components in solar panels into a low cost simple microcontrolled unit. This also represents a bonafide technical evolution, even a breakthrough that is relevant on a global scale. These are a rarity. They are not clones. They are exceptions. They exist in an
environment where their founders cannot point to something they are copying that is proven. They are perceived as risky. Perhaps foolish. Perhaps too ambitious. We do not yet have a culture and mind set to support and develop such innovation. This is a bona fide critique of the environment and mindset. For the most part, we know it. Many of us do not believe that we have the collective capability to actually get into real technology innovation. I do not have a ready wholesale solution. In the hope of provoking a debate and conversation, I am articulating publicly an element of the problem. We all wish to clone Silicon Valley and its success in technology startups. At the core of Silicon Valley is a research university and a culture that respects developing the new, and the risks, successes and failures that comes with it. That would be a good thing to clone. Perhaps we should start there.
Wassim Mourtada is the founder and Managing Director of CrystalPoint Partners, an investment firm specializing in esoteric, special situation and alternative investments. In this role he is Chairman of Envision ALR, specializing in the commercialization of technologies in Regenerative Medicine, Synthetic Biology and Nanotechnology and is Chairman of the Pakistan Energy & Resources Company. His first passion was, and remains, venture capital. He has been involved in direct VC investments in biotech, alternative energy, semiconductors and the internet. He has successfully assisted major Silicon Valley funds raise capital from sovereign wealth funds and has advised governments on three continents on VC and cluster development activity. He has chaired and spoken at a number of international conferences such as the Inaugural Research Commercialization Conference and BIO. He has published policy papers for the US Federal Reserve Bank and the Government of France and by Euromoney in the seminal “Financing Spinouts”, among others. Previously, he was Associate Director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance.
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LET’S BE PALS E
LAURENT WAKIM TALKS ONLINE RELATIONSHIPS
PayPal Cashes in on E-Commerce in the GCC By Kareem Chehayeb
-commerce is a late bloomer in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and PayPal is making its way to the forefront. PayPal’s new MENA Regional Manager, Laurent Wakim, is upbeat about e-commerce’s continuous growth in the Middle East, based on the results yielded in their regional 2013 PayPal Insights Report. “The growth is very promising,” says Wakim. “We predict that by 2015, the e-commerce market will be valued at US$15 billion, growing from $11 billion in 2013.” Wakim adds that the United Arab Emirates is notable for the greatest and most rapid growth, with both Qatar and Saudi Arabia experiencing stable growth. Wakim, who earned a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering from France’s École des Ponts ParisTech, is PayPal’s proponent in the region. He joined PayPal in 2010 as Manager in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) finance department then became Regional Manager for the MENA region as of October 2013. In our interview with Wakim, we discuss the changing trends of a small but growing e-commerce industry in the Middle East, the rise of mobile commerce, and the role that PayPal hopes to play during this decisive period.
There are various reasons that have sustained growth in the Middle East’s e-commerce industry according to Wakim, including the convenience of shopping online, and the options consumers have from regional and international “e-merchants”. What seems to really be making the most impact is what he describes as the “increased awareness of best online practice for safety.” The safety concerns associated with e-commerce, specifically giving away credit card info, is apparently one of the key reasons people shy away from online shopping. In PayPal’s 2013 Insights Report, lack of trust was a key cause of consumers resorting to a Cash on Delivery (CoD) payment method, rather than opting to use electronic payment methods using websites like PayPal. That said, Laurent Wakim finds CoD to be an unsustainable method that is inconvenient and challenging to e-merchants and what he refers to as the “e-commerce eco-system.” He points out CoD’s disadvantages that harm both consumers and businesses: “The buyer needs to always have the right amount of cash in hand, be at the right place on the day of the delivery and in many cases, pay more for cash on delivery as many merchants charge for logistics and the extra hassle that comes with CoD.” When it comes to a business-only point of view, CoD slows down cash-flow potentially taking up to “several weeks to receive their payments.” But what about the regional debate about another alternative payment strategy: Cryptocurrencies in general and Bitcoin in
“We predict that by 2015, the e-commerce market will be valued at $15 billion, growing from $11 billion in 2013.”
specific? Wakim isn’t phased, mostly due to the lack of regulation and governmentbody endorsement for the online payment method: “We’ve been saying that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have the potential to be disruptive, but they do not yet have the regulatory clarity to be accepted as a mainstream form of global payment. PayPal invented online payments so we are very aware of the challenges of bringing such disruptive models into regulatory compliance and if Bitcoin starts to achieve that kind of acceptance we will be very interested to take a look.”
“We have been working hard on building meaningful relations with banks and retails across the region to gain consumer confidence in shopping online” In addition to security risks that come along with giving away your credit card information, Wakim points out that some websites “do not accept credit cards issued from different regions,” furthering limiting the consumer. Businesses also deal with some disadvantages (like costefficacy), using this method of electronic payment, noting that “the biggest challenge will be setting up the facilities for accepting online payments which can bear extremely high costs.” PayPal has stepped up to the plate- “We have been working hard on building meaningful relations with banks and retails across the region to gain consumer confidence in shopping online and confidence in the ease, convenience and security using PayPal to process payments, and the results so far are very encouraging.” PayPal has now officially launched their services in Egypt, and established partnerships with what he describes as “influential entities” in the region, including Qatar National Bank, Shop and Ship, Aramex’s online shopping service, and the Middle East’s largest e-retailers, including JadoPado and Souq.com.
UAE & E-COMMERCE
$2.9 billion UAE’s current e-commerce market value $5.1 billion UAE’s projected e-commerce market value for 2015 $1.5 billion UAE’s expected growth of its m-commerce industry
As PayPal is region agnostic, its services and benefits are catered for retailers of all scales. When it comes to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), Wakim believes that PayPayl is the ideal solution. “While maintaining top security, we allow small merchants to accept payments on their website literally in a few minutes.” In regards to larger merchants and franchises, due to PayPal’s popularity as an electronic payment method, and the general benefits that come along with flexibility when it comes to payment options, it also seems like a viable route. The consumers haven’t been set aside either; Wakim confidently alleviates all fears of a relatively paranoid consumer-base, describing PayPal’s features that guarantee their protection, “When you use PayPal to process payments, your financial details are never shared with any merchant,” says Wakim, “All you need to do is use your PayPal
credentials, and even then, you do so on the PayPal website.” In addition to that, the Buyer Protection Program is “a measure put in place to ensure that consumers’ rights are protected. For example, if you buy a product and never receive it or if you receive the wrong product, upon exhausting all efforts to fulfill the purchase, PayPal will refund your money.” PayPal is also taking into consideration the increased smartphone usage among consumers since more and more e-retailers are developing mobile applications and mobile-friendly websites. Wakim and PayPal believe that m-commerce will play a larger role in e-commerce over the years, predicting that by 2015, “m-commerce will represent 20% of regional e-commerce purchases.” SMEs, it looks like the time is right to pal around.
Pals with PayPal Qatar National Bank
Aramex Shop and Ship, JadoPado, Souq.com
“QNB customers can now link their QNB debit/credit cards directly to PayPal and recharge their accounts, in addition to other features that will enable them to pay online safely and securely”
“PayPal is now accepted on the region’s biggest e-retailers. Tackling the logistics of international e-commerce, we’ve teamed up with Shop and Ship to facilitate shopping from retailers around the world who may not accept regionally issued credit cards.” MARCH 2014
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VIMEO ON DEMAND GIVES
POWER TO THE PEOPLE IN HD Greg Clayman talks crowdfunding, film, & finally cutting out the middleman
By Rani Nasr
he Internet has been placing power back into the hands of the people ever since the day the first IP address was born. Once you free information, you free minds and people. Industries have changed, and businesses have collapsed while others were created with the new age of free-flowing data. This time, it’s the movie industry’s turn to witness another shift in plate tectonics. After crowdsourcing funds shook
To creators of distribution-ready films, Vimeo will grant free one-year PRO accounts and access to a $500,000 Audience Development Fund to help select filmmakers market their projects. Vimeo’s curation team will review qualifying films on leading crowdfunding platforms, including Indiegogo, Kickstarter and Seed&Spark, and select projects to receive PRO accounts and an advance for marketing support. The platform will partner with these filmmakers to create campaigns on and off the website to broaden film exposure and grow audiences in exchange for an exclusive digital premiere window for distribution on Vimeo On Demand. “Vimeo is committed to empowering filmmakers with the world’s best platform for direct distribution,” said Vimeo General Manager of Audience Networks, Greg Clayman. “While crowdfunding has changed the game in getting films made, Vimeo is taking the next step supporting filmmakers to get their work seen and purchased on Vimeo and across the web.”
the realm of filmmaking, direct distribution introduced by Vimeo is now taking the power from the hands of the big players and placing it back with the artist. In an activation campaign to announce the new era, Vimeo will be giving creators who have successfully raised US$10,000 or more through crowdfunding platforms access to tools and funds to bring their projects to market on Vimeo.
Prior to joining Vimeo, Clayman was Executive Vice President of Digital Strategy and Business Development for News Corporation, leading global digital partnerships for the company. Before his stint with News Corp, Greg started MTV Networks’ mobile media group where he and his team developed hundreds of apps and ran mobile sites for MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and other household Viacom brands. Under Greg’s leadership, MTV Networks launched some of the first mobile video products in the U.S. and the first mobile sites for Viacom. In this interview, Clayman tells us more about Vimeo’s plans of dismantling the barriers between the user and the filmmaker through direct movie distribution… and how startup filmmakers are benefitting directly.
“Sites like Vimeo that average over 140 million monthly viewers present a massive opportunity to connect with audiences worldwide.”
Vimeo On Demand puts the power back in the hands of the filmmakers rather than the massive production companies. What is its differentiating edge for the viewers?
Vimeo is the platform of choice for creators who care about quality for our bestin-class HD video player and completely uncluttered adverting experience. The Vimeo On Demand’s open self-distribution platform allows creators to sell their works directly to their audiences and retain a 90% share of the revenue after transaction costs. Using Vimeo on Demand, creators are able to choose their price, viewing format (stream or download), and geographical availability while retaining full ownership of their work. In January, Vimeo added in-player transaction support, allowing creators to sell their work on their own sites or embedded across the web. >>>
“Vimeo is the platform of choice for creators who care about quality for our best-in-class HD video player and completely uncluttered adverting experience” MARCH 2014
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By establishing this program, Vimeo is not only opening new horizons for all filmmakers to reach their audience directly, but also a new channel for them to actually sell their work while keeping ownership rights. Does this raise the stakes of competition between Vimeo and traditional distribution channels?
Vimeo disrupted traditional film distribution models when it launched its On Demand platform by providing filmmakers direct access to audiences. The fact that Vimeo will be the exclusive digital premiere platform for nearly 10% of the movies that made their worldwide premiere at the Toronto [International] Film Festival (TIFF), shows us that the industry is embracing digital platforms and we expect to continue on this path. Is this initiative an experiment to take Vimeo in the long run in a new direction of movie distribution rather than the traditional Upload, View, Share platform? Is this initiative a long term directive?
Vimeo is committed to empowering creators of all levels– both through our Vimeo On Demand platform but also for any subscriber using Vimeo to upload, view and share content by providing them with a best-in-class toolset and highest quality video player. Vimeo On Demand is a long-term directive and something you’ll be hearing more about in the coming
months as we get ready to celebrate our one-year anniversary with some exciting new product updates. In regards to our recent crowdfunding announcement, this is one way we are working to empower filmmakers. We feel crowdfunding changed the game in getting films made, but we want to take the next step supporting filmmakers get their work seen and purchased on Vimeo and across the web.
SUBMIT YOUR FLICK FOR CONSIDERATION Qualifying filmmakers interested in having their work considered for the Audience Development Fund can email firstname.lastname@example.org
How do you see the future for filmmakers in specific and artists in general in the light of the new module the internet is becoming? Is the clutter and overflow a bad thing? Direct digital distribution has changed the game for filmmakers and sites like Vimeo that average over 140 million monthly viewers present a massive opportunity to connect with audiences worldwide. Filmmakers need to stay digitally savvy and use the social platforms at their disposal, like Twitter and Facebook, to build fanbases who will have a demand for their content and allow them to break apart from the clutter.
“While crowdfunding has changed the game in getting films made, Vimeo is taking the next step supporting filmmakers to get their work seen and purchased on Vimeo and across the web.”
HUNTER DOUGLAS’ GREEN MACHINE Dutch manufacturer Hunter Douglas (HD) has launched a new range of eco-friendly ceiling panels made from 90% recycled aluminum. With the UAE passing new regulations calling for greener buildings, HD is hoping to gain some ground in the new sustainable-structure market. The United Nations Environment Program’s Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative stated that buildings are responsible for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions. In response to those findings, the UAE has put effort into reducing greenhouse gas emissions through establishing the Emirates Green Building Council in 2006. With the Dubai Municipality’s Green building codes having gone into effect on January 1, 2014, the demand for eco-friendly raw material is expected to rise dramatically. Looks like HD is right on time. 88
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OFFICIAL LAUNCH PARTNER
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Attracting clients is easier than eins, zwei, drei
hen entrepreneur Rony Abou Saab decided to leave his position after nearly a decade at British American Tobacco to launch Concepts in Motion (CIM), a hospitality consultancy and management group, he knew that the conceptual development needed to incorporate a heavy design focus. The highly saturated F&B market in Beirut meant that gaining market share (and loyal clientele) needed some serious innovation. “It’s not enough to just open a bar. Due to the density of good nightlife and restaurants here, outlets must take factors like design as a large indicator of their overall success. Having a cohesive identity, with the architecture setting the tone and mood, is one of the elements that makes our projects worth talking about,” says Abou Saab. “When CIM launched our first conceptual project, it was an entire culture. It wasn’t just about creating spaces with cool décor. It was about drawing the customers into our stories, and having them tell those stories to their friends, and to their friends of friends.” Stories indeed, CIM’s first and second nightlife projects became hallmarks of the then-young company. With larger than life murals, repurposed furniture and fixtures, CIM’s outlets soon became must-sees, drawing everyone from tourists to neighborhood hipsters for a drink and a photo op.
THE OUTLET “The idea here was to capture the complete dichotomy of East Berlin’s austerity and West Berlin’s opulence before the Wall came down. I’d been completely immersed in the history and I’d visited Berlin, so I wanted to bring that to our newest outlet.” Abou Saab, working in collaboration with Creative Lab architects, developed the concept of dividing the bar space into Berlin’s East and West halves with the center a reproduction of the historic “Checkpoint C” nicknamed Charlie- hence the name of the outlet.
THE REWARD “Creative Lab won an international award for Best Restaurant Design category for Checkpoint Charlie!” The International Interior Design Association (IIDA), in partnership with BMW Group Designworks USA, awarded CIM at its 4th Annual Global Excellence Awards late January in Paris, France. The IIDA ceremony encompasses 10 categories across the Interior Design/Architecture realm, including one for hotels and one for corporate spaces.
THE RELATIONSHIP “CIM and Creative Lab have collaborated on four outlets to date, all with very different concepts and cultures,” explains Abou Saab. “We aren’t just recycling a working formula, we’re developing a totally fresh model every time while keeping crowd circulation, efficiency, and of course aesthetics at the top of the list,” he adds. Creative Lab’s design schema for February 30, another of CIM’s highly successful resto-lounges, was featured in a number of architectural publications.
THE FUTURE “We’re working on a new project with Creative Lab now. It’s another F&B outlet, and more adventurous even than Checkpoint Charlie. Again with this project, the design is integral to attracting and keeping customers. We’re upping the ante; we’re stretching the boundaries. Our target launch date is at the end of March- expect to see materials that have never been used before. We’re breaking the rules of the bar market, and it works for us.”
Published on Mar 7, 2014
The March 2014 edition of Entrepreneur ME featuring Baku billionaire Ibrahim Ibrahimov, Dubai-based entrepreneurs Evgeny Kuzin and Maxim Vla...