Entrepreneur Middle East February 2024 | 10 On 10: A Decade In Review

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“THIS WAR CANNOT BE THE END OF MY STORY”/ A missive from Gaza P.40

A LEGACY OF DISRUPTION/ Build Collective’s Tony Fadell P.47

HEALTHCARE, REDEFINED/ Meet UAEbased healthtech startup meta[bolic] P.91

February 2024

10 Great

Ideas A celebration of 10 innovations and individuals from across the MENA that impress with their ingenuity P.68

10 10 ON



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is the founder of the podcast, Conversations with Loulou, as well as of the investment syndicate, SPADE VENTURES.


10 On 10: A Decade In Review

Celebrating 10 years of Entrepreneur Middle East by revisiting the stories we built a decade ago.


10 Great Ideas A celebration of 10 innovations and individuals from across the MENA that impress with their ingenuity.

February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 3


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February 2024

→ Tony Fadell is the principal of Build Collective, a company that focuses on impactful investment.P.47

EDITOR IN CHIEF Aby Sam Thomas aby@bncpublishing.net CEO Wissam Younane wissam@bncpublishing.net DIRECTOR Rabih Najm rabih@bncpublishing.net ART DIRECTOR Simona El Khoury MANAGING EDITOR Tamara Pupic tamara@bncpublishing.net FEATURES WRITER Aalia Mehreen Ahmed aalia@bncpublishing.net DIGITAL SOLUTIONS DIRECTOR

Mahdi Hashemi mahdi@bncpublishing.net HEAD OF INNOVATION

Sarah Saddouk sarah@bncpublishing.net GROUP SALES DIRECTOR – B2B GROUP Joaquim D’Costa jo@bncpublishing.net COLUMNIST Tamara Clarke

40 “This War Cannot Be The End Of My Story.” MAHMOUD ALWADIA, an aspiring



Mahmoud Alwadia, Dominic Ashley-Timms, Fida Chaaban, Devina Divecha, Ahmad Numan.

entrepreneur in Gaza, tells his tale.

61 “Help! I’m Burnt Out!”

BUSINESS UNUSUAL 47 A Legacy Of Disruption

Talking all things entrepreneurship with TONY FADELL, the mind behind multiple generations of the iPod and iPhone, who now focuses on startups that will change the world at Build Collective.

56 Entrepreneur Escapes: Radisson Red Tbilisi

Business meets pleasure in the heart of a historic city.

DOMINIC ASHLEY-TIMMS gives you the lowdown on how you can protect your time (and well-being) as a leader.

64 Price Wars

AHMAD NUMAN , Director of Marketing

and Corporate Communications at Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone, offers a marketer’s guide to successfully navigating what is often a race to the bottom.



Contact subscriptions@bncpublishing.net to receive Entrepreneur Middle East every issue

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Access fresh content daily on our website



91 Healthcare, Redefined

IN THE LOOP 110 Focused On The Future

A look at Dubai Holding’s global sustainability challenge, Innovate for Tomorrow.

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With their UAE-born healthtech startup meta[bolic], co-founders ALI HASHEMI and IHSAN ALMARZOOQI are aiming to be pioneers in the hybrid healthcare space.

96 “We Got Funded!”

The stories behind the recent fundraising successes seen by MENAborn startups Soum, Clinicy, and Silkhaus.

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All Rights Reserved 2024. Opinions expressed are solely those of the contributors. Entrepreneur Middle East and all subsidiary publications in the MENA region are officially licensed exclusively to BNC Publishing in the MENA region by Entrepreneur Media Inc. No part of this magazine may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the publisher. Images used in Entrepreneur Middle East are credited when necessary. Attributed use of copyrighted images with permission. All images not credited otherwise Shutterstock. Printed by United Printing and Publishing.

Editor’s Note/


When you’re learning on the fly


ntrepreneur Middle East is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month! As a journalist who has now reported on entrepreneurship in the MENA for a decade, here’s a list of 10 things that I have learned about this domain and the people in it- I hope that this will serve as a sort of primer for those of you thinking of becoming entrepreneurs in the years to come! 1/ It’s never a bad time to be an entrepreneur. Regardless of whether the ecosystem is flush with cash, or in the middle of a downturn, there is always something to be gained from embarking on an entrepreneurial journey- even if it is a lesson on what not to do as a founder. 2/When you’re an entrepreneur, it’s never really only about you. Be it your teams who are burning the

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midnight oil, or your families who are helping you shoulder the burden of being a founder, never dismiss those who stick around you amid your entrepreneurial journey- make it a point to appreciate them for whatever it is that they do for you. 3/As an entrepreneur, you decide the parameters of your success. Not every company can be a unicornbut every company can be successful all the same. 4/Always be humble (and stay that way). No, an inflated ego is not going to work out for you in the long run. 5/ Hold on to your ideals. I’ve yet to see an entrepreneur who has not benefited from having strong value systems to govern both themselves and their business. 6/ Listen -really listen- to criticism. Don’t operate under the fallacy that all critics are there to “simply bring you down.” 7/Truth will out. Think that you can get away with anything since you’re the one running the outfit? Rest assured that people will talk- and you will eventually face the music, one way or the other. 8/ Know when to start... Yes, you must do everything you possibly can to prepare yourself before embarking on an entrepreneurial endeavor, but once you’ve done all of that (and yes, you know when you have reached this point), you simply just need to begin. 9/ …And know when to end. Sometimes, it’s because of the success you’ve realized, and sometimes, it’s because of the failure you’ve encountered- either way, don’t hold on to an undertaking when you know you’re done with it. Move on. 10/The journey really is the reward. There is value in the time it takes to see results emerge from an entrepreneurial undertaking. Here’s to 10 years of Entrepreneur Middle East!

Aby Sam Thomas Editor in Chief @thisisaby aby@bncpublishing.net

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“ In 10 years, I want to be able to say that the responsibility of my businesses is to leave things better than when I started, and keep finding new ways to do so.”

→ Launched in 2017 and headquartered in the UAE, Arada is the region’s fastest growing

and most progressive developer, which came into being as a partnership between HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed and H.H. Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi.




ow, almost everything has changed since then!” That’s how HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud responds when we tell the Saudi royal that 10 years have passed since he was featured for the first time in Entrepreneur Middle East as its December 2014 cover in his role as the founder of the Dubai-headquartered KBW Investments. At the time, KBW Investments had just come into its own having acquired Italian crane manufacturer Raimondi, with Al Saud then becoming the latter’s Chairman. “Raimondi Cranes is still going strong,” Prince Khaled says. “It has expanded in terms of the amount of our machines at work

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globally, the geographies we are present in, and the new senior leadership team, which is bringing along an invigorated corporate approach.” Prince Khaled’s work has continued to grow and diversify, with one of his most successful ventures being Arada, billed as “the region’s fastest growing and most progressive developer,” which came into being in 2017 as a partnership between him and H.H. Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, who is today the Deputy Ruler of the Emirate of Sharjah. “Arada is now what I would call the real growth story of the UAE real estate market of the last few years, both in terms of numbers and our approach,” he says. “We’ve launched projects valued at AED52 billion in both Sharjah and Dubai, and we have already delivered 9,000 homes. For what is still a



“ Never let

anyone limit your aspirations. It’s what I live by. It’s how I see our businesses too.”

→ As a figure of

business, technology enthusiast, and investor, HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud is a firm proponent of clean energy, healthy living, the humane treatment of animals, and a motivated voice for Middle East entrepreneurs.

February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 17

new developer, those numbers are impressive, but what I’m really excited about is our long-term approach, which is to focus on people, and provide them with the best possible facilities and services. Right now, about a third of all the homes we sell are to people who have previously bought a property with us; so, it’s great to see that this approach is really paying off for us.”


rince Khaled has also leaned into his “Tech Prince” persona that we had made a note of in our 2014 piece- indeed, he is perhaps best known today for being the founder and CEO KBW Ventures, an investment firm whose portfolio includes cutting-edge tech startups from around the world like Mexican fintech Kueski, San Diego-based BlueNalu,

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Dubai-based Vuz, and many more. “KBW Ventures went from an idea to an active investment firm,” he says. “During that interview 10 years ago, my venture investments were angel tickets, as I didn’t have a formal vehicle for that. Now, KBW Ventures has invested in a lot of different sectors; food technology figures prominently, alongside other types of technologies, some B2B, and some B2C. We have a number of mission-driven companies in our portfolio, and we’re always looking to build on our existing work. Going forward, we’re taking what I term ‘a broader approach’ with our newest capital commitments.” This, therefore, seems to be the ethos that’s governing Prince Khaled’s personal vision for the future. “I’m excited to see many of the businesses

→ Arada’s flagship master development, Aljada, is a 24 million sq. ft. integrated lifestyle destination, and a new leisure and

entertainment hub for Sharjah.

“ I’m excited to see many of the business that we are involved in transform the status quo.” that we are involved in transform the status quo,” he says. “Arada is centered around providing the best in experiential communities, and bettering the living standard currently available to people. We have done this by elevating the Sharjah living experience through Arada’s developments.” Prince Khaled also points to KBW Ventures’ investments in the foodtech arena as being especially exciting in the long run. “Cultivated meats and seafood is another area where I think our work contributes to elevating the status quo,” he says. “You have the option to eat meat now, but when the negative climate consequences are alleviated, it’s so much better for all involved.” As he thus trains his eyes on realizing what is essentially a better version of the world, he is clear about what he wishes to be his legacy. “From businesses to end users, there are so many ways I think we are participating in leveling up,” he says. “In 10 years from now, I want to be able to say that the responsibility of my businesses is to leave things better than when I started, and keep finding new ways to do so.” kbw-ventures.com

HINDSIGHT IS 20/20 THEN-VERSUS-NOW WITH HRH PRINCE KHALED BIN ALWALEED BIN TALAL AL SAUD Looking back at the stage of your entrepreneurial/career/ business trajectory you were in 10 years ago, is there anything you’d do differently knowing what you know now? Alternatively, what’s the biggest lesson you wish you’d known 10 years ago?

} “I would prioritize doing more of my own research rather than relying on the recommendations of others. This is one reason why I have KBW Ventures, and I am its CEO; I am hands-on with the decks, the calls, the pitch assessments. I decide what we’re backing, and I do this after multiple layers of assessment. Early on, maybe 10 years ago, I was much more impulsive and less analytical. }Rewinding 10 years, I would invest more time in training up weak spots in my knowledge base. I would tell younger me to spend more time learning more about things that I don’t know well that I would come across in business some way or another, whether it’s a type of technology, or a nascent industry. Now, I don’t have to actually be interested in it to really deep dive into the research around it; these days, I just want to know it for the sake of the knowledge itself. It’s

proven to be really valuable at this stage in my career. A decade ago (and this also goes back to impulsiveness, and not seeing the bigger picture), I would’ve focused more on long term gains, not just quick wins. This really took me time to internalize, and the benefits are massive and tangible, but you have to stick it out, plan and wait for things to mature and show their value. I have three lessons that everyone can use. Lesson one: I would definitely have listened more in general. Listening is so important; listen more than you talk. Wait, internalize, and then move on it. Lesson two: I would have researched more and thought more, before making spur-of-the-moment decisions. This goes back to bigger picture planning and strategic long-term gains. Lesson three: The most important, is to learn from people’s experiences. I always go back to a key example- my father would always say, ‘I’m disciplined. I have discipline.’ And it was kind of one of those things, where you know, it was like, ‘Okay, sure,’ but, now, I know that discipline is everything. In business, in life, in fitness, and even in the pursuit of happiness, and a good life. I wish I would’ve internalized his experiences, and other people’s so much sooner.”

↓ Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran, Global Energy and Climate Innovation Editor of The Economist, and HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, founder and CEO of KBW Ventures, at Abu Dhabi Finance Week 2023

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→ CAREEM’S co-founder and CEO Mudassir Sheikha says the company’s original values will continue to guide its new Super App ambitions





areem is easily one of the MENA’s most talked about entrepreneurial success stories today, and given its aim to be known as “the preeminent technology platform of our region” (as co-founder and CEO Mudassir Sheikha told Entrepreneur Middle East last year), it seems safe to say that this UAE-born enterprise -which is now “building ‘the everything app’ for the greater Middle East”- is set to continue to be an integral component of the business ecosystem here for a long while to come. Careem has thus clearly come a long way from the fledgling ride-hailing business it was when we first featured the enterprise in 2014 in Entrepreneur Middle East, which was just two years

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“Thank you, Entrepreneur Middle East, for drawing attention to the region’s entrepreneurial stories. Sharing these stories gives people a chance to learn from others, and gain a deeper appreciation for entrepreneurship in our region. They serve as a testament to the human spirit, showcasing the relentless determination and creativity that drives founders. There are so many exciting regional ventures that I’ve been following for years, and I’m so excited to see more progress and innovation come from our region.”

after Sheikha and Magnus Olsson had founded the company in Dubai. “We’ve seen more growth and impact since we launched in 2012 than we could have ever imagined,” Sheikha tells us now. “We’ve simplified the lives of more than 50 million people, created nearly three million earning opportunities, and expanded from a mobility platform into an everything app offering more than a dozen digital services, and a platform for other startups to scale. We’ve helped push the limits of what was thought possible for the region, encouraging others to dream big too. We achieved this by staying true to our purpose, persevering through the obstacles, and hiring phenomenal colleagues that acted as true owners.”


t’s principles like these that led Careem’s ridesharing business to be bought by San Francisco-headquartered Uber in 2019, which signaled the start of Careem’s “Chapter 2.” The company’s “Chapter 3” began in December 2023, when UAE-based tech and investment conglomerate e& completed its acquisition of a majority stake in Careem’s non-ridesharing business, Careem Technologies, which essentially governs the everything app that it is building. “With two strong partners in e& and Uber, we are now able to simplify the lives of a lot more people in a lot more ways than just mobility,” Sheikha says. “e& is on a journey of transformation from being one of the region’s biggest telcos into a global technology investment group, and it shares our vision of uplifting the region through the services it delivers, as well as the capabilities it helps build. Beyond funding and commercial support, it brings enormous value to Careem

through its large customer base, geographic footprint, and portfolio of companies and network.” The road ahead thus looks set to be an exciting one for Careem, and for his part, Sheikha has no qualms about sharing his excitement for the future that beckons. “The opportunity for an everything app in the wider Middle East is huge,” he shares. “There are so many daily frictions across the region that can be solved with digital services, and there are no dominant players in our region offering the convenience and value that an everything app like Careem can offer.” careem.com

HINDSIGHT IS 20/20 THEN-VERSUS-NOW WITH MUDASSIR SHEIKHA Looking back at the stage of your entrepreneurial/ career/business trajectory you were in 10 years ago, is there anything you’d do differently knowing what you know now? Alternatively, what’s the biggest lesson you wish you’d known 10 years ago?

} “It’s easy to look back in hindsight, and see where you could have done things better. We made many mistakes along the way, but we survived, because we reacted quickly, and learned and iterated each time. Perhaps the biggest lesson that I wish we’d known back then was the importance of hiring trustworthy and dependable leaders, and then truly letting them run. I had a habit of staying involved with multiple topics, and as you scale in size and complexity, there’s just no choice but to delegate and trust in your team!”

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→ Elie Habib is the co-founder and CTO of Anghami, one of the leading music streaming platforms in the MENA, which gives more than 70 million users in MENA, Europe, and USA access to over 57 million Arabic and international songs to stream and download, in addition to around 200,000 Arabic and international podcasts.

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“10 years ago, I was often reading stories from distant lands that seemed unrelatable to my own region. The tales I came across in all these foreign publications were filled with people and situations that didn’t resonate with me, as they focused on implausible success stories like winning the lottery. I struggled to identify with these narratives, as the economic differences, disparities of funding availability, as well as research and development hubs were worlds apart. However, what set Entrepreneur Middle East apart was its focus on local and regional entrepreneurs. By highlighting reallife individuals from our area, this publication managed to humanize their achievements. These founders, who possessed world-class ambition, drive, and determination, finally felt relatable and inspiring. Their stories, grounded in reality rather than fantasy, struck a chord, and has offered valuable lessons for aspiring business owners in our community.”


f one were to track all of the accomplishments that Lebanon-born Anghami has realized since it was founded as a startup in 2012, it’s safe to say that it would result in a list that’d leave just about anyone enthralled. Today, as one of the region’s leading music streaming platforms, the company’s future is looking incredibly bright, but it is Anghami’s steadfastness as a business that should make it a role model for entrepreneurial endeavors in the region and beyond. “Anghami started as an application with the aim of meeting a market need by providing music content for users,” recalls Elie Habib, co-founder and CTO of Anghami. “However, over the past decade, Anghami has evolved into a platform and entertainment ecosystem in the MENA region. The focus has shifted from just its product to building a sustainable business, resulting in the company’s successful listing on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, positioning it as the first Arab tech company to achieve this milestone.”



nghami is today not just the music service that it was when Entrepreneur Middle East first featured it in February 2014; it has expanded its offerings to include podcasts, audiobooks, and live radio. While it boasts of an extensive library already, Anghami has also launched Anghami Studios, which aims to link artists with brands, and create content for Anghami and third parties. This new entity is also behind Anghami Spotlight, which stages live live events and concerts for artists, and it has launched its first hospitality arm, Anghami Lab, located at Riyadh Boulevard in Saudi Arabia, which, while being one of the first venues in the country to have live performances, also aims to discover local artists and talents. Meanwhile, Anghami is also set to combine its business with fellow homegrown brand

OSN+ -the region’s leading streaming platform for premium content- in a merger that was famously declared to be set to “reshape the MENA entertainment landscape.”


abib, who has been earmarked to lead this new venture -which will be the MENA region’s first integrated music and video streaming platform- as CEO, is thus, quite unsurprisingly, excited about how Anghami will evolve as it moves into the future. “The upcoming OSN+ merger will allow Anghami to cater to a larger user base, and offer series, movies, and other forms of content, making it a comprehensive media company that can engage users throughout the day,” he notes. “Over its 10-year journey, Anghami has evolved personally and professionally, with an open mind, low ego, disdain for perfection, and a focus on key business key performance indicators being the key elements that helped us achieve success. Understanding the need to change our strategy while maintaining our vision was not as evident at the beginning of Anghami’s journey as it is today.” From a personal perspective, Habib is looking forward to his evolution as an entrepreneur- or, as he likes to call himself, a “builder.” “My journey as a builder began long before I even knew the term ‘entrepreneur,’” Habib says. “Fueled by determination and creativity, I commenced constructing my first one-man business prior to attending university. I remain committed to this path, embracing the title of a builder, and eagerly anticipating what the next 10 years may hold. I aspire to perpetually stay teachable and evolve, ensuring that each day is filled with excitement for the projects I’m building. I also hope I can inspire my children to learn from my failures, so that they can do better in their own careers.” With wishes and dreams like these set to underline all of his

efforts for Anghami’s next chapter, Habib seems eager to simply just get going with it all. “Today, I am extremely excited about the future, because of the OSN+ merger that opens up opportunities I was yearning for,” he says. “In fact, my goal today is to create a media company that is unique in the region. Personally, I am trying to constantly learn more, I don’t think I ever learned as much. As Charlie Munger said, ‘I think a life properly lived is just to learn, learn, learn all the time.’” anghami.com

HINDSIGHT IS 20/20 THEN-VERSUS-NOW WITH ELIE HABIB Looking back at the stage of your entrepreneurial/ career/business trajectory you were in 10 years ago, is there anything you’d do differently knowing what you know now? Alternatively, what’s the biggest lesson you wish you’d known 10 years ago?

} “Retrospectively, I recognize that some decisions in my past could have been approached differently. In the realm of building a successful media company, I now understand the importance of assigning equal weight to finance, technology, content, and distribution. Had I known then what I know now, I would have emphasized this balance from the beginning. And if I were to send myself a message, I'd urge myself to keep driving innovation- within self-imposed constraints. The term "constraints" is crucial here- they often breed resourcefulness, and they are underappreciated in many startups. Instead, an abundance of resources can sometimes hinder creativity and growth. By embracing limitations early on, we set ourselves up for long-term success and adaptability in today's dynamic entrepreneurial landscape.”

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→ As the founder and CEO of DIGITAL & SAVVY, MAHA ABOUELENEIN is an entrepreneur and strategic communications

advisor with more than 30 years of experience working with global corporate giants, high-growth tech startups, top governments, and high-net-worth individuals.





quit Google to become an entrepreneur!” It was this proud declaration that headlined Maha Abouelenein’s first appearance in Entrepreneur Middle East in its September 2014 issue, and it really is a great indication of the incredible savvy this woman possesses on all things media, communications, and public relations (PR). It’s an expertise that Abouelenein has garnered over a fruitful career spent in both corporate and entrepreneurial realms, and, today, as the founder and CEO of a strategic communications firm called Digital and Savvy, her record speaks for itself. After all, the past 10 years have seen Abouelenein work with clients from around the world that include high-profile individuals like Gary Vaynerchuk, Deepak Chopra, Karen Wazen, and others, as well as enterprising companies like Careem, Utopia, Bedu, and many more.

As a business, we’re constantly changing with the market, and staying ahead of what’s next,” Abouelenein

says. “We focus on consumer attention, and how it is continually evolving. For example, the internet has changed significantly over the last 10 years, impacting consumer choices, and businesses’ growth. We were not necessarily thinking about artificial intelligence and the metaverse 10 years ago, but we are today. What’s important is that we are keeping our fingers on the

pulse of emerging technologies, because it impacts business decisions and consumer behavior. You must constantly be aware, learn new things, relearn, and evolve to stay relevant.” Now, Abouelenein clearly knows a thing or two about staying relevant- and so, her insights in this regard are definitely worth noting. “Having smart communication strategies is more important than ever for

HINDSIGHT IS 20/20 THEN-VERSUS-NOW WITH MAHA ABOUELENEIN Looking back at the stage of your entrepreneurial/career/ business trajectory you were in 10 years ago, is there anything you’d do differently knowing what you know now? Alternatively, what’s the biggest lesson you wish you’d known 10 years ago?

}“10 years ago, it was all about the hustle and burning the midnight oil. Today, that behavior is a fast track to the death of your teams, your mental health, and your business. We value different things now- we value grit and ambition, but we also value being balanced, welldisciplined, well-slept, and happiness as the barometers of success. Our relationship with failure and fear has changed dramatically in the past 10 years. We would never call out our failures or shortcomings; failing was bad. Today, failure is how we learn, and we value the lessons it teaches us, and we speak about them openly, and share them publicly with others. We are no longer afraid to make mistakes, or change our minds or decisions, and pivot when something is not working. I love being an entrepreneur today- we can share our struggles with hiring talent or demanding clients without fear, and it's not judged negatively.”

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“ Entrepreneur Middle East has been the thought leader in the region, consistently highlighting and promoting the entrepreneurial ecosystem. It is a leading voice and trusted authority for entrepreneurs. I really enjoy the stories and entrepreneurs highlighted over the last decade. I think it brings value to the people in the region and outside of the region- which truly shows how powerful and innovative the region is! We produce unicorns, and drive ideas that matter. I love how Entrepreneur Middle East paves the way for many to build a formidable career path as entrepreneurs. One thing I really appreciate is that Entrepreneur has provided a platform for female entrepreneurs in the region. It’s so important to highlight the stories and achievements of women in entrepreneurship, as it not only motivates and inspires the next generation, but also makes sure we have diversity in the entrepreneurial landscape. Also, the practical tips and advice shared through the articles have been a great source for my personal entrepreneurial journey as well as the whole ecosystem in the MENA region.”

every business, brand, executive, entrepreneur, and even for students,” she says. “10 years ago, you needed an attention-grabbing PR campaign and good key messaging you shared through third parties. Now, you need an arsenal of savvy communications weapons in your toolbox that you deploy directly to consumers to control the narrative with an integrated storytelling approach. And if you don’t, your reputation can be in trouble.”


ith this being the state of the landscape right now, Abouelenein is looking forward to seeing her business grow and evolve in this current milieu. “In terms of my goals for the business in the next 10 years, I envision us shifting our focus to business development and consulting with brands, serving as a gateway for

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companies who want to invest in the region,” she says. “We understand the market, we have deep relationships, and we are poised to help them with brand positioning and strategy at scale. In addition, over the next 10 years, I’d love to build a platform and wide-scale institute in the Arab world for strategic communications, with the mission to train and educate people on how to be effective communicators.” Abouelenein and her team are thus all set to put the hard yards in for these new goals for Digital and Savvy, but it’s also worth noting that she is getting close to realizing a personal ambition for herself in the near future. “I am proud to soon become a first-time author!” she reveals. “My first book is coming out in October, and I want to bring so much value to my readers while inspiring them. This book highlights how to master the seven rules of self-reliance, and shares examples from my own life as an AmericanEgyptian entrepreneur working in the US and MENA markets. This book also gives you a playbook for becoming the ultimate networker, value creator, and powerful storyteller. I am very excited to be able to scale what I have learned in my 30-year career with other people, beyond my direct clients.”


ow, as Abouelenein gets set to add “author” to her “founder and CEO” title, it also marks a shift in how she chooses to brand herself today, from how she did 10 years ago. “In 2014, my title was Managing Director,” Abouelenein says. “Looking back, I was playing small– it was a clear title that demonstrated I was in charge, but I didn’t embrace the title of CEO. Today, I use CEO, because, in 2024, women are CEOs, and I should own the title! I wish I had known then that being your authentic self is important, and that nobody else will value you if you don’t value yourself.” digitalandsavvy.com

→ BADR JAFAR is a businessman and social entrepreneur from the United Arab Emirates. He is the CEO of Crescent Enterprises, a diversified business operating across various industry sectors in 15 countries.





or someone we declared to be “one of the region’s thought leaders” when we first featured him in Entrepreneur Middle East in July 2014, Crescent Enterprises CEO Badr Jafar has only gone on to steadfastly built on that persona in the years since, and as such, the amount of impact he continues to have on the Arab world -and beyond- seems almost unparalleled. At the same time, the UAE-headquartered multinational that he leads has grown as well- and it continues to be one of the region’s most respected institutions. “Today, Crescent Enterprises comprises a diversified group of over 50 subsidiaries and operations across 15 countries, employing 1,800 dedicated women and men,” Jafar shares, while adding that its corporate structure now comprises of four platforms: CE-Operates, CE-Invests, CE-Ventures, and CE-Creates. “CE-Operates, our operating business platform, focuses on smart infrastructure for economic development and growth, and houses operating companies like Gulftainer, our ports and logistics business which operates across the world including through strategic ports in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the USA,” Jafar explains. “CE-Invests, our strategic investment platform, backs late-stage businesses across the MENA region, including the healthcare-focused fund TVM Capital and private equity firm Growthgate Capital, spanning sectors including green building materials, environmental services, and advanced biometrics. CE-Ventures, our corporate venture capital platform, has deployed over US$500 million in early-stage high-growth businesses February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 27




↑ In 2023, BADR JAFAR was appointed the COP28 Special Representative for Business and Philanthropy, and he was also the Chair of the inaugural COP28 BUSINESS and PHILANTHROPY CLIMATE FORUM.

and venture capital funds in the MENA region, India, Southeast Asia, and the US. We have witnessed the evolution of the venture capital ecosystem in our region, and we were proud to have led seed funding rounds for a number of companies that reached unicorn status, including Kitopi, which became the fastest growing unicorn in the MENA region. At the same time, CE-Creates, our internal business incubator platform, is building startups that are socially and environmentally conscious. We have successfully launched multiple businesses in the region including Kava & Chai, a homegrown coffeehouse chain, and a sustainable mobility platform, ION, in partnership with our fellow UAE-based company, BEEAH Group.”


hen it comes to features that characterizes Crescent Enterprises today, Jafar points first to portfolio diversification, and then to sustainability, in which his company and him personally have been playing extremely significant roles in the business ecosystem at large. “Our corporate culture of social and environmental

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stewardship has been further enhanced by the UAE’s many initiatives in this space, including most recently through its staging of the 2023 Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28),” Jafar notes. “As the appointed COP28 Special Representative for Business and Philanthropy, I was honored to chair the inaugural COP28 Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum, which convened over 1,300 business and philanthropy leaders, providing a dedicated platform for exchanging ideas, fostering collaboration, and generating action in support of the world’s climate and nature goals. As a strategic partner of the Forum, Crescent Enterprises continues to work to multiply the impact of the initiatives unveiled during the event and its outcomes.” Looking to the future, Jafar is also excited about the role that technology is set to play in advancing new solutions across all the sectors his business operates in. “For example, CE-Ventures has launched a strategy to invest in life sciences startups, and it has partnered with universities in the US and elsewhere that are working

“It is truly remarkable how our region’s entrepreneurial landscape has evolved in the past decade. 10 years ago, the venture space was nascent. Today, unicorns are being built, billion-dollar exits are being achieved, and most importantly lasting societal impact is being created. We are now seeing entrepreneurs working on their second and third ventures, and teams of tech companies becoming the founders of tomorrow. The whole ecosystem is thriving, thanks to multiple stakeholders who have contributed to this success, from angels, incubators, and accelerators, to venture capital firms and family offices, and a supporting regulatory framework in the UAE and elsewhere. As a Founding Partner of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa), we are proud to have witnessed the growth of a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem from the Emirate that serves the MENA region, supporting 157 amazing startups to-date. You can’t build an ecosystem without regularly updating its participants on the latest news and trends and showcasing success stories to inspire others. All of this must be localized, fit-for-purpose, and highlight the challenges and opportunities this journey represents. For this, I congratulate the entire Entrepreneur Middle East team on a very successful 10 years, and on the role that you have played in helping to shape the entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem in the MENA region. Furthermore, almost half a billion Arabic speakers worldwide, and only just 3% of all online content produced in Arabic, I commend Entrepreneur Middle East’s efforts in bridging the Arabic content gap for the region with Entrepreneur Al Arabiya, which represents a need and opportunity for inclusive participation in the digital economy.”

“ I strongly believe that if we stay the course, this country [the UAE] and the Gulf region overall can be at the epicenter of a new wave of global innovation.” ↑ BADR JAFAR is passionate about strategic philanthropy and is working towards nurturing philanthropic capital that will help scale solutions to global challenges.


on cutting-edge research in this field,” he reveals. “A recent focus area is the human microbiome, and the transformative potential microbiome therapeutics holds across a wide spectrum of disease states. Another focus area is deep tech, which looks to transform global industries by substantially improving related costs, execution speed, and overall capabilities of such industries through novel solutions that disrupt the status quo.” Meanwhile, CE-Invests is looking to expand its operations and investments in India and Southeast Asia region, including in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam- according to Jafar, these countries have the highest long-term investment potential as of now.


rom a personal perspective, Jafar is also looking to build on his already strong presence in the field of philanthropy, and he’s putting building blocks in place to set the domain up for success in the years to come as well. “I am passionate about the future of strategic philanthropy, and its opportunity to create the structures and platforms needed to nurture a new generation of philanthropist and philanthropic capital, which can

partner with government and business capital to rapidly scale solutions to our most urgent global challenges,” Jafar says. “The results-driven and transparent principles of strategic philanthropy, bolstered by emerging digital tools, is enabling the gathering, processing, and understanding of philanthropic data more efficiently than ever before. This is why I have established the Strategic Philanthropy Initiative at the New York University Abu Dhabi in the UAE, and I aim to soon launch similar centers in South Africa and Singapore.” Here, Jafar points out that rapid economic growth and intergenerational wealth transfer across global growth markets of $30 trillion in the coming two decades is set to to drive an increase in private wealth as well as a corresponding rise in philanthropic giving- and that only highlights the timeliness of the Strategic Philanthropy Initiative that he has launched. Now, add that to the power moves his business is making in the world at large, and all of this makes it clear that Jafar is set to remain an important figure for us to follow at Entrepreneur Middle East- and we look forward to continue sharing all of his exploits in the years to come. crescententerprises.com

HINDSIGHT IS 20/20 THEN-VERSUS-NOW WITH BADR JAFAR Looking back at the stage of your entrepreneurial/career/business trajectory you were in 10 years ago, is there anything you’d do differently knowing what you know now? Alternatively, what’s the biggest lesson you wish you’d known 10 years ago?

}“As Socrates said, ‘I know one thing: that I know nothing.’ The more you grow as a person, the more this philosophy resonates. Everyone will need to embrace their own journeys of learning and inspiration, but the most important thing we can all do is accept that we can only truly grow by learning from each other. }The UAE has created an immensely powerful and varied platform for diverse voices to come together, across geographies and sectors, and be greater than the sum of its parts. This model for rapid innovation is what fueled the so-called ‘Golden Age’ in our region over 1,000 years ago, which inspired centuries of new discovery and human advancement. I strongly believe that if we stay the course, this country and the Gulf region overall can be at the epicenter of a new wave of global innovation. A wave that is grounded in scientific and artistic discovery, and underpinned by social and environmental pillars of sustainable development. Our region’s social entrepreneurs will lead this wave. It is upon us to do whatever we can to support them, and nurture their dreams.”

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decade is a long time,” says Loulou Khazen Baz, as she reflects on her career trajectory from when she was featured in Entrepreneur Middle East for the first time in its June 2014 issue, to her most recent appearance in its July 2023 edition. Back then, she was the founder of the Arab world’s first online employment marketplace, Nabbesh (which she exited in 2020); today, she remains an essential part of the region’s startup ecosystem, be it in her role as the founder of the investment syndicate called Spade Ventures, or as the creator of the popular podcast titled Conversations with Loulou, or even as an advisor to just about anyone seeking to be a part of this particular arena of business. And if all of what she does today hasn’t made it clear already, Khazen Baz remains as enthralled and excited by entrepreneurship as she ever was. “One thing that hasn’t changed is my passion towards entrepreneurship, and my access to amazing people building great companies,” she says. “I will continue to use that access to connect opportunities with people who are aspiring to be part of the startup



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BAZ is the founder of the podcast, Conversations with Loulou, as well as of the investment syndicate, Spade Ventures.

ecosystem, not necessarily as founders, but as supporters, enablers, investors. I can safely say that learning is a key driver for me, and there is no better place to learn than from working with or alongside entrepreneurs.” Of course, Khazen Baz has learnt a lot from her own undertakings too. “I’ve been through many ups and downs,” she admits. “I learned a lot from building a startup whose time hasn’t come, but I get a lot of satisfaction from knowing that until today, I still meet people who have used Nabbesh.com, and either hired someone or found a job through it. I’ve also learned to deal with the dilemma of ‘moving on,’ and going through the process of exiting my business. I’ve learned to make hard decisions, and then learned to live with those decisions- the latter took a while though! I’ve also learned to enjoy the thrills of starting again, be it when building Conversations with Loulou, which continues to grow across the region, and reach the top 10 in the business and entrepreneurship segments, or when building Spade Ventures, which has made investments in stellar startups! I’ve

“ I can safely say that learning is a key driver for me, and there is no better place to learn than from working with or alongside entrepreneurs.”

“Entrepreneur Middle East, is essential to shed light on the great work that entrepreneurs are doing across this region! We need more and more people interested in creating and/or supporting regional entrepreneurs. We need a cultural shift when it comes to accepting and encouraging entrepreneurship as a career path, especially for women and minorities. Entrepreneur Middle East must live on to keep carrying that mantle!” learned to find the discipline to keep building, the strength to do things alone, and from scratch. And I’ve also learned that success isn’t necessarily measured by my bank account- understanding that has been liberating!” On a personal level, Khazen Baz says she has chosen to become a lot more analytical -and somewhat cynical- about what people say. “I’ve learned -the hard way- that we have too many people who like to tell a good story, but no intention to follow through!” she explains. “So, I now put a lot more emphasis on myself, and much less on others. The expectation is thus always low, and this way, anything positive is a plus!”


t is thereby armed with this knowledge that Khazen Baz has set herself new goals to realize in the decade to come. “I am very excited and passionate about building an entrepreneurship knowledge hub through Conversations with Loulou to help entrepreneurs and people in other professions understand the value that entrepreneurs bring, and garner more appreciation to the role they play,” Khazen Baz shares. “I am also very passionate about encouraging the middle/senior management of corporates to participate in the startup ecosystem by investing in promising startups. We must learn to support and enable local entrepreneurs, as they build their startups and scale regionally and internationally, and my goal is to be the conduit that channels funds and know-how

into the startup ecosystem. In 10 years, I see Spade Ventures playing a prominent role in enabling entrepreneurs across multiple stages in the lifecycles of their startups by providing them with know-how via advisory and investment. And I’d hopefully be bringing top global and regional voices on Conversations with Loulou, in whichever format the technology allows- the goal would be to create knowledge, insights, and abundance for participants!” conversationswithloulou.com spade.ventures

HINDSIGHT IS 20/20 THEN-VERSUS-NOW WITH LOULOU KHAZEN BAZ Looking back at the stage of your entrepreneurial/career/ business trajectory you were in 10 years ago, is there anything you’d do differently knowing what you know now? Alternatively, what’s the biggest lesson you wish you’d known 10 years ago?

} “The biggest lesson I wish I’d known 10 years ago is to trust your gut, and to make decisions without overthinking- if they turn out to be the wrong decisions, then so be it! It is still surely a great way to learn. I will also add to always have a bias for action, as time is the only resource that is depleted daily.”

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“Entrepreneur Middle East was never just a magazine to me; the entire team in it are like family to me, and any time they organized an event back in the day with the team and the readers, it always felt like a big family reunion of everyone in the ecosystem that we loved and admired. I have the utmost respect for every single team member, both current and those who left. I think Entrepreneur has gone beyond just content, and it has continuously stitched the ecosystem together again and again, constantly on the lookout for every new business, and showcasing it to help it grow, and make it part of the big fabric of the ecosystem. I’m forever indebted and in awe of everything Entrepreneur does.”


SAIL PUBLISHING books in the years since.” According to Ben Chaibah, Sail is what it is today owing to one key decision that she made when she was starting to build the venture- and that was to not treat it as a side hustle, and instead give it all of her time, attention, and dedication. “That allowed it to grow,” she says. “I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I was still in a job at the time.” Sail has definitely come a long way since those early days, and Ben Chaibah hopes for it to keep continuing with its mission to publish quality books for the general public. “In 10 years’ time, I do hope that we continue to be the reading destination for our community, when it comes to contemporary local reading material for kids books and adult books,” Ben Chaibah says. “Plus, I hope we can get back to the online magazine we started with, and expand its content model to adapt to the preferences of the new generation, and provide them with great content to consume, in the manner that they prefer, which, honestly,

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can be sometimes hard to keep up with, but I hope we can get into that again. I also hope that through the expertise we built, we start to modularize and

commercialize it in new ways that can expand the benefit of spreading consumable knowledge for the public in sustainable ways.”

→ Iman Ben Chaibah is the founder of Sail Publishing, an Emirati publishing house that specializes in publishing books (digitally and in print) and producing content.



man Ben Chaibah made her debut appearance in Entrepreneur Middle East in May 2014 when the Emirati entrepreneur penned a piece sharing the lessons she had learnt running her business, which, at the time, was a digital publication called Sail eMagazine. That enterprise has since evolved into a full-fledged publishing house called Sail Publishing, which, after having started out with a focus on digital books, now counts print books as the main source of its bread-and-butter. Similarly, while it started out by publishing books for kids, Sail’s portfolio now includes fiction, poetry, self-help, and more, with titles in both Arabic and English. As Ben Chaibah recalls the transformation her entrepreneurial undertaking had had since she started out in 2010, it seems like she too can’t believe the growth -and impact- Sail has had. “Back then, Sail was just an online magazine,” Ben Chaibah says. “It’s been quite a journey for us, having published about 50

HINDSIGHT IS 20/20 THEN-VERSUS-NOW WITH IMAN BEN CHAIBAH Looking back at the stage of your entrepreneurial/career/business trajectory you were in 10 years ago, is there anything you’d do differently knowing what you know now? Alternatively, what’s the biggest lesson you wish you’d known 10 years ago?

} “I wish I had challenged my personal preferences more than I actually did. Because one of the lessons I learned through my entrepreneurial journey was to simply allow the business to constantly pivot, and expand beyond what I might have originally planned for it. For instance, had I stuck with only digital books and not go into print, merely because I believed in only digital at the time, the company would have struggled. Similarly, had I stuck with only English books, and not expand into publishing in Arabic as well, the company would have struggled a lot as well. So, it's been a constant realization that my personal preferences shouldn't dictate the company's direction; instead, I have to continuously see how the market is changing, and grow the business according to it.”

“ I think when it comes to content, there is always something new.”

All of this makes it clear that Ben Chaibah is as attuned to her entrepreneurial enterprise as she was when she had just launched it, and that should make the rest of us excited about how it is set to evolve -again- in the years to come. “I think when it comes to content, there is always something new,” Ben Chaibah points out. “As such, it’s just a matter of keeping our eyes open to the new shifts and trends, and seeing how can we adapt and pivot with them.”

→ SOUKAINA RACHIDI ALAOUI is the founder of RisalatComm, a social impact communication and consulting agency based in Morocco that provides bespoke communication, design, project management and capacity-building services to a wide range of national and international stakeholders.





oukaina Rachidi Alaoui remembers that as a teenager, she always loved to write; however, she never saw herself as a writer. But all of that changed when she graduated from university, and began working as a media relations coordinator for a Dubai-based startup called Melltoo in 2014. It was in this role that Alaoui attended Entrepreneur Middle East’s first-ever event- the Enterprise Agility Forum 2014- in November that year, and while she was still new to the local startup scene then, she remembers feeling oddly “at home” with the community who had come together for this particular conference. “I felt like I had found ‘my people,’” she recalls. “During the forum, I listened intently to the different speakers as they shared their experiences, and I studiously took notes to make sure that I soaked in all their wisdom. The day after the event, I remember waking up feeling so energized and inspired that I picked up my event notes, and started furiously typing on my laptop. I was in the zone for hours, and before I knew it, I had a full article on my hands.” That article -a wonderfully comprehensive distillation of the key insights shared at the Enterprise Agility Forum 2014- got published in Entrepreneur Middle East’s December 2014 issue, and according to Alaoui, the day that happened marked her transition “from someone who liked to write, to a writer.”


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what kind of business I should start,” she says. “I grew up in a service-oriented family; so, I couldn’t imagine running a business that wasn’t impact-driven. For a long time, I also struggled to figure out how to leverage my skillset to develop a sustainable impactdriven business. It took me five and a half years of freelancing and working with civil society organizations in Morocco to develop a deeper understanding of the pain points of Moroccan youth, leaders, and organizations. Then it took an unexpected job loss -and a devastating earthquake- to make me realize that life was short, and that I didn’t want to spend another minute wishing I was doing things when I could be doing them- and that is when I decided to launch RisalatComm.”


isalatComm -which translates to “your message” in Arabicprovides communication, design, project management, and capacity-building services in English, Arabic, and French to individuals and organizations in Morocco and across the globe. In addition to providing bespoke, high-quality communications, and consultation services to a wide range of Moroccan and international actors, RisalatComm also strives to serve Moroccan


t is thus that Alaoui decided to pursue a career in writing, with one of her key undertakings in this regard being Soukie Speaks, a platform that aimed to reimagine the narrative of the MENA region, and empower a new generation of leaders and entrepreneurs, which she kicked off in 2016. “I launched the Soukie Speaks platform for a multitude of reasons, but at its core was my desire to reclaim my narrative, and a sense of responsibility to empower fellow youth in the MENA region to do the same,” the Moroccan-American says. “The Soukie Speaks experience was transformational in so many ways. Firstly, it helped me deconstruct the internalized oppression that had robbed me of my confidence and agency for so many years, and it allowed me to write a new story for myself. Secondly, it allowed me to challenge the negative media narratives about the MENA region by shining the spotlight on MENA youth and entrepreneurs, who were launching innovative businesses and inspiring initiatives in their countries, despite all the odds. Lastly, it allowed me to travel, expand my horizons, and build an amazing network of global changemakers that I still draw strength, support, and inspiration from today. While the Soukie Speaks platform no longer exists, the tenacity, resilience, and creativity that it cultivated in me continue to drive so much of the social impact work that I do. So, in a way, the Soukie Speaks spirit lives on in everything that I do.” It is this pluck and gumption of Alaoui that is instantly recognizable now in her first foray as a full-fledged entrepreneur running RisalatComm, a social impact communication and consulting agency that she launched in Morocco earlier this year. “Since joining the UAE startup world in 2014, I always dreamed of having my own business, but I wasn’t sure

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“I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that Entrepreneur Middle East and its community have made me the writer and the tenacious pioneer that I am today. Many years ago, this magazine, and its community, gave me the courage to believe in my voice, and every day, I try to use that courage to create spaces and opportunities to lift people up, and help them overcome the self-doubt, emotional baggage, and cultural shackles that hold them back. As a pioneer and an entrepreneur, you constantly have to deal with haters and naysayers, no matter where you go. However, the Entrepreneur Middle East team has always had this incredible way of making you feel safe in an otherwise dog-eat-dog world. Their relentless advocacy for entrepreneurs and pioneers, their generosity in sharing advice and information, and their ability to turn a region-wide startup ecosystem into a family are just some of the reasons why this publication and its team are special. Thank you for letting me be a part of your family, and I wish you continued success and growth.”

communities by developing capacitybuilding programs for local community organizations and youth. According to Alaoui, with Morocco set to soon host the African Cup of Nations in 2025 and co-host the 2030 World Cup with Spain and Portugal, the country is thus poised to welcome all kinds of new economic, cultural, and sporting opportunities, and she believes that her enterprise is well-positioned to take advantage of this momentum.

As Morocco’s popularity as a tourist and investment destination grows, I believe that the multilingual services we provide at RisalatComm will become essential to individuals and organizations who want to contribute to and benefit from the boom that the Kingdom is experiencing,” Alaoui notes. “Having said that, I’m also very keen on making sure that everyone can reap the benefits of Morocco’s current and future growth. In fact, RisalatComm hopes to promote more inclusive development in Morocco by providing innovative and relevant capacity-building programs for youth, women, cooperatives, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other deserving groups. Not only does RisalatComm aim to make high-quality, bespoke communication, design, project management, and capacitybuilding services accessible to all, but it also aims to make empowering Moroccan communities easier by providing individuals and organizations who are interested in funding such efforts with a wide range of capacity-building programs at different price points. Whether you’re a successful freelancer, a medium-sized plumbing company, or a big multinational, RisalatComm believes that anybody who wants to contribute to building a better Morocco for all should have the opportunity to do so.”


laoui is clearly dreaming big when it comes to RisalatComm- however, impact is the name of the game for this writer-turned-entrepreneur. “In the next 10 years, I want to see branches of RisalatComm open all over Morocco and North Africa,” she declares. “In the next 20, I would like to see branches of

RisalatComm open across the Middle East and the rest of the African continent. But even if that doesn’t happen, I hope I can inspire more people to launch impactdriven businesses. In a world that is suffering from the negative impacts of climate change and other profound global political and socio-economic shifts, we don’t need more businesses that are driven

HINDSIGHT IS 20/20 THEN-VERSUS-NOW WITH SOUKAINA RACHIDI ALAOUI Looking back at the stage of your entrepreneurial/career/business trajectory you were in 10 years ago, is there anything you’d do differently knowing what you know now? Alternatively, what’s the biggest lesson you wish you’d known 10 years ago?

} “One of the biggest challenges that I’ve faced over the past 10 years may seem mundane on the surface; however, it was precisely the pedestrian nature of the beast that made it so destructive. What challenge could be mundane and destructive at the same time, you’re probably wondering. Well, it’s more common than you think, and most people aren’t even aware that they’re struggling with it. What is it? Perfectionism. Honestly, perfectionism has probably been the root cause of most of the burnout, insomnia, anxiety, self-doubt, and self-flagellation that I have struggled with over the years. That dogged desire to make sure that everything is ‘just so’ is so draining, and if you’re not careful, it becomes a merciless slave master that would have you genuinely believe that nothing you do is ever ‘good enough.’ It also distracts you from the important things in life, and it robs you of the learning opportunities that can only come from venturing outside of your comfort zone. }In retrospect, I feel like I could have done so much more in the past 10 years if I had allowed myself to act without needing everything to be ‘perfect,’ or knowing exactly what was going to happen at any given moment. While I don’t want to undermine all of the great things that I’ve been able to achieve over the past several years, I would be lying if I said that fighting my perfectionist urges to do so didn’t take a toll on my mental health at times. Learning how to navigate perfectionism hasn’t been easy, and some days, I’m not sure if I’ve learned anything at all. But I have learned that the first step to dealing with it is

by an insatiable need for money and power. We need businesses that are value-driven. We need business leaders and employees who put the well-being of our planet and our communities at the core of what they do. If I can inspire just a handful of people to make social impact a part of the DNA of their businesses, then I will consider myself, and RisalatComm, successful.” risalatcomm.ma

to accept that most things are out of our control. The truth of the matter is, that nobody really knows what’s going to happen, ever. Living through a global pandemic and the aftermath of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Morocco on September 8, 2023, only served to prove that point unequivocally. Even though most of us have been taught that we should only act when we are ‘certain,’ I have learned over time that true certainty is rare.

}Most of the time, our decisions are driven by the desire to please others, or to protect ourselves from some imagined future failure or harm. When the truth is, most days, the best we can do is make a calculated guess, and pray for the wisdom to be able to ‘recalculate’ when the time is right. If I could go back 10 years, I would tell myself to not worry about being ‘perfect,’ or doing things ‘perfectly.’ I would tell myself to eat properly, sleep more, exercise, and enjoy the company of my friends as much as possible, because deadlines come and go, but time and health don’t come back. Reflecting on the past 20 years, I realize that some of the best choices I ever made were made when I decided to tackle life with reckless abandon, and much to my perfectionism’s chagrin, you can’t do that without things getting a little messy or unpredictable. }While perfectionism has often policed my path, I am grateful that I have always had a very strong intuition and internal voice that have consistently rebelled against it. It was that voice that urged me to keep speaking my truth, even though it felt like nobody was listening sometimes. It was that voice that urged me to keep writing, even though it wasn’t always financially rewarding. It was that voice that urged me to move back to Morocco after spending a lifetime abroad, so I could serve Moroccan youth and communities. Alhamdulillah, I don’t regret any of these decisions, I only regret that I questioned them so much that I made myself miserable in the process. Like I said before, true certainty is rare, but I have always known that I needed to live in my truth, honor my gifts, and serve my community, and after a very long journey with many twists and turns, my unshakeable commitment to these three principles has led me to launch my venture now.”

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hen we reached out to Cheeze founder and CEO Simon Hudson -one of the earliest contributors to Entrepreneur Middle East- to participate in this feature, which essentially tracks his career/life between 2014 and 2024, the first thing he tells us is that taking a moment to rewind the clock 10 years, and really looking into his entrepreneurial journey is something he doesn’t do often- or enough. And that admission sets the tone for Hudson’s introspection into how much he has changed from the “much younger, less squidgy, and fresher-faced” entrepreneur he was 10 years ago. Back then, Hudson was the founder of Brndstr, a digital agency that he launched in 2013, which built application program interfaces (APIs) that’d result in engaging social media campaigns for all of its clients. “As a young 30-year-old, starting a company in Dubai in 2013 was super exciting,

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but it was also very different from what it is now,” Hudson notes. “Raising money was not like it is today; co-working spaces, networking events, startup communities, were all very small; and the ‘Silicon Beach,’ as I once called it, was just getting started.” Hudson was operating in a rather nascent entrepreneurial ecosystem then, and it was thus with the aim to connect with people within it that he worked to bring the global startup community, Startup Grind, to Dubai, and use its banner to stage events in the Emirate. These gatherings -which were open to pretty much anyone and everyonewould see Hudson interview founders of local startups. “At my first event, I interviewed J. C. Butler and Sim Whatley, co-founders of Dubizzle [which was the biggest classified ads site in the UAE then], at an event staged at an amazing urban café called MAKE Business Hub in Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Residence neighborhood,” Hudson recalls. “Speaking in front of a packed audience, the event led me to find both investors and staff to help me build my new venture.” Hudson’s zeal is thus clearly what

powered Brndstr as a business- and it achieved the desired results as well. “From 2013 to 2017, Brndstr thrived, and in all honesty, these were some of the best business years of my career,” he says. “I met the most amazing people, and we generated millions in revenue. We worked with some of Dubai and the world’s most iconic brands, we built an unbelievable office (even today, my Brndstr office goes down in history as one of the best ever), and as an entrepreneur, although I was learning as I was going, that was the best training I could ever ask for.” However, in 2018, Hudson saw his business start to struggle after the Cambridge Analytica scandal came to light- after all, all APIs to social media networks were shuttered for a short period, and the fallout was especially devastating for Brndstr. “This was like an iceberg coming out of nowhere, and I, as founder and CEO, was unable to keep things afloat,” Hudson says. “And, ultimately, Brndstr closed its doors in 2018.” At this point, one may be inclined to consider the Brndstr closure as a failure- and it’s fair to say that Hudson would have probably agreed with you back then. But time, as they say, is the greatest teacher, and now, Hudson -who launched his current company, Cheeze, armed with the lessons he learnt from running Brndstr- has a different perspective on all that happened then. “I once read that ‘failure is only feedback,’ and I have to say that is such a true saying,” he says. “When Brndstr closed, I will be honest, and say I was ashamed, sad to let people go, and close the doors on what was a dream that I was emotionally attached to, and for a while, it certainly felt like I had failed. However, failure being feedback puts a whole new light on the situation. It is like making a delicious meal. The first attempt will probably taste terrible, and not look at all like what it’s supposed to- but that was not a failure; it taught you lessons for the next attempt. Approaching the closing of Brndstr in that way helped me start Cheeze on a different footing.” Hudson launched Cheeze in 2018, and while the enterprise has gone through several iterations since then, today, it calls itself “a smart scanning app that is reimagining the QR and bar code industry.” Cheeze is essentially a brand

“I remember reading the first edition of Entrepreneur Middle East in 2014, and being so proud to be part of its early days. The region has seen some mega exits and companies over the past 10 years, and there has been no better way to read about this than via Entrepreneur. Thank you for being the backbone of the startup news for the Middle East, and I look forward to reading many more, and hopefully, one day hitting that front cover spot when my time comes!”

HINDSIGHT IS 20/20 THEN-VERSUS-NOW WITH SIMON HUDSON Looking back at the stage of your entrepreneurial/ career/business trajectory you were in 10 years ago, is there anything you’d do differently knowing what you know now? Alternatively, what’s the biggest lesson you wish you’d known 10 years ago?


} “If I was to reflect on how the past 10 years have helped me prepare for the next 10, I think it is hard to compare, but what is clear is that growing the skills needed -and being willing to explore new opportunities- will always work out. In fact, the very act of giving it a go is already a huge achievement. I can’t say I know what lies ahead for Cheeze, but I know that this time round, it is more enjoyable, and I feel more in control than when running my previous company.”

loyalty company, and Hudson is proud to note that his team today includes names like Guy Kawasaki (former Chief Evangelist of Apple), Marc Randolph (co-founder of Netflix), Greg Hoffman (former Chief Marketing Officer of Nike), and Derek Andersen (co-founder of Startup Grind). “It is crazy to think that Cheeze has been going now for five years,” Hudson adds. “It is also crazy to think that during this period, the world faced a global pandemic, and our ways of working, networking, and running a business has changed beyond recognition. With these changes comes another learning curve, because the 2014 Simon who went through ‘startup academy 101’ with his previous company, well, he didn’t have to deal with lockdowns and working from home!”


ooking at the road ahead, Hudson says that he has “a good feeling” about Cheeze, and one of the immediate focus areas for the company -which was launched in the US in Silicon Valley- is to set up an office for it in Dubai. “Also, our new brand loyalty platform has gone live on cheeze.com, and I am busy onboarding brands for that,” Hudson adds. “We will also be launching our own Layer 1 blockchain called Chedar in 2024 to power a Web3 exchange for people to trade and sell their loyalty points- it’s a very exciting vertical, and I am personally thrilled for it.” As for the long term, Hudson is dreaming big. “Anyone who knows me will know I love Apple products, and my lifetime goal was to build a company that would work closely with them, or be acquired,” he shares. “So, my goal for the next 10 years is to make that happen. Apart from that, I aim to be happy, and wake up each day as excited about working as I did on the very first day.” cheeze.com

February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 37









n the MENA entrepreneurial ecosystem, Morrad Irsane and Sharene Lee are today perhaps best known for being the husband-andwife duo behind the Saudi Arabiaheadquartered insurtech startup, Takadao, which has been making a name for itself with both its pioneering offering (a blockchain-native, shariah-compliant insurance alternative), as well as its impressive list of backers, which includes names like Tim Draper, BIM, Core Vision Ventures, Prince Sultan bin Fahad bin Salman Al Saud, and, most recently, Adaverse. However, back in 2014, when we first featured them in Entrepreneur Middle

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East, Irsane and Lee were driving an entirely different enterprise, Melltoo- a UAE-based online marketplace for second-hand items, which went on to be acquired by fellow UAE-based reverse logistics platform Cartlow in 2022. “Time flies!” says Lee, as she recalls the journey she and Irsane have been on since stepping into the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. “There were many ups and downs in the past 10 years; I truly know what it means to be a startup entrepreneur now. Melltoo was acquired in 2022, and it was truly a good end to an important chapter in my life. It taught me the key ingredient to building a startup, resilience, and it opened my eyes to the power of technology in shaping lives. Today, I’ve taken those learnings, and am applying them to Takadao, the company we founded after the exit of Melltoo. Takadao builds Web3 protocols for community-owned financial services. Our flagship product is Takasure, a shariah-compliant life insurance fund that is owned by the insured. Takadao feels to me like my life’s mission; like, everything that has happened to me has led me to this moment. I sincerely believe that what we are doing will have an immense impact in tipping the scales of power, and bringing balance to the financial lives of many billions of people worldwide.”



→ The entrepreneurial duo have spent a year and a half building Takadao, an alternative to traditional financial systems.

“ We were there right at the beginning of Entrepreneur Middle East, and we love how it has always put entrepreneurs front and center of everything they do. The team has consistently supported us, even when we were nobodies just starting out, and this is testimony to the incredible focus of the team, and their great insight into who they are truly serving, and the impact that they are trying to create. Cheers to the Entrepreneur Middle East team, and to another 100 years!”

HINDSIGHT IS 20/20 THEN-VERSUS-NOW WITH SHARENE LEE Looking back at the stage of your entrepreneurial/career/ business trajectory you were in 10 years ago, is there anything you’d do differently knowing what you know now? Alternatively, what’s the biggest lesson you wish you’d known 10 years ago?

} When we had founded Melltoo, we were already entrepreneurs two times over, and we had built and exited businesses in the past. Nonetheless, we were poorly equipped for what lay ahead. Tech startups are very different from SMEs and traditional businesses. They play by a different set of rules that don’t always make sense in the traditional business sense. For example, why are the most valuable startups the ones that burn the most cash, and are the least profitable? But the only way to learn these rules is to learn them while doing. } However, there isn’t anything that I would have done differently. All the mistakes made were formative experiences that make me who I am today. Fortunately, I have another go at it with my current startup, and I’m applying the hard lessons learned. My mental health is also in much better shape now, having been toughened by the previous experiences.”


iven that they are operating in the nascent but bustling space of Web3, both Irsane and Lee are excited about what the future holds for Takadao. “It is an exciting new journey where everything needs to be built,” Irsane says. “We were sick of institutions like banks and insurance companies taking us for a ride. Decentralization is what we believe in, and what we are betting on. It has its own set of challenges, and that is what we entrepreneurs love to do- fix problems. Plus, being in an industry that is the fastest growing in history is exciting. We are building for now and for the coming generations.” Lee agrees with Irsane, noting the potentially transformative impact of what they are building with Takadao. “We’ve spent the last year and a half building Takadao,” Lee shares. “Our vision is to create alternatives to traditional financial systems that prioritize profit over consumer well-being. A lot of what has transpired in the world in the past two decades has shaken my faith in the current financial system. The majority of the world has to contend with high inflation, high indebtedness, and uncertainty in our money. Add to that the fact that I’m a Muslim, and, as such, I’m excluded from most financial instruments due to the banking infrastructure being based on interest. Something’s got to give, and being an entrepreneur, it’s my job to find solutions.”


ee is quite confident about the road ahead for Takadao, and as far as she is concerned, the future is set to be a bright one. “I certainly believe that Takadao will be a rousing success, and that we will be the technology that powers the world’s largest self-insuring communities,” she declares. “However, even if that doesn’t transpire, if we simply manage to lay the groundwork for other such alternative financial products to exist, that would be a world-changing achievement.”

HINDSIGHT IS 20/20 THEN-VERSUS-NOW WITH MORRAD IRSANE Looking back at the stage of your entrepreneurial/career/business trajectory you were in 10 years ago, is there anything you’d do differently knowing what you know now? Alternatively, what’s the biggest lesson you wish you’d known 10 years ago?

} “There are many things I would have loved to know and do differently! For instance, one of them is knowing that great products don't get built in one day, and that product-market fit takes time. Another is knowing the importance of building an early community, and sharing more in the open. I would have connected with potential investors as early as possible to build relationships early on; even if I didn't get their money, I would have gotten their advice. }The biggest lesson is knowing that you are in this for the long run, and that applies for everyone involved- team, customers, investors, mentors, etc. Remember that the first round of funding is the easiest one; celebrate quickly, but start to build relationships to grow your network, and prepare for follow-on investment. Second biggest lesson: choose your investors carefully, and do due diligence on them by speaking to other founders. Not all money is good money. Look for investors that are believers, just as you would search for team members that are believers. Search for the ones who understand what you are doing, the ones who will support you through good and especially through bad. I have been super lucky to have had many great investors; though not all. }As the saying goes: alone, you go faster, but together, you go further. Surround yourself with the best in the industry, and pay well- or at least try to! There are no shortcuts in building great digital products. Venture-backed startups are a whole other game that both venture capitalists and founders learn as they go along. The notion of scaling, burning, and growing at all costs was either the right strategy or the wrong one, depending on market conditions. We were working through a newfound land of opportunities blindly, while often being led by the blind. As such, stay true to yourself, listen to all advice, and decide for yourself. Once you decide, no regrets. Alhamdulillah,we were able to get acquired in a region where exits are rare, and for that, we are thankful.”

takadao.io February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 39

→ MAHMOUD ALWADIA had secured a place

in the prestigious Antler entrepreneurship accelerator program, and his edtech startup was just about to launch, when he, while on a visit to Gaza, got stuck in the city, as war broke out in October 2023.


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wo years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with excitement. I had just landed my dream job; I was working on personal projects, living healthily, and I was in the best shape of my life, mentally and physically. I felt on top of the world, with a very promising future ahead. Four months ago, I traveled to Gaza for my annual family visit, only to find myself trapped in a brutal situation as the war unfolded. I experienced the loss of family, friends, home, work, and nearly my own life. I tried telling myself that this period was just part of the inconstancy of being alive today, but in truth- it hurt deeply. I hated feeling like a victim of war and the greed of politicians, but that is the reality.

My eyes were opened at a very young age to the violence and misery that afflict my people. I was four years old when my brother was injured in the second Intifada, and my father lost his work. When I was seven, my cousin was murdered. In 2008, when I was 12, I witnessed my first war, and at 16, I experienced the 12-day war that took place in 2012. At 18 years of age, after finishing high school, a brutal 51-day war in 2014 forced my family to flee our home under heavy bombing, and I lost many people I cared about. After 2014, numerous small military escalations in the region occurred, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Palestinians. This devastation is what prompted my decision to leave Gaza, and establish a safer life, away from misery. In 2020, I moved to Germany after receiving an offer of employment from a company there. The first couple of months I spent in Germany were an extremely shocking experience. The stark contrast between my home in Palestine and in Germany left me reeling, and my brain struggled to process the differences. Life in the West felt like a paradise compared to Gazaease of movement, the constant availability of goods and services, including water, electricity, internet, food, opportunities, freedom, and, most importantly, no bombings or wars.


built a beautiful life, met incredible people, and worked for multiple companies. These experiences gave me the foundation to follow my entrepreneurial dreams, and I thus began to build my own company as well. However, something inside me was still missing: my family were not around. After all, I am a Middle Eastern guy, and family is at the heart of our culture. So, I continued to visit my family every year, undertaking an arduous trip through the Egyptian desert. Since Gaza has no airport, and the only entry point for me is via Egypt, I had to travel at length through the Sinai desert until I reach the Rafah crossing point. The journey is incredibly tough, but I thought little of the discomfort. The opportunity to see my family once more erased any sense of weariness. February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 41

However, autumn of 2023 was starkly different from the other times I visited my family. I had traveled earlier than usual this time, because I wanted to focus on creating my startup business at the end of the year. However, war erupted on October 7th while I was in Gaza. This war is distinct in the intensity of its brutality. I had to evacuate my home multiple times, running from bombs and a certain death. Death, however, remained close, meters away. New technologies of bombing, military operations and strategies, and more powerful explosions than witnessed in previous wars added to the ordeal. However, this was not the only challenge; all of life’s essentials were cut off- water, food, electricity, and the internet. The cold weather became a part of the struggle, as we left in a rush under heavy bombing, abandoning our clothes and mattresses. Since the beginning of the war, people have lost everything- their homes, their life’s work, and, most importantly, the dignity of living.


ne takeaway from this situation I am stuck in is that, unfortunately, despite all the progress humans have made, and the knowledge and education humankind has attained, we are still ruled by violence. We invade, destroy, and murder the children of others, we engage in collective punishment. This is not the civilization we dreamed about. But enduring these brutal wars is not the most challenging aspect of this experience. I have understood such endurance as a type of hardship, an experience through which strength is gained, if I survive. The true challenge lies in the reduction of individual life to a statistic of death, communicated to evoke an emotional responses on television, or to serve as a political cost for leaders. While

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I am here to make a dent in the universe, not only to manage my survival within war.”

and misery they have endured since the start of the war; in some cases, since the moment they were born.


I SHOULD BE PURSUING MY DREAMS OF MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE, UNLOCKING MY POTENTIAL. AND YET, I FIND MYSELF STUCK HERE, TRYING TO SURVIVE FROM MOMENT TO MOMENT.” world leaders express concern about the deaths of thousands of Palestinians, including innocent children, their actions are limited to providing minimal food aid to prevent the death of people by starvation.


onestly, my biggest concern is not death; I overcame that long ago. My concern is that the people of Gaza may lose hope- in humanity,

in a better future, and in the hope that this war will one day end, bringing peace to the region. I won’t hide it; disappointment has taken over the people of Gaza. They have experienced the most brutal situation humanity has seen since World War II, and so, they have the right to feel that way. Honestly, it is sadder than one could imagine. I hear people who wish to be bombed, who call for their own death, hoping it will stop the madness

ut I don’t want us to succumb to this feeling. This is incredibly important to me- to give people hope for a better life, to make them feel like they have a place in this world where they can live peacefully. I have been reassuring people about the future, telling my people that the world is vast, full of love and happiness, and that we deserve our share of this world. So, please, I ask them, my family and friends, to hold strong, and keep on surviving. I keep sharing my experience in Europe with my nephews and nieces, emphasizing how beautiful life is, and how wonderful people are. I tell them about the acceptance I have experienced there in Europe, and I assure them that they can, too. Please, hold strong and survive. Hate has dominated the people of the region through a 75-year cycle of occupation and oppression. Both sides are influenced by this hate, perhaps to different degrees, and with different intentions. The deaths and misery of hundreds of thousands of innocent people throughout the years have fed this cycle of hate. Personally, I was not dragged into it. Do not get me wrong; I have tasted all kinds of pain caused by oppression, but it did not turn into hate, or at least, the hate did not endure in my case. I worked hard to let it go, and to turn my resentment into a sense of awareness of our February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 43

position in the world. Such an awareness has helped me to endure pain throughout the years. I am aware that I need to struggle 10 times more than many other people in the world, simply because I was born in Gaza, and I need to accept that to be content with my fate. Otherwise, I will be dragged into a perpetual state of victimhood, and from there, I will be pulled into the cycle of hate. I need to take my fate as a test of my ability to overcome adversity. Most importantly, I guard my awareness of the cost of freedom, both for society and for individuals. This knowledge has been shaped by my birth into an open-air prison, by experiencing the strict control over what my friends and family could eat, how much we could eat, through the daily restrictions on our freedom of movement, the limited hours of electricity we could access. From within these walls of confinement, peace has always been an exorbitant expense. Awareness, born out of this knowledge of control and confinement, has been my answer, and it has helped me to act accordingly.


he fact that I am stuck here in the middle of this brutal war hurts me to the bone. I should be pursuing my dreams of making the world a better place, unlocking my potential. And yet, I find myself stuck here, trying to survive from moment to moment. The fact that this is not my first time to be stuck in Gaza fuels my sense of resentment. Since I was a child, I have wished to escape war. I used to go to the beach, and dream about

standing on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. When I was 24, I had the chance to travel to Spain, to stand on a beach in Barcelona, and make that dream a reality. It was a very emotional moment, a moment of revelation.


y moment of revelation came before, and I am sure it will come again. I have high hopes that the war will end, and people will get the opportunity to live again. Peace, love, and happiness are what the people of Gaza deserve. They have endured enough war with endless suffering. I am not sure how it will happen, but I have high hopes in humanity; the good of humanity has touched me on many occasions throughout my life, and so, I am a hopeful man. As a wise man once said: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” So, our dream of a peaceful Gaza will not die, or, at least, that is what I hope. The future is exciting; I cannot hide from you that I have always felt like I am meant to achieve something meaningful for humanity. I used to declare this feeling loudly in my inner circles. I always had the itch to create something on my own, something that people want. But, to be honest, I am not sure if I will make it alive through this war. Still, I believe this war cannot be the end of my story. My dreams are waiting to be realized. I have a taste, voice, thoughts, and dreams that I want to share with the world. I am here to make a dent in the universe, not only to manage my survival within war.

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“As a wise man once said: ‘Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.’ So, our dream of a peaceful Gaza will not die, or, at least, that is what I hope.”


n a couple of weeks, I will close my 27th year with the uncertainty of making it. So, this is my story in case you hear my name in the future. In the event of death, know that I was here, nurturing dreams just like yours- not just a number. And in the event of success, I want you to understand my struggles, and recognize that millions are enduring similar, if not worse, challenges. This article was facilitated for Entrepreneur Middle East by Manara, a social impact startup funded by the top investors in the world including Y Combinator, Seedcamp, Precursor Ventures, Neo Capital and angels including Reid Hoffman, Eric Ries, Marc Benioff, Paul Graham, and Jessica Livingston. Manara’s mission is to untap the full potential of tech talent in the Middle East and North Africa. Manara was born in Gaza from two female

founders. It has a social impact commitment to women throughout the region, and to Palestine, including specifically Gaza. manara.tech Mahmoud Alwadia is a software engineer from Gaza, Palestine. He had studied two years of computer science at a local university in Gaza, but then decided to drop out, and forge his own way. He moved to Germany in 2020, where he landed his first job in Munich with FINN Auto, and he later joined Shopify. The 27-yearold had secured a place in the prestigious Antler entrepreneurship accelerator program, and his edtech startup was just about to launch, when he, while on a visit to Gaza, got stuck in the city, as war broke out in October 2023. mahmoudalwadia.com



2024 BY

In recognition of the MENA region digital business landscape, the E-Business Awards by Entrepreneur Middle East will take place at Habtoor Palace Dubai, on March 8 2024, at 8PM

MARCH 8, 2024


Habtoor Palace Dubai

February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 45

← TONY FADELL is the


principal of BUILD COLLECTIVE, a company that focuses on impactful investment.

A Legacy of Disruption

Talking all things entrepreneurship with Tony Fadell, the mind behind multiple generations of the iPod and iPhone, who now focuses on startups that will change the world at Build Collective by DEVINA DIVECHA

February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 47


The Big Idea


t’s possible that you’re reading this on a descendant of the device Tony Fadell helped design. You see, Fadell was once Senior Vice President of Apple’s iPod Division- his team created the first 18 generations of the iPod, as well as the first three generations of the iPhone. After he left the American multinational, he was the founder and CEO of Nest Lab, the company that pioneered the internet of things (IoT), and his career trajectory has seen him author more than 300 patents, with him known today for being an investor and entrepreneur with more than 30 years of expertise. Fadell is today the Principal at Build Collective, an investment and advisory firm coaching deep tech startups, which is currently coaching more than 200 startups innovating game-changing technologies.

} So, it’s fair to say that Fadell has gathered a lot of valuable insights from his entrepreneurial journey, and it is with one such observation that he kicks off a conversation with me, saying, “You can ponder stuff all the time, but you have to do it, and that’s the only way you really learn. Do. Fail. Learn.” He then doubles down on this premise, saying, “Most

↓ In 2022, Fadell published Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things

Worth Making, a book that saw him share advice and anecdotal insights into products that made an impact in the 20th century.

“YOU CAN PONDER STUFF ALL THE TIME, BUT YOU HAVE TO DO IT, AND THAT’S THE ONLY WAY YOU REALLY LEARN. DO. FAIL. LEARN.” businesses are not successful because they came up with a good idea, and then executed it properly. They came up with an idea, found out where it didn’t work, kept changing it, and adapted and persevered. They understand that ‘perfect’ is the enemy of ‘great,’ and you need to keep iterating to find success. It doesn’t just happen the first time- maybe, sometimes, that happens. But, most of the time, it doesn’t, and you have to be ready for that.”

} And this is perhaps why Fadell stresses the importance of becoming entrepreneurial as soon as you possibly can in your professional trajectory. “You should start early in your entrepreneurial career, and not think you’re going to be an entrepreneur after 10 years in a larger entity,” he says. “You really need to go from big to small to startup, and not be afraid of being on your own. Because the biggest thing with being an entrepreneur is that you’re going to be on your own for a little while, and you’re going to have a tiny team.” Note that Fadell is speaking from experience here- he clearly isn’t one to preach without practicing himself. “I chased all my great ideas when I was younger,” he says. “Something that I learned very, very early on is that it takes a team. Don’t be religious about every idea. You need a team to help you see your idea from different angles, and where it could break and try to make it better.” Fadell then adds that it is essential to have a mentor to guide you through the process, before concluding, “Those were some very key things that I learned through my decades of building things.” } Now, Fadell has certainly built a lot- but not necessarily everything worked. After working on the Magic Link (which was essentially the predecessor to today’s smartphones) with Japanese multinational Sony and the now-defunct US-based General Magic, and then similar concepts like the Velo and the Nino with Dutch multinational Philips, he ended up at Appleand the rest is history. So, when it comes to product development, Fadell knows what he’s talking about when he advocates for identifying and addressing consumer pain points first. “For me, it all starts with the pain,” he explains. “Where is the pain? Where is it obvious? Where is it hidden? Can you go and solve that, and make a painkiller for it, and hopefully not just make a painkiller, but create a superpower? Give that person a superpower, so they can do that job in a way that makes them

48 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / February 2024

→ Once leading the team that designed multiple generations of the iPod and iPhone, Tony Fadell is focusing on mentoring and investing in startups that he thinks has the power to change the world for the better.


feel special. Typically, the pain gets removed because new technology allows you to solve the problem in a different way than you could previously. That’s what happened with the iPod. That’s what happened with the iPhone, iTunes, and the App Store. The same thing happened with Nest.”

} Founded in 2010, Nest Labs -which launched its first product, Nest Learning Thermostat- was eventually acquired by Google for $3.2 billion in 2014, and Fadell left the enterprise a couple of years later. He is candid when talking about exit strategies, which can either be because the business is getting

acquired or is going public, and he acknowledges acquisitions are challenging challenges mostly due to culture clashes. “Acquisitions fail 80-85% of the time, because cultures don’t align,” he says. “It’s because the fundamental team that is being bought does not mesh with the other team. Then, if you go the initial public offering (IPO) route, then you have a whole new set of masters, and a quarter-toquarter cycle… I wish I had something good to tell you… But, maybe, you could find an acquirer who has an incredible culture that you align with perfectly. And, maybe, you could have an IPO that, in some way you do differ-

ently, where you’re not subject to the quarter-toquarter whims of the market.”

} Today, Fadell is at the helm of Build Collective (previously known as Future Shape), an enterprise that’s all about impactful investment. The company’s website states that it “invests its money and time to help engineers and scientists build a greener world, in which every person enjoys a longer, richer life.” As such, its investment philosophy centers on deep tech innovations with the potential to disrupt major industries. “We are deep tech investors, which means we look for fundamental

technology changes at the basic level, like quantum computing or artificial intelligence (AI),” Fadell explains. “Those kinds of things then can disrupt big industries. So, we go for big industries that can be disrupted by technological shifts, just like digital music was a huge shift, just like data networks were a big shift, just like the internet was a big shift. Those are the kinds of businesses we really like, and they have to be centered around climate, or health or society.”

} In 2022, Fadell published Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making, a book that saw him share advice and anecdotal insights into products that made an impact in the 20th century. And when asked about what will constitute an impact in the future, Fadell stresses the responsibility of entrepreneurs to consider

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The Big Idea

climate change and other issues affecting the world right now. “Everyone should understand that they’re either part of the problem, or they’re part of the solution,” he notes, firmly. Here, Fadell highlights that it doesn’t matter if the business is not related to climate action specificallybut all entrepreneurs have a part to play. “Any business can do this- and you can do it at home too,” he says. “It’s not like you need to be in a direct carbon capture business to make changes… You need to make changes anyway.” And changes are coming, he points out. “Every single thing on this planet that humans have built, every non-biological thing, we need to blow up and redo. Whether it flies, it floats, it drives on the land- all that is going to get changed. We can already see it around us. So, how we do agriculture, how we create chemicals, what chemicals we create, how we do many of the basic things that have been created over the last 150 years, are all going to change, and that

means all the companies that are running those businesses are going to change. We have to; it’s an existential problem. We need to do this, because we need to keep customers on this planet buying stuff. You have got to think about climate change in a ‘what’s going to happen in the business and the business world;’ so, it’s just pretty obvious this change is good. We’re going to need to do it. We have to do it. And it’s going to be great for business.”

} Looking ahead, Fadell remains optimistic about the potential of emerging technologies like AI and quantum computing, particularly in sectors such as agriculture, healthcare, and societal needs. The entrepreneur says, “What I’m really interested in is the new technologies for agriculture, for building materials and for medical.” Here, Fadell shares examples of companies he’s working with. “I’m on the board of a company called Orionis, and we have a cancer vaccine that we’ve been building for years now,”

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he shares. “It’s actually in trials [right now], and it’s working. We’re working with another company called Prenuvo which does full body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, reinventing the way you do health and wellness outside the traditional system. That is what I did at Apple, Nest and even through my previous career of devices- which is taking technology, and applying it to the various fields that are outside of the general information technology or computing domain like agriculture, health, societal needs, climate. That is what is really interesting.”

}In terms of the future, Fadell says that he remains committed to supporting impactful startups through Build Collective, which is also why he wrote his book to give back to the ecosystem. “We are going to continue investing, and mentoring, and helping companies that we think are going to change the world,” he says of the former, while adding that the book fulfilled a dual role of

catharsis for him, as well as putting all his advice to companies in one place. “It’s just rewarding, it’s really helping people, and that’s the goal,” he says. “Also, every book I sell doesn’t make any money for me. All the books that sell go back into a climate change-related fund for new startups.” For entrepreneurs in the Middle East who might look up to him, Fadell offers advice rooted in the concepts of localization and community engagement. “Fix local problems,” he says. “Everybody thinks, ‘Oh, I’m going to run a Silicon Valley company, and I’m going to solve Silicon Valley problems.’ No- there are problems all over the region that can be solved. Go look for those things, and solve those issues at a grand scale, bring technology from other parts of the world, and bring it there to solve the local problems. So, look for the pain- and bring the painkillers to people in need in your area.” Devina Divecha is an independent writer, editor, emcee and media consultant, specialising in the hospitality and F&B industry. With more than 10 years of experience under her belt, her work has appeared in a number of publications including Skift, SUPPER, HOTELSmag, Destinations of the World News, Spinneys Magazine, Entrepreneur Middle East, and more. She holds a BSc in Business from the London School of Economics and an MA in Magazine Journalism from the University of Sheffield. devinadivecha.com





Gadgets and doodads that you might’ve missed out on, sourced by a tech aficionado. b y TA M A R A C L A R K E

Picture Perfect → /Oppo Reno11

With its Ultra-Clear Portrait Camera System, the Oppo Reno11 captures studio-grade portrait photography. With a powerful 50MP Ultra-Clear Main Camera with optical image

stabilization, a fast f/1.8 lens, and Sony’s new LYT600 sensor, expect an impressive, allpurpose camera you can lean on. And for expansive landscapes, Reno11’s ultra-wide 8MP camera covers an all-seeing 112-degree field of view. Plus, you can get up close to subjects with a 32MP telephoto camera, matched with a 47mm-equivalent, 2x telephoto zoom that captures with a classical point of view for portraits, similar to the perspective of a human eye. Reno11 goes beyond still photos by being able to capture 4K ultra-clear video from both the main camera and the 32MP selfie camera; so, you can record, vlog, and post with ease. With up to 12GB RAM as well as an additional 12GB available with RAM Expansion, you can work across multiple apps and games without background apps being closed. And with storage options of 128GB or 256GB as well as storage expansion of up to 2TB via a microSD card, you can enjoy a library of offline movies and games. Go the distance with a long-lasting, large 5000mAh battery, which keeps you connected all day.

Work Hard, Play Hard ↑

/HP Pro x360 Fortis 11-inch G11 The new HP Pro x360 Fortis 11-inch G11 laptop meets the demand for durable, reliable devices that can support the work of today's mobile workers, be it business users operating in the field, or healthcare workers and first responders on the move. The device comes with Windows 11 Pro and an 11-inch diagonal touch screen with tough Corning Gorilla Glass, and it is all powered by an Intel N100 Qual Core or Intel N200 processors. Engineered for durability, the full-skirted anchored keyboard resists key-picking, spills of up to 350ml, and dust. Plus, you can get up to 11 hours of battery life, with HP Fast Charge providing 90% charge in 90 minutes. The laptop also maximizes connectivity with two USB-C ports, two USB-A ports, and an additional HDMI port. And rounding everything out is a 360-degree hinge adapting to different work styles in laptop, tablet, tent, or stand mode.

Game On ←


/Acer Predator Z57 Acer’s flagship Predator Z57, which features a 57-inch dual ultra-high-definition (DUHD) resolution (7680x2160) at 120 Hz, is for the gaming elite. The wide 32:9 aspect ratio and 1000R curvature draw you closer to the action, and increases your field of vision when playing or working. Combined with a wide DCI-P3 98% color gamut, the Predator Z57 creates visuals so realistic, it will thrill even the most experienced players. The ultra-wide viewing area is ideal for multi-tasking along with productivity-enhancing features, which include picture-by-picture that splits the screen in half to showcase output from two different sources simultaneously, and picture-in-picture that divides the screen with displays on the main screen and another in an inset window. Plus, by leveraging the 2304-zone MiniLED technology, it provides enhanced picture quality and brightness when showing dark scenes and black backgrounds. Two HDMI 2.1 ports support the latest consoles (PlayStation 5 and XBOX Series X), while a DisplayPort 1.4 port also provides fast and reliable connectivity. The Predator Z57 is also compliant to standards set by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) for hanging on a wall to save desk space, and its base is sleek, yet robust, and offers adjustable height, tilt, and swivel to suit individual preferences. Predator Z57 also has two powerful 10W speakers to amplify sound effects for an all-around gaming experience.

TAMARA CLARKE, a former software development professional, is the tech and lifestyle enthusiast behind The Global Gazette, one of the most active blogs in the Middle East. The Global Gazette has been welcomed and lauded by some of the most influential tech brands in the region. Clarke’s goal is to inform about technology and how it supports our lifestyles. Talk to her on Twitter @TAMARACLARKE. theglobalgazette.com

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The Executive Selection From better goods to better wardrobe bests, every issue, we choose a few items that make the approved executive selection list. In this edition, our picks include Hermés, Guerlain, and more.


Hermès Fall/Winter 2024 Versatility seems to be the name of the game for the Fall/Winter 2024 menswear collection released by French luxury design house Hermés. Described as “a ruckus of registers, shapes, and figures from the menswear wardrobe,” the line features clothing whose construction has been reinvented playfully with shapes and counter shapes, cuts and cut-outs, and graphic signatures. Garments are reversible, superimposable, and transformable, with the materials used to craft them including dipped lambskin and stirrup leather, deerskin flannel, iridescent wool cloth, and more. Add to that a muted palette that lights up in acid strokes and deep shimmers, and you get a sophistication that breaks free from beneath all of the apparent irreverence. hermes.com

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↑ Hermès Fall/Winter 2024


Tag Heuer Carrera Date Plasma Diamant D’avant-Garde

Swiss luxury watchmaker TAG Heuer is making jaws drop with the TAG Heuer Carrera Date Plasma Diamant d’AvantGarde with yellow diamonds, a groundbreaking timepiece adorned with 4.8 carats of lab-grown diamonds, including 1.4 carats of stunning yellow Diamant d’AvantGarde. Building on the success of its predecessor, the TAG Heuer Carrera Date Plasma Diamant d’Avant-Garde with pink


diamonds, this yellow-diamond variant, which comes in white gold with a 36mm case, marks a pioneering move for the brand, showcasing its commitment to innovation, while also adding diversity and a burst of color to its timepieces. Take special note of its signature diamond crown- a single, 1.3-carat, yellow lab-grown diamond, which represents a marvel of gem-cutting craftsmanship. tagheuer.com

FRESH FACED →/ Guerlain Orchidée Impériale Gold Nobile

I M A G E S C O U R T E S Y H E R M È S | TA G H E U E R | G U E R L A I N | T O D ' S


With the new Orchidée Impériale Gold Nobile serum and cream, Guerlain is taking a pioneering look at anti-aging. The French Maison has made use of the Gold Nobile orchid -native to the Himalayas- to craft with what it calls Gold Quantum technology, which after being infused in the Orchidée Impériale Gold Nobile line, has been found to amplify visible skin rejuvenation. Using this Serum and Cream will thus help to revive the skin's youthful appearance, illuminating it with new radiance, day after day. guerlain.com

Italian brands Tod’s and Automobili Lamborghini have come together to launch a line of luxury leather goods, shoes, apparel, and accessories. Craftsmanship and innovation -the values that define both companies, each a leader in its own field- are being celebrated in this exclusive collaboration, and it has been kicked off with a men’s and women’s footwear collection featuring two models: the iconic Tod's Gommino as well as the sneaker, available in yellow, green, and blue. For this line, the Gommino is characterized by a new design inspired by the livery of Lamborghini's super sports cars, and the tubular band work enhances the aerodynamic appeal, creating movement and elegance. Look out for the soles too- the distinctive rubber pebbles are larger, matching the color of the heel or the upper part. Suffice to say you’ll be the cynosure of all eyes when you step out wearing them! automobilllamborghini.tods.com

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is the General Manager of the RADISSON RED TBILISI.

Entrepreneur Escapes: Radisson RED Tbilisi Business meets pleasure in the heart of a historic city


t’s become rare to find someone who hasn’t been to Georgia (the country, not the American state)- over the last few years, the country has become a bit of a hotspot, thanks to its visa-free status for many nationalities. The appeal shows, as the nation’s hospitality and tourism industry has been thriving. Figures released by the National Statistics Office of Georgia revealed that 7.1 million people visited the country in 2023, marking a 30.3% increase from the previous year.

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} And it is in this bustling space that the Radisson RED Tbilisi started welcoming guests in August last year. Its General Manager, Ivica Lovric, agrees with the aforementioned healthy tourism numbers, and notes that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region specifically has been a great driver of traffic. “Georgia has made strides in welcoming tourists, ensuring they have a comfortable and memorable experience,” Lovric says, “The hospitality of the locals, combined with the affordability of the destination, makes it an attractive choice for travelers seeking unique and budget-friendly experiences. The MENA region accounts for 4% of all visitor trips to Georgia, with a significant increase compared to 2019. The increasing popularity of Tbilisi and Georgia among international tourists suggests a growing interest from diverse regions, including the MENA, drawn to the country’s cultural richness, natural beauty, and warm hospitality.” Located in a 100-year-old former post office building on the Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue, the Radisson RED Tbilisi features an imposing façade with wrought iron balconies and modern, black, Crittal-like windows. “Comprising 111 rooms across four floors, the hotel

offers a range of accommodations, from standard rooms to junior suites,” Lovric adds. “Each room showcases Radisson RED’s distinctive design ethos, emphasizing innovative solutions. Guests will discover an array of paintings inspired by the rich history of Tbilisi, crafted by a local artist. The balconies feature the unique Tbilisi design known as ‘Shushabandi,’ while an Italian courtyard adds a touch of tradition. Other distinctive Radisson RED brand elements, like the iconic red telephones, contribute to the overall aesthetic.” While Radisson RED

Tbilisi is definitely an oasis for leisure travelers, it also caters to the needs of business guests, with it offering a host of amenities tailored for productivity. Strategically situated in the old town with proximity to the city’s business hubs, travelers can easily conduct business here, and use it as a hub for networking and collaboration. “Our hotel has three fully equipped meeting venues with latest technology, wonderful catering, and a 700 sq. m. courtyard that can accommodate 500 people for receptions, closed parties, and big events,” Lovric notes. “We attract young entrepreneurs with fresh and innovative ideas as

well as startups, and we’re also a place where businesspeople meet and network. Recently, we successfully hosted events for the American Chamber of Commerce, several pharmaceutical companies, software developers, insurance companies and many others.”

} But, of course, when in Tbilisi (even if you’re on a business trip), it would be hard to resist exploring the vibrant city beyond the confines of the hotel. With its irresistible charm and a captivating blend of history, culture and food, there are plenty of experiences to indulge in when you’re not



→ Radisson RED Tbilisi is housed in a 100-year-old building that used to be a post office. The décor is distinctive, with the Italian courtyard adding a touch of tradition.

RECOMMENDED BY THE GM IVICA LOVRIC, General Manager of Radisson RED Tbilisi, gives the low-down on what to expect from this property

BUSINESS/ “Nestled within the hotel outlet, The Posta Cafe provides an optimal setting for co-working. Moreover, the Posta Cafe extends its offerings with a dedicated business center. Visitors have the flexibility to effortlessly integrate work and leisure, savoring our exclusive lunch menu and exploring various amenities. Radisson RED Tbilisi boasts three well-appointed meeting spaces, accommodating up to 65 individuals, ideal for events and intimate gatherings. Additionally, the courtyard can host up to 500 guests, providing a versatile outdoor venue for various occasions and the venue itself already became the hot spot of the city.” FOOD/ “The first level of Radisson RED Tbilisi houses the Posta Restaurant and Bar, showcasing a fusion of traditional Georgian and international flavors, with a strong focus on sharing dishes that are very traditional and popular among Georgians. Serving as the hotel’s communal focal point, Posta is a vibrant space where visitors and locals gather to socialize, collaborate, indulge in delicious meals, and enjoy refreshing beverages. On sunny days, guests have the option to dine outdoors in the courtyard, unwind with friends, indulge in snacks and beverages, and immerse themselves in the charming local atmosphere. Especially popular are the alia sandwich and POSTA Ice Cream, which truly stand out for their richness and variety of flavors. On the other hand, our new concept in Posta Café offers high-end quality coffee for coffee lovers, a dessert bar, healthy morning and lunch specialties, while during the evening, guests can enjoy our snacks selection as well as a large variety of Georgian wines.”

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→ The Radisson RED

Tbilisi caters to both business and leisure guests. Its F&B concept, Posta Café, serves delicious food, but it also serves as an excellent coworking spot.

RECOMMENDED BY THE GM DOWNTIME/ “Georgia boasts a reputation for its traditional architecture, culinary delights, artistic scene, and a breathtaking setting where the Caucasus Mountains converge with the Black Sea shores. Tbilisi, the capital, mirrors the city’s intricate and lengthy history. Its architectural landscape spans from Eastern Orthodox churches and elaborate art nouveau structures, to Soviet Modernist buildings and a charming, cobblestoned Old Town. Notable landmarks like the Bridge of Peace, the Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi, and Narikala Fortress (a reconstructed fourth-century stronghold overseeing the city) join various cultural institutions: the Georgian National Museum, National Gallery, Lado Gudiashvili Exhibition Hall, Marjanishvili Theatre, Vaso Abashidze State New Theatre, Rustaveli Theatre, and the Opera and Ballet Theatre of Tbilisi. Explore these attractions by day or night, as the city illuminates with vibrant energy. Nightclubs play a significant role in the modern culture of Tbilisi, with the world-famous Bassiani being a notable example. All the mentioned attractions and locations are conveniently situated in close proximity to our hotel, ensuring a convenient experience for our guests.”

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working in Tbilisi. Lovric doesn’t shy away from singing his city’s praises, saying, “Georgia boasts a rich history, with Tbilisi being a city where ancient architecture coexists with vibrant, modern energy. Explore the charming Old Town with its cobblestone streets, historic churches, and sulfur baths that have been soothing visitors for centuries.” The General Manager also makes a note of the food one can experience here. “Georgia’s culinary scene is a sensory delight, with Tbilisi at the heart of it,” he says. “Indulge in traditional dishes like khachapuri (cheese-filled bread) and khinkali (dumplings), while sipping on the world-renowned Georgian wines,

produced in the region’s lush vineyards.”

} With such delights on hand, guests at the Radisson RED Tbilisi can rest assured about having a pleasurable experience while staying in the Georgian capital, and they’d also be privy to Lovric’s characteristic hospitality, which has been honed over a career of many years in the industry. “I started my career in hospitality as a night receptionist, with a clear vision and mission to become General Manager of a hotel,” he reveals. “Thankfully, Radisson Hotel Group has supported me on this challenging and exciting journey. All the experiences that I had along the way, travelling around the world, meeting different people and cultures, serving our dear guests and leading teams of wonderful people, have made me into the person that I’m today.” Lovric’s career trajectory makes him seem especially apt to be the General Manager of Radisson RED Tbilisiand guests at this property can certainly look forward to his warm reception. radissonhotels.com


Imagine a space where your inspiration can run free. A world that tells your own story, every single day.

At RAK Ceramics we help create the perfect living space, for you and your loved ones.

Imagine your space. RAKCERAMICS.COM






A new global chapter is unfolding in the future of food. It’s time to innovate for a more sustainable, thoughtful, and brighter future for the entire F&B ecosystem across the world.



“Help! I’m Burnt Out!” How to protect your time (and well-being) as a leader b y D O M I N I C A S H L E Y-T I M M S

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ou’re lying awake at night again. You’ve just seen the big red numbers on the clock strike 3am for the third time this week- and it’s only Tuesday. When you wake, you’ll spend the day in a brain fog, battling cognitive fatigue that only leads to decision fatigue- it’s just fatigue all around really. You’re stalling when it comes to completing tasks, snappy with your team, and wishing they’d all just stop asking you question after question. We’re all familiar with the commonly expressed

symptoms of burnout (“I’m drowning!” or “I’m slammed this week!”), but recent statistics lend real credence to this showing that 50% of managers are burnt out. That’s a shocking figure, though perhaps not surprising- as leaders and managers, we operate under a mental model where not only are we providing the navigation for the team, but we’re also trying to help everyone who asks for it, solving every problem brought to us, and taking on more work than we can cope with, which, of course, just increases our likelihood of burning out. While it may be comforting to know that you’re not

alone in feeling this way, long-term burnout can hamper your productivity, creativity, and communication skills. Burnt-out managers are slow to make decisions, can inhibit team productivity, prevent progress, and also damage the team’s morale. And that’s not to mention the effect it can have on your relationships at home. For entrepreneurs and leaders of SMEs and startups, maintaining personal well-being is essential to providing the robust leadership that growing companies need. But have you ever considered that it might be your management style


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that’s contributing to your feelings of overwhelm? If you’re constantly firefighting at work, making yourself responsible for every decision, and solving problems before giving your team a chance, then it probably is. Many leaders and managers struggle with the people management aspects of their roles, having been appointed for reasons other than their notable people skills. When it comes to line management and being responsible for the development and productive advancement of team members, then, at best, they’re self-trained; at worst, they’re ill-equipped to get the most from people. Within small teams, the need for people management skills is even more critical, because you need to be able to extract every ounce of talent from the people you’ve employed. Growing companies that are stepping up their hiring should also be aware that setting the right culture early on is how to attract the best talent and keep it. Ensuring everyone can bring their A-game to the company is imperative, especially as 50% of workers report quitting their role because of a poor manager. It’s no longer good enough to expect that people will automatically give you their best, when it is relatively easy to vote with their feet if they’re not happy, and with younger generations entering the workforce, this is already happening. So, how do we begin to address our own management behavior? Well, we can start by recognizing how we usually respond to different

situations. By habit, most of us have evolved to respond to different situations in a typically directive way, providing guidance and support to others. But in doing so, we risk marginalizing team members, disempowering them from showing us what they can do, if only we had the presence of mind to stimulate them to step up. To help us do that, we can look to the STAR model: •STOP/ Step back, and change state. •THINK/ Is this a coachable moment? •ASK/ Ask powerful questions and actively listen. •RESULT/ Agree on the next steps, and an outcome from the conversation. So, when a team member comes to you with a problem, STOP. Not every problem needs an overstressed manager doing all the thinking. Avoid providing all the answers, or mentally trawling your own mind for solutions- the mental load from constant decision-making is immense; just keep a note every time you make a decision during a single day! It is mentally taxing for you, and it also takes away a valuable moment to help the other person find the answer within themselves. Not only does this diminish any confidence they have in their own abilities, but it also encourages a mindset that they should wait for direction from you before attempting to solve a problem. This inadvertent dependence means that more problems will be brought to your attention. Learning to break your natural impulse to direct

-and literally learning to bite your lip- wins you a moment to THINK instead about whether the situation could be a coachable moment, i.e. a time when a deft prompt from you could help this person explore the situation and possible solutions themselves. If the person is capable, and you think they might benefit from wrestling with the problem themselves (i.e. it is a coachable moment), then learning to ASK authentic and powerful questions intended to stimulate the other person’s thinking will help them to consider and reflect on the possible actions they can take to begin to resolve the issue. It would be easy to move on at this point, but unless we’ve secured some form of commitment from the other person to act on one of their ideas, then all we’ve had is a nice conversation. To secure a RESULT, we need to ask a few more questions to agree on the appropriate followup, which will not only raise the likelihood that actions will be followed through, but also will provide an opportunity to give some appreciative feedback. Applying the STAR model in this way helps us to break down our habits, and draw on the talents of team members, helping them to retain accountability for resolving day-to-day issues. Though you may be saying, “I already ask my team members questions when faced with a problem,” the key here is to ask questions entirely for the benefit of the other person’s thinking, to help them shake out possible actions they can take, rather than using

↑ In The Answer Is a Question,

multi-award-winning performance consultants Dominic and Laura Ashley-Timms have set out a simple approach for rehumanizing the practice of management.

questions as an opportunity to gather information, so that you can solve the problem yourself (a typical diagnostic questioning approach). Beginning to favor using more of this enquiry-led approach in day-to-day situations -where you detect that there may be a better outcome to be had from asking rather than telling- is the antithesis of the traditional command-andcontrol management model. Continued application of the STAR model helps you to adopt an “operational coaching” style of management, which can also benefit the wider workplace culture by underpinning an environment that’s more engaging, productive, inclusive, and collaborative. You’ll find yourself doing less fixing and micro-managing, and, instead, you will

begin to win time back to focus on the higher-value aspects of your role. At the same time, these coachable moments provide your team with valuable learning opportunities to do the thinking themselves, improving their own problem-solving skills, confidence levels, and resourcefulness. Asking powerful questions also encourages team members to step up, and feel trusted to share accountability for the workload. Enabling others in this way is the key to effective delegation. Of course, adopting a new management style isn’t easy; it takes practice. When the pressure builds, you may well find yourself reverting to firefighting and directing. But every time you can STOP, and help others to do the thinking, you’re relieved of some of the mental burden of day-to-day management which is in itself a win. Depressurizing by engaging the fullest talents of your team helps you to regain some balance in your workload, which can only contribute to an improvement in your well-being, and help you avoid burnout. Dominic Ashley-Timms is the CEO of the performance consultancy Notion, creators of the multi-award-winning and globally-certified STAR Manager program being adopted in over 40 countries. Dominic is also the co-author of the new management bestseller, The Answer is a Question. starmanager.global

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Here, we delve into the pitfalls of price wars, as well as the challenges they pose. We also explore some effective strategies for marketers to navigate their options -and succeed- in a price-war environment.


A marketer’s guide to successfully navigating what is often a race to the bottom b y A H M A D N U M A N


n the competitive world of business, price wars, despite their initial appeal, are rightly seen as a race to the bottom. When competitors are engaged in a downward spiral to offer the lowest prices, it can be demoralizing for businesses, leading to diminished profit margins, eroded brand value, as well as strained customer relationships. When marketers find themselves caught in a saturated market, and are tricked into believing that the lowest price is the only differentiating feature, they can become blinded to the unique selling points (USPs) of their own products or services. As a result, marketers will find themselves grappling with a unique set of challenges.

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UNDERSTANDING PRICE WARS AND THEIR PERILS Price wars come about either as a result of a participant’s willingness to buy market share in exchange for their current margins, or from a belief that prices in a particular market are too high. Businesses can, by understanding their competitors, gain the upper hand when it comes to deciding how to react to a price war. As per an article in the Harvard Business Review, applying intelligent analysis to a price war can lead to a more accurate diagnosis, and it is often more than half the battle. Marketers need to understand how to respond to competitors’ pricing actions based on reliable knowledge of those competitors, and their available resources, as well as their own resources. “Not only is it necessary to understand why a price war is occurring or may occur,” notes the Harvard Business Review, “it also is critical to recognize where to look for the resources to do battle.” That kind of knowledge is essential, because, on the face of it, price wars present marketers with an impossible dilemma that ultimately puts them at the mercy of others’ actions. Why? Because the initial temptation to gain a temporary competitive edge through lower prices can quickly spiral into an uncontrollable and debilitating

cycle. Competing solely on price erodes profit margins, making it challenging for businesses to sustain operations, protect their brand, or invest in innovation. PRICE WARS: WHAT TO DO (AND WHAT NOT TO DO) So, what can marketers do to escape the price-war abyss? Here’s a game plan for what to do in a price war, and what not to do: 1/Adopt a value-based pricing strategy Most customers understand the difference between value and price, especially when they factor in the total cost of ownership, and how it relates to a product or service they consume over time. Rather than engaging in a race to the lowest price, it therefore helps to adopt a value-based pricing strategy- marketers should identify and communicate the unique value propositions that set their product or service apart from competitors, such as superior quality, utility, innovative features, or exceptional customer service.

Identifying customers’ varying sensitivity to price and quality can allow businesses to respond creatively to a competitor’s price cut without slashing their own prices. In short, do not allow margin erosion without adding value to the product or service, and understand the value. Simply cutting prices without addressing the reasons behind the competition can result in a downward spiral of diminishing returns. If you’ve entered a price war without gaining the necessary intelligence on your competitors to understand how to win, your business may not survive. 2/Alert customers to risk Companies can also respond to price wars by alerting customers to the risk of poor quality in competitor’s “bargain-basement” products. This is particularly effective where customers put a high value on reliability, accuracy and dependability. Let’s take the example of a European manufacturer of medical diagnostic devices when faced with a price war from a competitor. In the knowledge that


customers in this segment are risk-averse when it comes to fluctuations in product quality, the company responded by pointing out the potential negative consequences of risking an inaccurate or incomplete medical diagnosis. By emphasizing improved reliability over competitors’ products, as well as better and more reliable information gained from the product, the company succeeded in retaining the (majority) quality-sensitive segment of its market. 3/Bundle and upsell Create bundled offerings, or upsell complementary products and services, to increase the average transaction value. By providing customers with added value, you can justify maintaining higher prices while offering a more comprehensive solution. A case in point is Amazon’s Prime membership- in the global e-commerce space, Amazon bundles additional services such as 24-hour shipping, exclusive deals, and streaming services to its Amazon Prime membership. This allows Amazon to maintain higher prices, whilst offering added value to its customers. 4/Embrace selective pricing If you’re faced with a price war, consider cutting prices only for the segments of the population under threat from the war, thereby limiting your price cuts only to areas where the business is vulnerable. Time-of-use, quantity discounts, and loyalty programs can help insulate a business from a price war. As the Harvard Business Review notes, “in this way, managers can localize a price war to a limited theater of operation- and cut down the opportunities for the war to spill into other markets.” In addition, companies that operate across a wide geographical base may be able to ignore localized price wars, avoid selective pricing in markets where they appear vulnerable, and decide to shift supply and sales efforts into other markets without damaging their brand. Here’s an example from the manufacturing sector: UAE-based RAK Ceramics declined to enter a price war in the GCC region in 2016 by maintaining a focus on product innovation and quality, and by focusing February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 65



IN THE FOG OF PRICE WARS, MARKETERS MUST NAVIGATE STRATEGICALLY TO AVOID ENGAGING IN A RACE TO THE BOTTOM, OR AT THE VERY LEAST, UNDERSTAND THE REASONS FOR ENGAGING IN A WAR. UNDERSTANDING THE PERILS OF PRICE WARS, AND STEERING CLEAR OF COMMON PITFALLS, ARE VITAL FOR LONG-TERM SUSTAINABILITY. customer and employee satisfaction, and partly through superior deployment of technology, was not going to yield to Uber’s aggressive attacks. Therefore, marketers should emphasize and communicate the value proposition, concentrating on aspects such as customer service, quality, innovation, and utility.

on its established and trusted global brand across its many different markets. By focusing sales efforts across its other 150 markets, and by launching new, trendsetting designs, RAK Ceramics retained its premium image amidst aggressive price competition from new market entrants by investing in growth in a variety of distribution channels for its different ranges. 5/Enhance the customer experience Invest in enhancing and underlining the overall customer experience. From a seamless online shopping interface to exceptional after-sales support, a positive customer experience can be a powerful differentiator in a price-driven market. To give just one example, the ride-hailing industry in the UAE witnessed intense price competition in 2016, particularly between startup

success story, Careem, and the global conqueror of legacy ride-hailing business models, Uber. Although Uber bought Careem for US$3.1 billion in 2019, it had first engaged in a price war with the ride-hailing startup, having promised in 2016 to earmark $250 million to expand into the region. Careem successfully differentiated itself by focusing on superior customer experience, with its co-founder saying, at the time of Uber’s expansion attempt, “We embrace competition, because it prompts us to constantly improve our services, and focus on customers’ satisfaction.” The key takeaway here is: do not neglect brand differentiation. Focusing solely on price neglects the intangible aspects that make a brand unique. In this case, despite Uber’s very deep pockets, it eventually recognized that Careem’s brand differentiation, partly through

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6/Fight the price war There will be occasions when price competition will be the smart move, but businesses need to understand very clearly what they’re hoping to achieve. If a company’s intelligence on a competitor’s resources is reliable, it may be necessary to demonstrate an intention to fight and win, with pre-emptive or retaliatory cuts used to show you mean business. In addition, if that intelligence shows a cost advantage, and that your resources are greater than your competitors’, engaging in a price war might be the only way to wrestle a growing market of price-sensitive customers from your competitor, especially if you can take advantage of greater economies of scale compared to those available to competitors. WHETHER YOU CHOOSE TO FIGHT OR NOT, CHOOSE INTELLIGENTLY In the fog of price wars, marketers must navigate strategically to avoid engaging in a race to the bottom, or at the very least,

understand the reasons for engaging in a war. Understanding the perils of price wars, and steering clear of common pitfalls, are vital for long-term sustainability. By adopting value-based pricing, emphasizing brand differentiation, and enhancing the overall customer experience, businesses can not only survive, but thrive in the face of relentless price competition. As marketers navigate the challenges of price wars, the key lies in balancing competitiveness with sustainable profitability, understanding the value of your product or service, and recognizing where margins can be sacrificed in the pursuit of market share. That way, you will ensure that your businesses not only weather a price war, but can emerge stronger and more resilient in the aftermath of one.

Ahmad Numan is the Director of Marketing and Corporate Communications at Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ). He is responsible for the planning and implementation of all marketing and communication activities, overseeing the execution of the marketing strategy across multiple markets, while reinforcing the organization’s reputation. Numan has over 17 years of experience with various companies in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and he has been recognized as one of the region’s most impactful marketing and communications professionals. rakez.com


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ver stumbled upon something and thought, “Wow, that’s a great idea!” Well, that’s the feeling we sought to achieve for ourselves as we went about building this collection of 10 great ideas. From entrepreneurs who are bringing something fantastically new to the market, to enterprises venturing into spaces that were hitherto unexplored, the people and ventures showcased here are following through on some pretty inventive concepts. And while this is by no means an exhaustive list of all the great ideas out there, we’re still pretty excited to see how our selection will pan out in the long run.



ver the past few years, the advent of new knowledge-sharing avenues such as podcasts has imbued a palpable change within the fabric of traditional journalism outlets. It was in the midst of such transitions that Saudi Arabiabased media company, Thmanyah, was launched in 2016 with a mission to reimagine the face of Arabic journalism. The platform was thus curated to offer Arabic articles, documentaries, and podcasts on all the latest news on sociopolitics, economics, technology and science, among others. But in 2024, Abdulrahman Abu Malih, founder and CEO of Thmanyah, decided it was time for his company to focus on another format of information sharing: content creation. “At the beginning of this year, we launched an ecosystem for content creators, marking our transition into a media tech company, after having been solely a media company since our inception in 2016,” Abu Malih says. “As creators ourselves, intimately acquainted with the nuances of the global market, we recognized a pressing need to revolutionize the content creation

landscape. In response, we introduced two innovative products, Radio Thmanyah and Thmanyah.com, designed by content creators for content creators, resonating profoundly with Arabic consumers and their unique demands.” Now, while Thamnyah.com has been relaunched as a destination that can be used by content creators to share their newsletters and articles, Radio Thmanyah stands out for already becoming one of the most wide-reaching podcast networks in the Arab world today, with it already able to boast of securing over 351 million listeners and viewers. But Thmanyah’s move comes at a time when content creation in the Middle East is not just receiving high consumer demands, but also regional government support. Take for example, how, in }} ↓ ABDULRAHMAN ABU MALIH is the

founder and CEO of THMANYAH, the MENA’s pioneering Arabic podcast network and independent journalism platform.


ABDULRAHMAN ABU MALIH ON HOW TO MAKE AN IDEA A GREAT ONE }Find a pain point that annoys you a lot “If you are aware of something that creates friction in your personal or professional life, you are much more likely to be able to design a workable solution for it that others will also find useful. Also, your passion and experience will serve as fuel to drive you farther and faster.” }Break down the problem “Don’t think about products; think instead about experiences. Put yourself in the shoes of individual people on all sides of the issue, then consider what would be ideal for each person in each situation. Once you have those pieces of the puzzle, look for ways to bring them together.”


“Embrace the learning curve, and use each step as an opportunity to enhance and optimize your concept over time. Remember, the key is to start and evolve, not to wait for flawless conditions.” February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 69



January 2024, an US$41 million fund to support content creators and influencers in the UAE was announced by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Amid initiatives like these in the region, Abu Malih is hopeful that his company can play its part in contributing to the overall ecosystem. “We’ve always had this question in mind: how do we empower Arabic content creators, be they companies or individuals?” Abu Malih says. “The solution became evident- we needed to establish Arab technical platforms with superior quality and tailored support for our unique needs, language, and challenges. Drawing on the lessons learned from our experience as a media company, we aspire to develop platforms that seamlessly align with the way our consumers engage with our content.” And given its journey so far within the realm of media creation, Abu Malih believes Thmanyah is well-positioned to become a force to reckon with in this ecosystem. “What sets us apart is our deep understanding of the market, and our comprehensive support system, handling hosting, marketing, and monetization difficulties,” Abu Malih explains. “This liberates content creators to concentrate on refining the caliber of their productions, and ensuring sustainable growth. Also, our platforms have social elements, and encourage interactions between users. Radio Thmanyah has been topping the download charts. We have 20,000 users now, and hundreds of thousands more on the waiting list. The journey has just begun, and we anticipate the evolution of our platforms to be a dynamic response to the evolving landscape, and the enthusiastic embrace of our community.” thmanyah.com 70 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / February February2024 2024

→ MUNA AL GURG launched the Meem Foundation in 2023. Meem Foundation’s efforts encompass a wide range of practices from traditional grants to more novel ways of generating impact. Its focus is evidence-based as it works with organizations to understand and address the root cause of the issue it supports.

“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my own values, my lived experiences and the longer-term impact I hope to have in the world. This has informed the creation of my foundation.”



eem Foundation’s vision is a world where all women and girls can achieve their ambitions.” With just this one line, Muna Al Gurg encapsulates the essence of her newest undertaking, and given all of the accomplishments that this Emirati businesswoman and philanthropist has had in her career so far, one cannot help but be excited about the impact that Meem Foundation -an entity seeking to create sustainable social change in the lives of women and girls in the MENA region- can potentially have. However, for those of you who might not be as familiar with Al Gurg and her exploits, an introduction is in order. Al Gurg is perhaps best known for being the Vice Chairperson and Director of Retail at the UAE-born conglomerate, Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, but her interests (and reach) go far beyond her family business. In the realm of entrepreneurship, for instance, she has actively aided the growth of the region’s startup ecosystem for many years now, be it as an investor (she was famously the only individual Emirati shareholder in the Dubaiborn Careem before its acquisition in 2019), or an enabler (she is the Chair-

woman of Young Arab Leaders, a regional organization that promotes education, entrepreneurship, and youth development). Al Gurg has also been a passionate proponent of women in the Arab world for many years now- one of her legacies is the Muna Al Gurg Scholarship that she rolled out in 2015 at the London Business School in the UK, which has since provided over AED1.5 million in financial assistance, enabling aspiring women from the Middle East to pursue their educational goals, and accelerate their careers. Meem Foundation is thus yet another initiative that Al Gurg is pursuing to make a meaningful impact in the lives of women in this region. “Our mission is to bridge the gender gap in the Middle East and North Africa by creating more economic opportunity and greater access to healthcare for women and girls,” Al Gurg says. “What’s unique is our use of data-driven decision making, and an emphasis on measuring and sharing outcomes. Rather than traditional charity, we are focused on strategic philanthropy that emphasizes accountability and sustainability. Our approach is to find innovative entrepreneurial solutions to

gender inequality, and be transparent about what works and what doesn’t.” Meem Foundation’s approach to create economic opportunities for women, as opposed to just monetary support, is in line with the need of the hour. A 2021 report by UNICEF had noted that women in the Middle East and Africa face gender gap issues currently due to global and regional shifts such as “political and economic upheaval, conflict, occupation, and the COVID-19 pandemic.” It’s against this backdrop that Meem Foundation thus aims to create pathways for women and girls to achieve economic empowerment, while also ensuring they receive safe healthcare services and health awareness. And with Al Gurg at its helm, the enterprise seems to be set for success, given how she, thanks to her family and upbringing, has always been keen on giving back to society. “From an early age, I’ve been exposed to conversations about, and acts of, philanthropy, as my parents supported many charitable causes, ranging from healthcare and education, to the integration of refugees,” Al Gurg says. ”I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my own values, my lived experiences, and the longer-term impact

I hope to have in the world. This has informed the creation of my foundation. The foundation is focused on creating more opportunities for women and girls – creating more agency, voice, and choice. We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response and support on the launch of the foundation, and we are looking forward to creating sustainable social change in the lives of all women and girls in the MENA region.” meemfoundation.org


MUNA AL GURG ON HOW TO MAKE AN IDEA A GREAT ONE }Progress through iteration “I think it’s important to spend time understanding what problems exist and why. And then come up with ideas to address them. Research what’s failed and what doesn’t work in your context, market, community or specific setting. Then develop an idea, test it, and repeat.” }Create time for ideation, and funding for experimentation “I believe in fostering dialogue and discussion in any enterprise and creating an internal think-tank where employees meet quarterly and discuss topics unrelated to the company which could result in the next big idea! Additionally creating a small R&D budget that provides funding to innovative solutions will drive a collaborative culture within the community.”

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co-founder of We Design Beirut.

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I M A G E S C O U R T E S Y S E B A S T I A N B Ö T T C H E R .


f one were to look at We Design Beirut purely in terms of its offering, the event -a four-day experience that’s slated to run in Lebanon’s capital city from May 23-26, 2024- looks like it will be a grand celebration of creativity in fields ranging from interior design and architecture, to furniture and functional art. But there’s more to We Design Beirut than just that- and a note of the factors that led to its inception would let us see the bigger picture behind the scheme. “My partner on We Design Beirut, industrial designer Samer Alameen, and I have had numerous conversations on why this design week is so crucial to the creative landscape of Lebanon and beyond,” says co-founder Mariana Wehbe. “Since the end of 2019, our country has suffered greatly, firstly by political strife, and the revolution that erupted in November 2019, to be followed, of course, by the global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The country was also greatly impacted by the financial meltdown of 2020, and then the Beirut Explosion of August 4, 2020 that we will never forget. All these factors have negatively impacted the design scene specifically. The artisans, craftsmen, and women, designers both emerging and established, have suffered immensely due to a lack of business. The intention of We Design Beirut is thus to attract the global design scene to come visit Lebanon during these four days, and experience our magical city firsthand. It is this intention that has guided the curation of the event, ensuring that, at every step of the way, our guests are exposed to the very best of what Lebanon has to offer.” Now, while We Design Beirut has been formulated as a program that celebrates design and creativity within the Lebanese community, Wehbe believes that the event can eventually also encourage synergies beyond boundaries. A big part of Wehbe’s belief in the program’s potential has to do with nation’s rich, 200-year-long history in

“ The multitude of cultures that have affected Lebanon over the past few centuries has created a very unique design aesthetic that is specific to Lebanon.”

↑ The multidisciplinary event aims to celebrate and promote design and creativity through a rich program in the fields of interior design,

architecture, furniture, product design, functional art, ceramics, home accessories and rugs.

design and art, which is known to have been an inspiration for well-known designers such as France’s Jean Royuere and Brazil’s Oscar Neimeyer. “Lebanese design has always been heralded both internationally and regionally as progressive, authentic, and original,” Wehbe explains. “The multitude of cultures that have affected Lebanon over the past few centuries has created a very unique design aesthetic that is specific to Lebanon. The Lebanese have always had the ability to infuse their cultural treasures with external influences, creating an amalgamation of techniques that is purely Lebanese. And so, from the start, I knew that this would have to be a rich and impactful program. One that would not only showcase Lebanon, but create a global dialogue on design and sustainability that would translate to a design network, and, hopefully, eventually an ecosystem that would benefit everyone involved.”

“ It has been a labor of love, and a decision that I often question, with the same answer every time, ‘Yes, for Lebanon.’”

To achieve such a vision, Wehbe and Alameen have demarcated the four-day event into three discernible areas of focus: preservation, empowerment and sustainability. “These themes have been allocated to separate physical hubs or spaces within the city, which are of historical or architectural significance, and which are not usually open to the public,” Wehbe explains. “Our mandate for We Design Beirut was to ensure the exposure and sustainability of the different segments of the design scene in Lebanon. And the first among this, of course, are the centuries-old artisanal splendors and craftsmen and women of Lebanon. A point to keep in mind is the aging population of these sectors, and the real fear of eradication which we believe is worth safeguarding for the future design generations of Lebanon. We are thus essentially activating the entire city by lighting up -and inviting guests into- some of the most impressive and culturally important monuments Beirut has to offer.” The second theme of the event, which is rooted in Lebanon’s strife-ridden past, is that of empowerment. “According to Babylon (a design agency that will be curating a site-specific exhibition of established designers titled, Past Echoes; A Journey Through Middle Eastern Product Design, in one of Beirut’s most beautiful heritage homes), a majority of the most impressive and original work created by these designers was birthed during these last years of hardship,” Wehbe reveals. “This just reiterates the importance of showcasing these talents and putting them on the international design map.” Finally, it is through the third theme, sustainability, that Wehbe hopes the current tapestry of Lebanese art and design can be seamlessly woven into }} February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 73




MARIANA WEHBE ON HOW TO MAKE AN IDEA A GREAT ONE }Your intuition knows things “We all know that our most important gauge is our instinct, but with all the stimuli we are exposed to daily, sometimes it is hard to hear what your intuition has to say. We are conditioned to learn from others, which is of course invaluable, but I believe that most unique ideas come to you when you allow your thoughts to wander. Don’t fear the unknown, it is often there where you will find your most exciting ideas. As I always like to say, your intuition is your compass in life.”

what the next generation has to offer. “The sustainability hub will explore the future of global design,” she says. “In collaboration with a number of Lebanese universities and experienced personalities in the field, we hope that the younger generation of designers in Lebanon will have the opportunity to showcase their work, dreams, and aspirations for a better sustainable future.” With such a well thought out approach, while the intention is certainly to showcase Lebanese art to the world, Wehbe confirms that there is a very specific goal at the heart of We Design Beirut: strengthening the sense of community. “Perhaps one of the most important elements of We Design Beirut is in fact the ‘We,’” she says. “In order for it to succeed, it had to be a group effort, and an adopted founder’s mentality for each and every participant. It is almost a movement, with us all believing very strongly in two things: the beauty,

“ Our mandate for We Design Beirut was to ensure the exposure and sustainability of the different segments of the design scene in Lebanon.”

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creativity, and talent Lebanon has to offer, and the fact that this needs to be shown to the world. Together, ‘We’ as the We Design Beirut team, and each and every participant, donor, sponsor and volunteer have worked towards this event with these two convictions. I genuinely believe that this mentality will synergistically make way for an event that will have true impact this year, and in years to come.” And while she now puts in the hard yards for We Design Beirut’s inaugural edition, Wehbe is clear that she is being driven by a singular sentiment- a devotion to her motherland. “It has been a labor of love, and a decision that I often question,” she says. “But I respond with the same answer every time: ‘Yes, for Lebanon.’” wedesignbeirut.com

}The numbers need to make sense “If your numbers don’t work, nor will your business. You can’t wing it, you need to take the time to plough through the figures, no matter how uncomfortable this may be.” }Don’t overthink it “Sometimes we overthink ideas or things we want to do, and they never come to life. I believe everything leads to something as long as you have the courage to try.”


↑ WE DESIGN BEIRUT is a 4-day design experience in Beirut from May 23-26, 2024 offering designer showcases, installations, and talks.

}It’s in the “why” “Purpose is the most important element of your idea. Your concept needs to be built on a strong desire to make something better; you need to identify the issue, and do your best to solve it. It needs to be emotional, you have to have passion for your purpose, it is this element that allows your offering to be unique, and hopefully create a healthy market share. People can identify products that have been created with heart, and it matters.

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→ ABDULLA AL-JANAHI is the 16-year-old entrepreneur behind the Dubai-based F&B concept, ABDUL’S BBQ.


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his curiosity about it led him to want to find out more about it, watching video after video about what he calls a “phenomenal and beautiful” dish. “Brisket is a dish that needs time to be served in the best way, and I always wished to try it one day,” Al-Janahi says. “But I couldn’t find a place that sold the brisket that would fulfill my expectations, and so, I took it as a challenge to create one myself. My first

attempt was at home with the simple equipment that I had at that time. My family were the first people to try my dish. They were the reason I took this huge step, and started my own business. I was hesitant at first, but I am glad I got started. In the end, everyone encouraged me.” Al-Janahi thus launched Abdul’s BBQ as a drivethrough F&B concept in December 2022 -when he was

→ ABDUL’S BBQ claims to be the first in the local F&B industry to serve Grade 7 marbling Wagyu beef.

I M A G E S C O U R T E S Y A B D U L’ S B B Q


hen 16-year-old Abdulla Al-Janahi discovered that he had an innate passion for cooking, he decided to channel all his energy towards improving his culinary skills- and that’s what led him to eventually launch his own F&B brand, Abdul’s BBQ, which serves Texas-style smoked briskets. As for why briskets, well, Al-Janahi has a very personal reason for that. “I always wanted to cook something like brisket, which is well-cooked and tender, because I’m not a fan of rare, cooked meat!” Al-Janahi says. “Kids, in general, are not fans of bloody meat or steak!” This, in effect, is how Al-Janahi’s interest in Texas-style briskets began, and

just 15 years old- in the Al Quoz area of Dubai. Having carried out intensive research into the science behind the dish, Al-Janahi says he was thrilled by the cultural implications of him -an Emirati teenager- trying to master the art of an American style of cooking. After all, the slow cooking of beef briskets is a culinary method whose discovery is attributed to the South American state of Texas, and began centuries ago in the early 19th century. “We all know that brisket is a Texasstyle dish, but imagine a young Emirati kid cooking brisket of authentic quality- or maybe even better!” he says. “This gives a message to our young generation that if others can do it, then why shouldn’t we? It also shows that the F&B landscape in the UAE is very dynamic and diversified in terms of a multicultural society, but I believe Abdul’s BBQ stands out from the competition, because of its quality.” Indeed, a focus on quality has meant that Abdul’s BBQ uses beef that has a marbling grade of seven and above- in beef cuts, a higher amount of marbling (or visible white streaks of intramuscular fat) entails a higher grade, which means that particular beef cut will be comparatively more tender, packed with flavors, and juicier. “The brisket we use is a Grade 7 marbling Wagyu beef, smoked at low temperatures,” Al-Jahani elaborates. “I’m proud to be the first in the industry here to serve this product. Cooking a single brisket takes 16 hours, and sometimes even longer. During the smoking process, I need to keep my eyes on the small details, such as the seasoning that needs to be well-balanced, so it doesn’t become too salty, or bland with no taste. My goal is to create the best crust that surrounds my brisket, and serve it with homemade sauces and sides.” Al-Janahi’s efforts in perfecting his briskets have certainly worked out well so far, and the teenager now hopes to build on his business’ momentum to eventually launch a food truck as well in the near future. “I can now see myself in a place I will be proud of, and make my family and supporters proud too,” Al-Janahi says. “I want to own a restaurant that serves a product every weekend that makes you want to wait for it the entire week!” instagram. com/abduls.bbq


ABDULLA AL-JANAHI ON HOW TO MAKE AN IDEA A GREAT ONE }Great ideas happen as a combination of creativity, existing products, and your own touch “Ideas come from chasing opportunities that others may not see. Whatever strength you have, no matter what it is, it’s going to be attached to an opportunity. Keep your eyes open, because we live in a world full of opportunities. Success won’t come easily, since it’s a journey full of experiments, trial and error, and explorations. There will also be nights with no sleep. That’s what happens when I want to make sure that the next day, I am going to serve my customers the best brisket they ever had!”

OATFUL ↓ YARA MERSI is the founder and CEO of OATFUL.

}Get feedback from those you trust “For Abdul’s BBQ, the first, second, and third brisket trials were always done through family, relatives, and close friends. Such a close circle of people will always want the best for you, and support you. They will give their honest review, and they will be the first people to clap for you when you reach your goal.” }Listen to your customers “I had to learn how to respect and implement customer feedback. I once had feedback from one of my frequent customers about a point that I had never noticed. He suggested I should change the packaging from a boring brown box to an elegant black box. This really helped my product to become more appealing. As soon as I had different perspectives, I was able to develop my product, and make it more appealing.”


n a day and age where breakfast often feels like a rushed afterthought, 23-year-old Yara Mersi’s concept Oatful aims to make the morning meal great again. Mersi, the UAE-based brand’s founder and CEO, says, “Oatful’s innovative concept revolves around being the GCC’s first high-protein overnight oats. The incorporation of over 20 grams of protein, superfoods, and fiber, coupled with a community-driven ethos, sets Oatful apart in the breakfast industry. We are changing the boring old fashioned oatmeal industry with our three product lines: protein overnight oat mixes, ready to eat protein overnight oats, and protein granola.” }}

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“Oatful is not just oatmeal; it’s a modernized breakfast choice crafted for the 21st century consumer.”

↑ OATFUL has three product

lines: overnight oat mixes, ready to eat overnight oats and granola.

Oatful’s goal is thus to redefine breakfast by blending exceptional taste with health-conscious choices. “We go beyond artificial flavorings, incorporating a variety of incredible superfoods to create a nutritious and flavorful breakfast experience,” Mersi adds. “Oatful is not just oatmeal; it’s a modernized breakfast choice crafted for the 21st century consumer.” Mersi’s vision for Oatful, which she launched in 2021, was also influenced by a desire to offer consumers a truly wholesome option when it comes to food. “As I learned more about the food industry and nutrition, I became vexed at society’s approach to food,” she says. The food industry has been manipulating the masses,

and the global perception of nutrition has been distorted, becoming an unhealthy obsession. This made me compelled to prove that delicious food and healthy food do not have to be mutually exclusive.” Coming up with her business idea was fueled by Mersi’s personal journey and passion for nutrition. “I grew up eating overnight oats every single day for breakfast, which changed my life,” she reveals. “With all the extracurriculars I was involved in during high school to attending my dream Ivy League school, I always started each day with a run. It became the first positive habit that gave me this awesome nutritional win every single morning. It also led me to make better decisions throughout the rest of the day. But the make-it-yourself version required too much time to prepare. And at the supermarket, almost every oatmeal in the aisle is stuck in that old paradigm of empty carbs, sugars, and

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cheap ingredients. And they were all the same, bland flavors.” This would explain why Mersi decided to make Oatful stand out with its commitment to quality ingredients and flavor. “We prioritize both protein content and the quality of ingredients,” Mersi says. “For instance, our vanilla bean overnight oats boast the exquisite flavor of Madagascar vanilla beans, while our dark chocolate variant is enriched with ceremonial cacao powder, and a touch of Himalayan pink salt. Diving into nostalgia, our cereal milk flavor is a delightful journey back to childhood.” And these flavorful offerings are definitely getting the brand noticed in the local market- Oatful also gained a spot on the Spinneys Local Business Incubator Program in 2023. But the journey Mersi has in mind for Oatful is far from over. “I foresee sustained growth, particularly our expansion plans extend beyond the UAE, encompassing the GCC, and reaching even further, underlining our commitment to making Oatful a global presence,” she says. “I want to bring back the excitement to breakfast we once had when we were kids, and make people look forward to breakfast waiting for them in the morning. There’s something very important about starting your morning right.” shopoatful.com


YARA MERSI ON HOW TO MAKE AN IDEA A GREAT ONE }Start- even if you don’t know how “Launching into the unknown can be daunting, but taking the first step, even without a clear roadmap, is crucial. Many successful entrepreneurs didn’t have it all figured out initially; enjoy the journey of discovery one step at a time. I was initially unfamiliar with the intricacies of business operations and the legal aspects involved and learned a lot on the way.” Embrace passion and purpose “Identify your genuine interests and discover what truly excites you. Also find a purpose by connecting your passion with societal needs. When challenges arise, understanding your ‘why’ keeps you motivated.” Prioritize community and customer engagement “Foster a network around your idea, then understand and engage your audience in the development process. Their insights are invaluable.” Iterate and innovate “Cultivate a growth mindset by embracing continuous improvement. Learn from feedback and adapt to changing dynamics in the market.”


n the Hawaiian language, people with pets do not call themselves “owners”instead, they are the animal’s “kahu,” which translates to guardian or protector. Essentially, it refers to a person who keeps something cherished safe, and in a world where pets are considered members of the family and something to be loved and protected, Carlie Leake saw an opportunity to address a common concern among pet parents in the UAE: the safety and well-being of their furry companions. That’s how Where My Paws At came into being as a pioneering pet safety app that is changing the way pet owners in the UAE keep their fur-kids safe. “Where My Paws At helps solve a problem for pet parents in the UAE,” Leake, the founder of the company, says. “We’re the first local pet safety app, building a community to help dog and cat owners in the UAE.” What sets Where My Paws At apart is its smart yet simple technology, which allows pet parents to access a range of features seamlessly. From joining a microchip platform used by registered vets, rescuers, and charities, to sending instant lost pet alerts and creating automated missing pet posters, Where My Paws At offers a one-stop solution for pet safety. But the innovation doesn’t stop there. Where My Paws At has also developed two smart pet tag products that link to the app and a user’s pet’s profile, providing an added layer of security and peace of mind. And that’s not all. “We understand the cost of being a pet parent too,” Leake adds. “So, we partner with pet-loving businesses in the UAE to save you money on pet-related services and products.” The genesis of the app came from a harrowing personal experience, Leake reveals. “The idea for Where My Paws At came to me after we lost our indoor cat, Moo,” she says. “He went missing for three days. I’d never lost my cat before, and I didn’t know what to do, how to get help or who to contact to find him.” Vowing to not let others go through a similar situation,

WHERE MY PAWS AT Leake -who previously worked in the talent acquisition and recruitment field for more than 16 years- went live with Where My Paws At in February 2023. “Since launching Where My Paws At, we have over 1,200 pet parents using the app, we’ve

→ CARLIE LEAKE is the founder of

Where My Paws At, the UAE’s first pet safety app.

helped reunite 58 missing pets, and we have built important relationships with vets, rescuers, and animal charities in the UAE,” Leake says, proudly. Looking ahead, Leake envisions the further evolution of Where My Paws At. “The future sees us adding more safety features to the app, products and services such as active global positioning system (GPS) tracking devices to enable pet parents to see exactly where their pets are at any given time,” Leake says. “We’re truly connecting the UAE pet community, and keeping pets safe.” wheremypawsat.com


CARLIE LEAKE ON HOW TO MAKE AN IDEA A GREAT ONE }Research the size of the market “Is it saturated? Without researching, your idea may be a non-starter. Know the size of your market and any competitors.” }Understand your niche and demographics “By analyzing data, you can learn more about your audience. What are their pain points, and how can you help solve a problem?” }Be of value “Connect and engage with people. Have conversations, and learn from others. This has been something that has been invaluable with Where My Paws At. I’m not a leading expert in the pet industry, but that’s ok, I’m constantly learning. I’m connecting with my audience and niche, and I’m also able to share my knowledge with others.”

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“If you have an idea that you believe in, act upon it, and only then will you find out if it is great!”

↓ EFIE GALLERY is a contemporary art gallery in Dubai specializing in the representation and advancement of artists of African origin, both from the African continent and its global diaspora.



wame Mintah is the co-founder of Efie Gallery, a contemporary art gallery that he launched in Dubai with his mother, Valentina, and brother, Kobi, which is dedicated to exhibiting the work of artists from Africa, particularly West Africa. And while Efie Gallery is today a space that brings together art lovers from both African and Middle Eastern cultures, it actually started out as something entirely different. “We actually owe the genesis of Efie Gallery to the Rekord Gallery,” Mintah reveals. “In 2021, my brother Kobi and I were exploring the idea of exhibiting our record collection at the All Africa Festival -an annual event celebrating African culture in the UAE- on 80 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / February 2024

the basis that these discs are one of the richest art forms, encompassing the artistry of the cover, the historical specificity of the liner notes, and the music itself. But through further discussion, this idea evolved to a visual art exhibition, which became Efie Gallery’s debut exhibition in a site-specific pavilion at the Burj Plaza in Dubai, which was designed by Ghanaian architect Alice Asafu-Adjaye.” Efie Gallery cemented its presence in Dubai when it got its own permanent location at Al Quoz Creative Zone in March 2022- but the Rekord Gallery remains an integral component of the experience at this space. “The Rekord Gallery on the first floor is where we exhibit our permanent collection of originally pressed rare and important vinyl/shellac records from around the world, dating from the 1940s, to the present day,” Mintah says. “This has been an innovative approach to changing how a gallery can be both perceived and experienced. Sterility is a common criticism of many gallery spaces, but we have found that in being interdisciplinary through music and visual art, our space feels more inviting to visitors.” The intertwining of two very different mediums of art, separated by just a floor, allows visitors to have viscerally varied experiences as well, Mintah notes. “This is apparent in the differing way visitors interact with the space dependent on the floor on which they are on; when downstairs, often, navigation of the space is conducted in silence, as absorption appears to be qualitative of visual art, and so, often visitors wish to take in what they are seeing or experiencing,” he says. “In contrast, when visitors move upstairs toward the Rekord Gallery, the space produces conversation, as we have found that in comparison to visual art. Visitors seem to feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts on a particular song/sound, and how it relates to them. Music appears to be a shared experience, whilst visual art is much more individual.” In the three years since its launch, Efie Gallery has gone on to exhibit the works of a number of artists of African

↓ KWAME MINTAH is the co-founder of EFIE GALLERY, a contemporary art gallery that he launched in Dubai with his mother, Valentina, and brother, KOBI.

origin, both from the African nations and its global diaspora. “We’ve featured the likes of El Anatsui, James Barnor, Yaw Owusu, Isshaq Ismail, Slawn, Maggie Otieno, Theresah Ankomah, Chrissa Amuah and many others,” Kwame says. “And beyond displaying the gallery’s permanent collection, we still have the Rekord Gallery, which is a space for record collectors in the UAE and overseas to exhibit their own collections.” Now, as Mintah gets ready for Efie Gallery’s showcase at Art Dubai -one of the Middle East’s largest international art fairs- in March this year, visitors can expect to lean into yet another intertwinement of music and visual art, with the gallery aiming to showcase the personal record collection of the aforementioned Anatsui- an internationally acclaimed Ghanaian artist- at the event. As something that has never been shown to the world, Anatsui’s collection promises to be a revelation- make sure you keep an eye out for it when you visit Art Dubai! efiegallery.com


KWAME MINTAH ON HOW TO MAKE AN IDEA A GREAT ONE }Greatness lies in execution, not ideation “Almost everything that has been created once existed in the mind of someone else before the creator. If you have an idea that you believe in, act upon it, and only then will you find out if it is great!”

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ALL AFRICA FESTIVAL cultural event focused on showcasing African culture around the world at its very best.” This year’s edition of the Festival -which will take place in November at Etihad Park on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi- is supported by the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) as well as UAE Africa Connect (which represents the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs), and it promises to be an unforgettable experience for residents and visitors

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“Africa, in our definition, is not just the continent, but her people who are all over the world, and in that light, we look to showcase African continental and diaspora culture.”

alike. “Here, in addition to enjoying the rich vibrant sound for which the continent is known through music, guests can immerse themselves in diverse offerings of pan-African cuisine, catch a glimpse of unique displays of live art and creative installations, explore the colorful flair of African culture through fashion exhibits from UAE-based designers, and so much more,” Olatoke says. Looking back on the event’s origins, Olatoke says that the idea for it was born out of a desire to showcase the diversity and beauty of African culture to a global

audience. “Africa, in our definition, is not just the continent, but her people who are all over the world, and in that light, we look to showcase African continental and diaspora culture,” she explains. The reception to the festival, she says, has been positive, with support pouring in from all corners. “In a diverse landscape such as the UAE, people get it,” she says. “We have also had support from UAE brands that understand the full value of the culture and people. Be it DCT, Miral [the UAE developer behind Yas Island], and UAE Africa Connect -as we have our first edition in



ith a wide range of events taking place in the UAE every week of every month, you’d think it would be hard to find a market that wasn’t tapped into. And yet, the All Africa Festival, spearheaded by co-founder and CEO Nina Olatoke, stands out as a symbol of diversity and celebration. Having launched in 2018 at Dubai’s Creek Park, the event places the spotlight on Africa’s culture and heritage through a blend of music, cuisine, art, and fashion. As Olatoke put it: “The All Africa Festival is a one-of-a-kind African community, family, and


is the co-founder and CEO of ALL AFRICA FESTIVAL.

Abu Dhabi- or Emaar when we were in Dubai, the UAE gets it.” In terms of the road ahead, Olatoke envisions the festival expanding to include even more cultural exchanges and collaborations. “As we look to the future, we need an expansion to connect the Emirati culture to this,” she says. “Not only because the UAE welcomed this idea, but be it through some of our traditional sounds, arts or crafts like basket weaving, there are a lot of synergies between African culture and Emirati culture, and we are continuing to explore that in the future across all our pillars of music, food, art, and culture.” allafricafestivwal.com



hile holding onto payment receipts is a great way to maintain record of expenses, cash flows and remunerations, maintaining and organizing these slips of paper can often prove to be quite a hassle. And it is to address this issue head-on, that Klipit -a blockchain-powered digital receipt platform that can integrate all purchase and payment receipts- was founded in the UAE this year. }}

↓ VENKAT REDDY is the founder and CEO of KLIPIT.


NINA OLATOKE ON HOW TO MAKE AN IDEA A GREAT ONE }Greatness lies in execution, not ideation “Take a leaf out of Nike’s book and “just do it!” If we overthink things sometimes, we think ourselves out of great ideas. The worst that can happen is that you discover the right way to do it, by doing it the wrong way.” }Find the right people “Surround yourself with people who can give you the right input and move you in the right direction. Sometimes, we only attach value to those who are investing money into ideas. But time is the biggest and most expensive investment as it can never return, no matter how much money you want to pay for it.” }Embrace failure “We have definitely learnt more on this journey- for the moments that felt like we were failing, turned out to be our biggest wins.”

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← KLIPIT is an all-in-one digital receipt storage, expense management and budgeting app that ensures you never lose another receipt with its 100% secure, blockchain-protected system.

EUREKA! “I believe our solution is groundbreaking, because it aligns with the preferences and behaviors of modern consumers, specifically in the GCC region, where [our studies show that] 76% show a preference for digital receipts,” says Venkat Reddy, founder and CEO of Klipit. “This innovative shift from

“In the current retail and finance sectors, dominated by traditional practices, Klipit stands out as a forwardthinking solution that merges convenience with sustainability, setting a new standard in customer experience and business operations.” traditional paper-based systems to a digital approach not only simplifies receipt management, but it

also significantly reduces paper waste, addressing key environmental concerns. Klipit fundamentally changes how consumers and businesses handle receipts, shifting from paper-based clutter to a streamlined, digital solution. It’s particularly innovative, because it not only simplifies receipt management, but also addresses environmental concerns by reducing paper waste.” Now, it is perhaps necessary to add some context to Klipit’s sustainability-focused approach. A 2023 report by The World Counts -a digital platform that offers global environmental awareness facts and studies- shows that paper accounts for around 26% of total waste at landfills. But more specifically, it has been found, through research done by the Klipit team, that the creation of receipts consumes a staggering 250+ million gallons of oil, 10 million trees, and one billion gallons of water every year- and that’s just in the United States alone. What’s more, receipts are often coated with an industrial chemical called Bisphenol-A (BPA), which can’t be recycled conventionally, and are also known to contaminate other recyclables. And as per

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Reddy, it is Klipit’s ability to address such issues that makes for its unique selling proposition. “In the current retail and finance sectors, dominated by traditional practices, Klipit stands out as a forward-thinking solution that merges convenience with sustainability, setting a new standard in customer experience and business operations,” Reddy says. “In fact, the idea for Klipit emerged from a personal pain point- managing numerous paper receipts, and the need for more sustainable options. This led to the realization of a universal need for a more efficient, eco-friendly solution, especially considering that our studies show that 77% of people have lost paper receipts!” With the aim to cement a spot for itself in the increasingly digitized UAE business ecosystem, Klipit is thus hoping to become known as a disruptor in the space it operates in. “The reception so far has been very positive, with both consumers and retailers appreciating the convenience and environmental benefits,” Reddy says. “Looking forward, we see Klipit not just as a receipt management system, but as a platform that can

VENKAT REDDY ON HOW TO MAKE AN IDEA A GREAT ONE }Identify a common pain point “Start by observing everyday problems or inefficiencies that people face. An idea that solves a widespread issue is more likely to succeed.” }Leverage technology innovatively “Use technology not just for the sake of it, but to create solutions that are easier, faster, or more enjoyable than the current alternatives.” }Focus on user experience “Your idea should enhance the user’s life in some way. It should be intuitive, easy to use, and genuinely beneficial.” }Think sustainability “Consider how your idea can contribute positively to environmental or social issues. Sustainable solutions are increasingly valued by consumers, and it can set your idea apart.”

revolutionize customer engagement and retail analytics. We plan to integrate more features, like personalized shopping insights and financial management tools, making Klipit an indispensable part of everyday transactions.” klipit.co




is the founder and CEO of SWITCH FOODS.




}Truly understand the problem that you would like to solve “Most of these problems come up in our daily lives or through daily experiences which we don’t really focus on, whether at work, at home, during travel, etc. Once the problem or the issue is identified, an individual should never be content with the status quo of the current problem, and they should never assume that people have already looked into it and we’re at the maximum line. Today’s advances in technology offer new solutions to problems on a daily basis.”



s per global data and business intelligence platform Statista, the plant-based meat market is expected to be worth US$33.99 billion by 2027. And while that should be incentive enough for one to start an enterprise in this arena, for Edward Hamod, who founded Switch Foods in the UAE in 2022, one of the drivers for his foodtech startup -which locally produces plant-based alternatives to meat- was his personal experience working in the F&B industry. “I’ve been working in the food business since 2005, and I have owned, operated, and led many successful food companies across the region,” Hamod reveals. “But in 86 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / February 2024

2017, I started to learn more about the effect of our food systems on the individual’s health, and our planet as a whole. In the years since, I have shifted my mindset from being solely commercially-driven, to focusing more on the purpose of what I do, and how I can use my experience and network within the food industry to build something ‘good.’ I quickly understood the severe effects our food systems have on our health and the environment, and that animal meat production and consumption were a major part of the problem. I also quickly found out that the alternative healthy and sustainable choices to meat on supermarket shelves did not taste good, or provide the consumer with a seamless }}

}Don’t believe that a brilliant idea will strike after an hour -or even a day- of thought “Great ideas take time to develop, articulate, and process. An idea starts as a thought, and one should give their thought enough time and focus and continue to deeply explore it, until it really becomes an implementable idea. This might take days, weeks, or months, and it is important to be patient, and do the necessary research, first and foremost.”

An idea starts as a thought, and one should give their thought enough time and focus and continue to deeply explore it, until it really becomes an implementable idea.”

→ SWITCH FOODS is a UAE-based

foodtech startup dedicated to crafting guilt-free, alternative plant-based meats that resonate with the local community’s discerning palates and beloved culinary traditions.

alternative to animal meat. That’s when the idea came to create Switch Food’s plant-based healthy and sustainable products, which are also delicious and affordable.” Now, all of Hamod’s observations can be backed by multiple studies that show the adverse effects of food production -meat, in particular- on climate change. A 2023 article published in the MIT Technology Review highlights that cultivated or plant-based meat production can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by between 78% and 96%- a stark contrast to how traditional meat production accounts for about 15% of overall GHG emissions. “We live in a world where health, sustainability, and global climate change are on every government agenda, and on the minds of most people, where immediate drastic measures are needed,” Hamod adds. “One of the top causes of health risks, pollution, deforestation, and greenhouse gas emissions is our food systems. The energy industry is spending billions of dollars to cut emissions and switch to green solutions, and if we do nothing as food producers and consumers, our food systems will soon become the biggest emitters in the world. Plant-based alternatives and increasing consumer adoption of plantbased foods into diets is a must if we are to improve individual health, and slow or reverse our food systems’ impact on climate change.” Now, while the move towards plant-based meat has been trending in the West, it is also slowly but steadily becoming mainstream in the Middle East as well. In fact, a 2022 report by Mordor Intelligence shows that while the plant-based meat market concentration in the Middle East and Africa can be described as low in comparison to the global market, it is still expected to grow at a healthy compound annual growth rate of 6.44% to reach a value of $412.96 million by 2027. Within such a growing ecosystem, Hamod adds that his startup’s offerings hold significant value, because the consumer trends are quite unique. “In a region dominated by high meat consumption -three times the average recommended by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization- the plant-based meat category remains very small, when compared to other markets such as the US, UK, and Europe,” he says. “This niche category has witnessed a slow growth over the past few years with a below-average global scale, due to high-priced generic imports (burgers, sausages, and nuggets). Switch Foods thus aspires to lead and grow the category across the region to reach global levels by offering products that are familiar in the region, are part of everyday dishes, and adhere to the region tastes and culinary habits. Switch thus offers a variety of unique goods suited to local consumers’ interests. Because they are manufactured locally, their prices are competitive with those of meat products,

such as burgers, minced beef, kabab, and kafta. This alters the overall landscape of the food category.” Such a localized approach has landed Switch Foods plenty of successes so far. April 2023 saw the enterprise launch a 2,000 sq. m. plant-based meat production center in Abu Dhabi, and it has since allowed for the the brand’s offerings to make it to the shelves of various UAE-based retail outlets such as Carrefour, Organic Food Café, Geant, Union Coop, Sharjah Coop, and Spinneys, as well as online platforms like Talabat, Kibsons, Careem, and Noon. Earlier this year, Switch Foods also announced a partnership with UAE-based real estate firm The First Group, which will see the former’s sustainable plant-based options be served across the latter’s F&B portfolio of 35 UAEbased restaurants, which includes MasterChef, the TV Experience, Risen, Soluna Beach, The Blacksmith Bar & Eatery, Village Bistro, The First Collection at Jumeirah Village Circle, and Millennium Place Marina. “We only launched 10 months ago, and we are already in the process of entering neighboring markets,” Hamod adds. “Having received great consumer reviews on the quality and taste of our products, we have found positive responses from the industry, as leading large regional restaurant chains show interest in partnering with us. In order to maintain our products’ locality, sustainability, and affordability, we also plan to build production facilities in each of the major markets we enter.” With such plans in the offing, Switch Foods is thus only getting started with its growth storyand it seems safe to say that the enterprise’s future looks bright. switchfoods.com February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 87

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I M A G E C R E D I T M E TA [ B O L I C ]

→ Ali Hashemi is the co-founder and CEO of meta[bolic].

Healthcare, Redefined With his UAE-born healthtech startup meta[bolic], co-founder and CEO Ali Hashemi is aiming to be a pioneer in the hybrid healthcare space b y D E V I N A D I V E C H A

February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 91



with ŌURA, the company behind the Oura Ring, has let meta[bolic] make its mark in the wearables industry.


} The company’s evolution began with the creation of GluCare.Health in 2019 as a diabetes management platform, following which Zone.Health, a weight management platform, was launched. Both were then absorbed under the meta[bolic] umbrella– which essentially builds the tech that powers both these platforms. Both of them were created with the belief that hybrid healthcare -marrying traditional care with digital health and virtual care- was the future. “This thesis gelled into a vision to build a continuous model of care that delivered superior outcomes by giving agency back to our patients– where we define agency as the ability to turn data into knowledge, into insight, into action, into measurable outcomes,” Hashemi, who is also the CEO of meta[bolic], says. “What that meant in a practical sense was harnessing the full potential of all the continuous forms of data we’re already capable of producing, from wearables and connected devices, with a hyper-personalized physical footprint that served to translate data correlations into actionable insights for our patients. An engagement platform, if you will, around best-in-class clinical care, powered by data driven insights.” } Successful startups need to identify a gap in the market, and the co-founders of meta[bolic] were able to do just that. Believing that first-generation digital health companies already tackled metabolic health, but did not manage care 92 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / February 2024

I M A G E S C R E D I T M E TA [ B O L I C ]

→ Collaborating

n the evolving landscape of healthtech, innovative startups are reshaping the way wellbeing is approached. A trailblazer in this field is a company born in the UAE, co-founded by Ali Hashemi and Ihsan Almarzooqi: meta[bolic]. In the five years since its inception, the startup has grown beyond its initial remit, and has made its impact felt in the burgeoning wearables industry as well.

provision and had also misaligned incentives at the grassroots level, the meta[bolic] team set out to create a way to deal with this issue- and that’s how GluCare.Health came into being. “We felt that was an important gap, and set out to build a platform that would take the best of both worlds and deliver a care model that was both comprehensive and continuous,” Hashemi says. However, Hashemi admits doing so was a risk. “Of course, we were going against the grain, and when one of the ‘OG’ virtual care startups, Livongo, was acquired by Teladoc for over US$18 billion, consensus would have been that we were on the wrong track with our less obviously scalable hybrid model,” Hashemi recalls. “But that didn’t discourage us.”

} In addition, being self-funded allowed meta[bolic] to take risks and execute decisions swiftly, Hashemi says. “We were self-funded, and willing to take the risk on our bet that hybrid healthcare would ultimately earn the right to win,” he notes. “We deconstructed every aspect of the patient journey, both physical and virtual, and re-assembled it into something that was both seamless and magical for our patients, but also something that within the first year was delivering among the best outcomes in the world. Livongo’s best published results were a 1% reduction in HbA1c (one’s average blood glucose levels for the past two to three months) in 180 days, whereas GluCare delivered 2.1% reduction in half the time- a hugely unprecedented improvement.” } Since the launch of GluCare and the subsequent establishment of Zone and meta[bolic], it’s been a period of non-stop execution for the company, and the last 12 months have been busier than ever, says Hashemi. “Having demonstrated the clinical superiority of the model itself, we spent much of 2023 institutionalizing what we’d learned, and templating what we had built for replication and growth, both on the physical footprint, as well as in the cloud,” the CEO says. “We embarked on a complete re-build of our tech stack to

↑ Being self-funded has allowed meta[bolic] to take risks and execute decisions swiftly. As for the road ahead, expansion into new markets and adding more services to its offering is on the cards for meta[bolic].

WE EMBARKED ON A COMPLETE RE-BUILD OF OUR TECH STACK TO INCORPORATE THE VALUABLE INSIGHTS OUR PATIENTS SHARED WITH US ABOUT THEIR JOURNEYS.” incorporate the valuable insights our patients shared with us about their journeys. We continued to publish in the world’s leading scientific journals, and push the envelope on the introduction of hybrid care into the mainstream.” Here, Hashemi reiterates the advantage of being self-funded, and not having to raise capital in what could have otherwise been a challenging year. “Candidly, the fact that we were self-funded afforded us a degree of intellectual and execution freedom to take risks that we otherwise may not have been able to take had we been custodians of outside investor capital,” he reveals. “That freedom to think, ideate, test, fail, and iterate was something we did to an extreme, and, while conceptually that should underpin every disruptive startup’s ethos, there’s always a cloud of investor sentiment that might guide or guardrail a startup in a certain way– and that might not be ideal.”

} Perhaps it’s this freedom to take risks is what governed meta[bolic]’s collaboration with ŌURA, the company behind Oura Ring, the smart ring that delivers accurate, personalized health

data, insights, and daily guidance into sleep, activity, readiness, and recovery, which was announced in January this year. While historically, merging wearables with clinical care has been a struggle -mostly due to technology not being at the right place- the process is now more or less straightforward. ŌURA data -which includes detailed sleep analysis and daytime stress scores- will be integrated into the GluCare.Health platform, providing a holistic view of individual metabolic health. This data will be directly accessible to healthcare professionals, enabling them to make informed decisions and personalize treatment plans. Commenting on how this partnership came to be, Hashemi says it was a “serendipitous” occurrence. “I’d met ŌURA’s chief scientist through a friend and colleague at Harvard Medical School with whom I am engaged on clinical trials for another portfolio company,” he shares. “In parallel, our friends over at Jazz Ventures (early investors in ŌURA) thought what we were working on was interesting, and connected us with Tom Hale, ŌURA’s CEO. There was immediate alignment on mission and February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 93



vision, and the partnership was cemented.” The collaboration with ŌURA is expected to deepen the understanding of digital biomarkers related to sleep and stress, contributing significantly to metabolic dysfunction. “As far as clientele goes, we’re very excited about the prospect of our patients discovering the power of the ŌURA Ring as part of their clinical journey,” Hashemi says. “We’re also equally excited about the opportunity to serve ŌURA’s existing clientele more broadly as we expand into new markets. This collaboration also serves to push further the consolidation of what was siloed into ‘medical/clinical’ with what has historically considered ‘wellness/ lifestyle’ into a single multifaceted and comprehensive service to consumers.”

} Meanwhile, in addition to the company’s work over the last year, Hashemi reveals that there are plans to shift towards a business model with GluCare where the focus is on being rewarded for the results delivered. For instance, GluCare’s current business model for the care of diabetics, Hashemi says, is the typical insurerdriven model of reimbursement. “In other words, we are reimbursed for the time that we spend and the things we do for our patients,” he explains. “This, however, is a flawed model- we want to move away from getting paid for the things that we do, and rather move toward a model where we are rewarded for the results we deliver. That’s a long-term disruptive goal that we’ll need to keep chipping away at together with partners. Our target here will be primarily employers, as they ultimately own the risk pool that we’re able to effectively mitigate.” Meanwhile, for the weight loss program, the company makes use of a different revenue model altogether, and it is expected to stay the same for the foreseeable future. } In terms of the future, while meta[bolic] has been self-funded so far, Hashemi admits that this may change soon. “As we expand our 94 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / February 2024

network of clinics, we’ll endeavor to fund that growth via non-dilutive capital,” he says. “We may, at some point, raise strategic or venture capital to fuel expansion of the core platform, so we’re having early conversations with selected investors on that front in preparation.” The enterprise has also growth in its sights for the next 12 months. “Expansion into new markets is a priority for this year, as well as an expansion of our service offering to include more for members who are interested in staying ahead of any changes in their metabolic functions,” Hashemi says. “We are enhancing our healthspan and longevity offerings as well, with curated peptide protocols and regularized testing programs. But there is still much for us to learn, and many ways for us to improve our core value proposition, which we will continue to do.”

} Talking about his own career trajectory, Hashemi views entrepreneurship in healthcare as “a great privilege, as you’re able to do well and do good simultaneously. As a secondtime founder (well, third time, if we count my first failed startup right out of university), the objective this time around was to tackle a problem of scale and consequence.” Of course, the entrepreneurial path is not without its challenges, and Hashemi’s journey with meta[bolic] has been no different. “I’ve faced quite a number of existential challenges throughout my life and career, from getting expelled from medical school three times, to having an unscrupulous competitor in a past startup life attempt to bankrupt and destroy our fledgling company,” he reveals. “While some of these challenges did feel like they changed my DNA at a molecular level, what I ultimately learned is to have gratitude for adversity. Only with that mindset can one maintain the grit and persistence to work through the inevitable seemingly insurmountable challenges that face entrepreneurs, and power through -and ultimately surpass- them. On each occasion, I came out stronger on the other side.”

TREP TALK meta[bolic] co-founder Ali Hashemi shares his tips for entrepreneurs

}Earn the right to win “This is my go-to phrase, and it fits the startup mentality perfectly. Getting to the finish line is about demonstrating a maniacal determination to be the best at what you do, and earning the right to serve your customers and stakeholders.” }Get to first principles “This one has

been circulating for quite a while, made famous by Elon Musk’s repetitive ‘ask why’ approach to problem-solving, but it’s worth resurfacing in the context of healthcare. Focus on what matters most in driving superior outcomes, stay accountable to that outcome, and clear away the clutter that interferes with that.”

}Be your own biggest critic “Wake

up each morning, look in the mirror, and tell yourself that there’s likely someone out there with more experience, a better network, and more money than you looking at solving the same problem you’re looking at. Do this not with a defeatist or nihilistic lens, but rather as an exercise of humility that forces you to focus on #1 and #2.”

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Startup finance

“WE GOT FUNDED!” The stories behind the recent fundraising successes seen by MENA-born startups Soum, Clinicy, and Silkhaus b y A A L I A M E H R E E N A H M E D M A H D AV I



→ Bader AlMubarak, Fahad AlHassan and Fahad AlBassam are the co-founders of Soum.

Soum, a Saudi Arabia-based platform to buy and sell secondhand goods, has raised US$18 million in Series A funding round led by Jahez, a KSAbased online food-delivery unicorn. The round also saw the participation of Isometry Capital, a USheadquartered next-generation asset management company. Some of Soum’s existing Saudi-based investors that also took part in the round include Khwarizmi Ventures, a venture capital (VC) firm, Alrajhi Partners, a multiasset class investment firm, and Outliers Venture Capital, an early-stage VC fund. Founded by Fahad Al Hassan, Bader Almubarak, and Fahad Albassam, Soum is a platform that allows users to monetize their secondhand products by selling them, while simultaneously 96 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / February 2024

allowing buyers to discover high quality pre-owned items. Since its seed round in 2021, the startup has delivered to and from 150+ cities in Saudi Arabia, and has built a novel unified national marketplace to safely buy, sell, and discover used products within the country. In the past 18 months, Soum has also witnessed its sales grow by 40x, all while maintaining an impressive customer satisfaction score. With the app available on both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, Soum has already achieved four million downloads within Saudi Arabia, and it is already seeing traction in the UAE. As per AlHassan, a combination of consumer and market trends have allowed Soum to enjoy these results.

“Increasing prices of goods, a growing awareness of personal financial planning as well as awareness about reducing waste are just some of the consumer trends that have contributed to Soum’s rapid growth so far,” AlHassan says. “On the other hand, market trends such as high adoption of e-payments and new regulations for open banking allowing quick and timely payouts to sellers driven -both of which were accelerated by the COVID-19 crisishave been significant driving factors. Additionally, the recent development in last mile delivery has also significantly allowed for better customer experience within the industry.” Jahez’s investment in Soum will certainly be seen as a move that validates the latter’s business vision-

after all, having attained unicorn status in just five years of its launch, Jahez has been one of the biggest success stories to come out of Saudi Arabia in recent years. “We are impressed by the remarkable achievements of the Soum team, and find that their dedication to innovation and customer satisfaction aligns with Jahez’s vision,” says Abdulaziz Alhouti, Chief Investment Officer of Jahez. “This investment is a testament to our confidence in Soum’s potential to redefine the e-commerce landscape in the Middle East.” With new funds to use, the startup will now aim to expand regionally, as well as beyond its core vertical of secondhand electronics. “The success of this funding round is a testament to the dedication of our entire team,” AlHassan says. “With the backing of the region’s leading investors, we are excited to kick-off our next stage of growth, while continuing on our mission to transform how customers buy and sell online. We therefore hope to allocate these funds towards developing new products and services that can continue our stellar customer experience, while also expanding into different product categories and geographies.” → Soum is a platform that allows users to monetize their secondhand products by selling them, while simultaneously allowing buyers to discover high quality pre-owned items.


↑ Aahan Bhojani is the

founder and CEO of Silkhaus, a UAEheadquartered proptech startup that focuses on short-term rentals.


Silkhaus, a UAE-headquartered proptech startup that focuses on short-term rentals, has raised an undisclosed multi-million-dollar amount in a pre-Series A funding round led by Partners for Growth (PFG), a US-based global financing partner that provides flexible growth debt and asset-backed financing. The agreement also entails Silkhaus receiving an additional multimillion-dollar credit line that will be dedicated solely towards the startup’s expansion plans. Launched in 2021, Silkhaus operates across the MENA region -with bases in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and another one set to open soon in Riyadh- as well as South Asia and Southeast Asia. Built with a vision to disrupt the short-termrentals market, Silkhaus adopts a tech-driven approach to provide asset owners with infrastructure tools to manage and monetize properties, which in turn promises them an income that is 20-40% more than what can be earned via traditional rental models. “Our technology empowers real estate owners with the tools they need to succeed and thrive,” says Aahan Bhojani, founder and CEO of Silkhaus, in an interview with Entrepreneur Middle East. “For example, our dynamic pricing solution helps drive revenue generation and growth, by using live market rates, optimizing occupancy and revenue. Our real estate owner portal provides property owners with real-time insights, fostering transparency and collaboration with our partners and educating them on the potential of the enormous short-term rental asset class they are part of.” But Silkhaus’ tech-driven model was built with a goal of not only aiding asset owners in the UAE, but to also ease the many aspects involved in searching for a short-term rental property for oneself, Bhojani adds. “Automation and integration with major platforms -such as including Booking.com, Airbnb, and Expedia- maximize our listing reach,” he adds. “Our corporate booking portal February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 97


Startup finance

addresses corporate client needs, allowing direct bookings at competitive rates. We also use our technology to elevate the Silkhaus experience for guests and their demand for a digital-first and contactless stay. This includes self-check-in with smart locks, prioritizing guest safety, and our staff time management. The platform prioritizes operational efficiency of our service teams through task management software, guaranteeing seamless task scheduling.” Silkhaus’ operations thus far have not gone unnoticed in the market, and have held the startup in good stead. Since its inception, Silkhaus properties have served guests from more than 120 countries, and in 2022, it also raised US$7.75 million

further given the anticipated trends within the UAE real estate sector in 2024. “The UAE real estate market continues to grow, with home sales in 2023 setting new records,” Bhojnai highlights. “In fact, S&P [a global provider of credit ratings, research and insights for various sectors] anticipates about 40,000 new properties will be delivered in 2024. This means investors will have a range of choices from studios to large apartments when choosing a home to invest in. We also anticipate capital to flow in from around the world, particularly with buyers coming in from the UK, India, Pakistan and the GCC. Therefore, Silkhaus’ key focus is onboarding new supply from different types of real estate investors. The delivery of these new properties will



from global investors in one of the largest seed rounds in the GCC. “Our journey since launch has been extremely encouraging, with technology underpinning our growth of 120% in the past twelve months,” Bhojani says. “This success has attracted collaborations with prominent developers and real estate industry leaders, further accelerating our trajectory, and making us one of the fastest growing short-term rentals proptech firms in the region.” It is precisely such milestones that eventually led to PFG’s interest in Silkhaus as well. “Through the use of technology, Silkhaus is reinventing how landlords and institutional investors are able to monetize their asset base,” says Armineh Baghoomian, Managing Director and Head of EMEA at PFG. “Silkhaus’ strong fundamentals have put them on the path to success and we are excited to be a part of their growth story. According to Bhojani, his startup is now poised to only grow 98 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / February 2024

help us scale quickly, while driving solid returns of 20-40%, which is consistently higher than traditional rental models.” And with fresh capital under his belt now, Bhojani hopes that it can kickstart a new phase of growth for his startup. “This is an exciting time for us as we plan for our future growth; this new funding is going to enable just that,” Bhojani declares. “For starters, we are going to double down on the markets where we are present already. We are amongst the market leaders in Dubai, and we recently entered Abu Dhabi with a strong presence. We are going to invest in growing supply on our platform, while catering to the needs of guests from the 120 countries who choose to stay in a Silkhaus property. Additionally, this capital will support our geographic expansion, starting with Saudi Arabia, where we are excited to enable the leadership’s vision, and deliver high quality experiences for guests coming to the Kingdom.”

CLINICY clinicy.com.sa

Saudi Arabia-based healthtech startup Clinicy has secured an undisclosed seven-figure amount in a Series A funding round led by Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP), a UAE-headquartered venture capital (VC) firm that focuses on early and growth-stage tech startups. The round also saw the participation of Gate Capital, a UAE-based corporate finance and strategic advisory firm, as well as some of Clinicy’s existing Saudi-based investors such as Kafou Group, a multi-sector corporate development entity, and Fadeed Investment, an early-stage investment firm. Launched by Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Abdullah Al Faisal, Abdullah bin Sulaiman Alobaid, and Saud bin Sulaiman Alobaid, Clinicy is a cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) for medical institution management. A big part of the startup’s vision, therefore, has been to reduce administrative inefficiencies that exist within the healthcare sector. Clinicy has aimed to achieve this by customizing patient experience platforms through the automation of processes such as patient onboarding and retention. Speaking to Entrepreneur Middle East, Prince Mohammed elaborated on why such bottlenecks exist in the first place. “One of the biggest problems within the Saudi healthcare sector is high no-show rates- those missed appointments are costing the industry upwards of SAR3 billion, which is just shy of a US$1 billion per year,” he explains. “Primarily the reasons for this include patients forgetting they have an appointment, patients not being able to reach their healthcare provider to update their appointment or details, inefficient management systems to deal with

→ Prince Mohammed Bin


Abdulrahman Abdullah Al Faisal, Abdullah Bin Sulaiman Alobaid, and Saud Bin Sulaiman Alobaid are the co-founders of Clinicy.

customers, and low technological adoption and integration. At Clinicy, we’ve already supported more than one million patients in the Kingdom, with medical institutions benefiting from up to 75% reductions in missed appointments through Clinicy’s platform.” In a further attempt to improve the overall healthcare experience for patients, Clinicy’s proprietary platform also integrates clinics with regulatory bodies and the broader healthcare ecosystem. By creating a more coherent ecosystem, Prince Mohammed believes that his startup could create a more digitally agile medical industry within the Kingdom. “The key point would be

information into digitally secure, accessible, and cloud-based records, medical institutions and patients alike have all the information they need at their fingertips. Digital solutions provide increased accessibility and convenience, and the increase in automation for the healthcare provider, allows teams to concentrate more on patient delivery than administration.” Of course, having locked in a significant amount through the Series A round (which is said to be one of the largest in the history of the Kingdom’s burgeoning healthtech sector), Clinicy will now look to further expand its solutions across the market. “Our funding will help to scale up our

CLINICY OFFERS A SEAMLESS CLOUD-BASED PLATFORM THAT ENABLES CLINICS AND MEDICAL CENTERS TO OFFER DIGITAL SERVICES, RUN A COST-EFFECTIVE BUSINESS, AND CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVE THEIR HEALTHCARE STANDARDS.” enabling doctors and healthcare providers to communicate effectively through digital technology,” he adds. “With Clinicy’s existing systems and the launch of a new patient-facing mobile application, patients can easily manage their appointments, update their medical details, and see their medical records. By bringing all this

operations and ensure we can be a ‘one stop shop’ for medical institutions, offering a wide range of services that cater to their daily operations in an efficient and cost effective manner,” Prince Mohammed says. Clinicy’s approaches towards creating a more efficient healthcare sector have certainly been taken notice of by

regional investors as well. “Saudi Arabia is witnessing a rapid adoption of technology in the healthcare industry which is driven by a digitally-savvy population, continually improving standards set by the government, and growing competition between healthcare providers,” says Walid Mansour, Co-Chief Executive at MEVP. “Clinicy offers a seamless cloud-based platform that enables clinics and medical centers to offer digital services, run a cost-effective business, and continuously improve their healthcare standards.” A similar sentiment was shared by Munther Hilal, CEO at Gate Capital, who said, “Clinicy is well-positioned to drive the digital transformation in the Kingdom’s healthtech sector.” With fresh capital at their disposal, the Clinicy team is now eager to implement its plans for the future. “Firstly, we are going to scale up our operations across the Kingdom including investment in technology and talent,” Prince Mohammed says. “Secondly, we are optimizing and launching a complete one-stop shop solution for medical institutions and providers, to enhance administrative efficiency and outcomes. And, we will be increasing our offering directly to consumers (patients), with accessible, digital healthcare solutions.” February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 99




A roundup of the up-and-coming startups in the Dubai-based Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) accelerator program that you should be keeping an eye on by AALIA MEHREEN AHMED


/mdbx.health /

f you or someone you know is suffering from a chronic illness, then you’d know that it requires a disciplined approach towards healthcare- right from medications to hospital appointments. After all, a May 2023 report by the World Health Organization shows that noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) -another term for chronic diseasesare “claiming around three-quarters of all lives lost each year.” But this doesn’t have to be the status quo- and that’s where Abu Dhabiheadquartered healthtech startup MDBX Health’s offering comes into play, with its one-stop-shop digital platform for efficient chronic disease management. ↓ Sarah Miller and Dan Kennedy are

the brother-and-sister co-founding duo behind MDBX Health.

} “We are determined to crush the chronic disease epidemic and its profound impact on the lives of the 2.5 million sufferers in the UAE and their families,” says Sarah Miller, co-founder and CEO of MDBX Health. “Our research shows that 77% of all deaths in the UAE are caused by chronic disease, despite most chronic diseases being manageable or preventable through medication and simple lifestyle adjustments. We also found that it costs the country 5% of its gross domestic product (GDP), while also making life painful, short, and complicated for way too many people- one person in every family of four, on average.” } To explain why the statistics are so grave, Miller explains by means of an example. “The typical chronic disease sufferer will see a physician for around nine minutes every three months,” she shares. “Often in this time, they’ll receive a diagnosis, a set of instructions, and a carry bag full of drugs. Add another couple of doctors, diagnoses, another few meds, more instructions, and any person will be overwhelmed, let

100 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / February 2024


MDBX Health

alone a senior citizen, or someone already struggling with illness. These patients will be left alone, for the next three months, without health system support to implement what can be an exceptionally complicated self-care plan. Almost all of them fail, hence the 77% mortality rate.”

} It was thus to address such inefficiencies that Miller founded MDBX

Smart Pharmacy and the MDBX Digital Platform. Through its smart pharmacy, it works with patients’ doctors to organize, consolidate, and package their medications, while also offering monthly delivery. The digital app, on the other hand, helps patients track their medicinal intake, offers reminders, manages appointments and follow-ups, and also

180 minutes,” Miller adds. “Prevention and management are key. We significantly help patients to manage symptoms and disease progression, and live longer, happier lives, as well significantly reducing the systemic cost of care.”

} Joining MDBX Health to realize this goal are three UAE-based entities acting as partners: Reyada Management of Medical


Health in 2022 along with her brother, Dan Kennedy, who is also the startup’s Chief Technology Officer. “Health systems everywhere are designed to treat sick people, instead of keeping them healthy, but at MDBX Health, we want to flip the script; we want to manage health,” Miller says. “Where 90% of healthcare is delivered to the patient at home, we want to make sure that’s where they get 90% of the support and resources, instead of the converse status quo. MDBX Health provides chronic disease support to patients by digitally simplifying complex care, medications, and care plans. And we do this by building digital tools and ‘bridges’ between the strongest terrestrial components of the health system that already exist.” The two main components of MDBX Health, therefore, are the MDBX

→ MDBX empowers

patients stay connected to their physicians and families, track their progress, and help them live healthier lives.

informs physicians about how their patients are faring in between checkups. “Our flow from physician appointment to medication daily schedule and delivery currently takes

Facilities, a healthcare project management consultancy, Multiverse Technologies, a metaverse platform that offers telehealth-related solutions, and Medicina Online

Pharmacies, a group of pharmacies that has a specific focus on managing chronic and specialty conditions. “It is because of the unwavering faith, innovative services, and exceptional support provided by our partners that we have been able to progress from a very disruptive idea, to providing an end-to-end digital service, UAE-wide,” Miller says. “We use the MDBX system as well as the tailored and integrated processes built by Reyada, Multiverse Technologies, and Medicina Pharmacies to help chronic patients access their usual doctors, social workers, therapists (no matter how many they have, and which facility they are at) through innovative video and metaverse-based telehealth, as well as the most comprehensive inventory of pharmaceuticals. We have an additional feature in the pipeline wherein all meds are organized and packaged into time/date stamped sachets (no more MondayFriday pillboxes!), as well as many other artificial intelligence and machine learning features.” Here, as Miller continues to list her startup’s strides in creating a more proactive healthcare ecosystem, what becomes clear is her propensity towards collaborative efforts. “We‘ve also worked with the Abu Dhabi Public Health Center and the Abu Dhabi Department of Health to pilot the People of Determination Telemedicine Strategy, a telehealth program that was launched along with Zayed Higher Organization to help

February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 101



} It is perhaps important to mention here that the journey in laying the foundation for MDBX Health was one that spanned over a decade- and it is the lessons and experiences gained during this period that Miller hopes to carry into the future. “Over the past 12 years, I’ve spent thousands of hours with the UAE’s most vulnerable populations, trying to design a solution that would be economically viable, that would fit into the UAE health ecosystem, that would keep patients alive, healthy, and their families informed,” the co-founder says. “I built relationships with these people, amazing individuals, each overwhelmed with how hard it is to manage long-term illness. We played carrom, drank coffee… and I watched many of them pass away. After years of feeling helpless, we are absolutely delighted to be empowered to be able to deliver a pioneering solution that will give the power back to the patient, and provide them with the tools to effectively manage their health and their lives!” } Bootstrapped so far, the startup is now aiming to keep scaling its services with its participation in the MBRIF Innovation Accelerator Program as well. “As the MBRIF is a government-backed initiative, we are closer to the heart of the country, and as a hub to the best public and private organizations, we get access to incredible insight, advice, and resources,” Miller says. “The MBRIF offers a unique program that truly builds up the power and vision of the founders, without taking control or equity. The only agenda is to equip their startups with the network, tools, and resources to succeed - and they do this fantastically well.”

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→ Abed Shawar is the founder and CEO of Oscar.

Oscar /oscarsdg.com/


ollowing the UAE’s historic hosting of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (aka COP28) last year, there has undoubtedly been a lot of added conversations surrounding businesses’ environmental, sustainable and governmental (ESG) policies. But did you know that as per the United Nations (UN) Global Compact -a global initiative that connects companies and the UN to advance sustainable development goals (SDGs)- it is supply chain practices that have proven to be the biggest challenge to business sustainability goals? } It is precisely this issue that is being tackled by Abu Dhabi-based Oscar, a startup that allows businesses to better comply with net zero regulations by assessing their supply chain for potential ESG risks with the help of a standardized and automated solution. “The platform allows companies to easily screen and score their suppliers against international and regional best practices in sustainability,” explains Abed Shawar, founder and CEO of Oscar. “They can then use these assessments to self-report their Scope 3 emissions [indirect emissions from upstream and downstream business activities] impact, and take actions to reduce it. We also educate suppliers,


various categories of people of determination in Abu Dhabi,” Miller reveals. “This also involved improving pharmaceutical access and medication management at the Zayed Higher Organization. Furthermore, our partner Reyada has also been instrumental in onboarding the first patients onto the MDBX platform. Together, we continue to develop our private and government pipelines and partnerships to serve the UAE’s most vulnerable, and we are delighted to have been recognised by Ma’an -the Authority of Social Contribution in Abu Dhabi- for our impact.”

allowing them to increase their performance, and reduce the risks of working with them. This increases the sustainability performance of the entire supply chain, and reduces its environmental and social impact. Our protocols also help businesses track their suppliers’ performance across various ESG topics, and enhance decision-making.”

} Launched in 2023, Oscar’s services promise to seamlessly align with any given business’ existing procurement process. UN SDGs aside, the startup has also committed to contribute towards UAE Net Zero by 2050, a government initiative that aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2050- the first MENA nation to do so. “In order to meet this agenda, the UAE is anticipated to roll out aggressive regulations that will impact local businesses and corporations,” Shawar notes. “Local companies will struggle initially to comply with new or unfamiliar regulations without support. The largest focus area will be the supply chain- where companies have the most impact on people, communities and the environment. Most procurement departments do not screen suppliers for environmental and social risks, which greatly increases the risk of negative environmental and societal impact.”

COMPANIES ARE LEAVING MONEY AND CREDIBILITY ON THE TABLE! AS MUCH AS 90% OF YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL RISKS LIE ACROSS YOUR SUPPLY CHAIN, AND EMISSIONS ACROSS YOUR SUPPLY CHAIN ARE 11.5 TIMES HIGHER THAN THOSE FROM DIRECT OPERATIONS. procurement is for companies in the UAE, not just to meet incoming regulations, but also as a standard business practice,” he shares. “Companies are leaving money and credibility on the table! As much as 90% of your environmental and social risks lie across your supply chain, and emissions across your supply chain are 11.5 times higher than those from direct operations. In addition, companies that employ this simple due diligence step can lower procurement costs by up to 16%, increase positive brand value by 30%, and increase profit margins by up to 20%. 66% of MENA consumers want to buy from companies sourcing their goods and services sustainably!” Data collection is thus a pivotal aspect of how Oscar helps businesses transform their procurement chains. But the startup’s unique

selling point lies in its ability to take a very localized approach, explains the founder. “Our protocols are based on international standards and best practices, but tailored to local ESG literacy and reporting standards,” Shawar continues. “For example, we are the only solution that has integrated the new GCC ESG reporting guidelines into our protocols. Additionally, our business model was built using our experience and knowledge of local business culture to promote a quicker go-to-market. We avoid using the commercial approach of international entities, which encounter more friction in the region.”

} But in the midst of all the focus on businesses and their procurement policies, Shawar and his team have ensured that the suppliers themselves are included in

the bigger picture. “Sustainability is a very stakeholdercentric endeavor, so while we seek to enhance procurement processes and reduce costs, we cannot forget the suppliers whose livelihoods we are impacting,” he continues. “That is why Oscar operates under a “no-supplier-left-behind” policy. We engage with suppliers, providing them with all the resources, education, and reporting they need to improve their performance. The aim is not to exclude suppliers that do poorly; we want to build on the performance of every supplier in your network. We want to ensure that this policy and its ideals are embedded in our fabric at every point in our development.” Since launching its minimum viable product in January 2023, Oscar has also secured funds totaling

↓Oscar is the MENA’s first automated sustainable procurement platform that helps businesses mitigate supply chain risk and align with net zero commitments.

} Shawar’s interest in this topic, however, dates back to a time before ESG wasn’t as much in the limelight as it is now, when he was forging a career as a sustainability, environment, and waste specialist. “I learnt then how critical sustainability within February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 103



} In the midst of all the above events, Oscar was also accepted into the MBRIF Innovation Accelerator program- a move that Shawar believes

will help in navigating the rejections and doubts that are often cast upon young startups. “Many companies in the UAE are not familiar with startups, and they are unwilling to try new solutions outside of the established norms,” Shawar laments. “The MBRIF program is helping us network with potential clients to demonstrate our value. Warm introductions from an established partner go a long way in facilitating this, and the MBRIF has incredibly strong relationships with many UAE-based corporations. Additionally, as a government initiative we hope this allows us to meet with government stakeholders to demonstrate Oscar’s potential use in the tracking of net zero initiatives.”

SpaceTIS /spacetis.space /

T ↑ Hadarou Sare is the founder of SpaceTIS, a

global spacetech startup that is now making its way to the UAE.

104 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / February 2024

he UAE-based branch of spacetech startup SpaceTIS was launched in 2022, but its story began in 2017 when the very first office was launched in the USA in 2017. Since then, it has also set up bases in Luxembourg, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia. And while the startup’s work in each of these locations has been primarily focused on designing and manufacturing affordable space and terrestrial innovative technologies, SpaceTIS-UAE has a very specific goal: developing an innovative indigenous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone technology. “The key UAV challenge in the industry that inspired this

As Shawar and his team gear up for their next steps, they are mindful that while hurdles may loom ahead, there isn’t a more ideal place for their startup than the UAE. “Sustainable procurement is a simple statement, but there is quite a lot that goes into it that is not immediately clear,” Shawar says. “Working in Dubai, however, we have a unique opportunity to work, network, and meet incredibly open-minded and forward-thinking people. The government’s commitment to Net Zero 2050 also makes us confident that this is the right time to be here. These combined factors allow us to get our point across in a supportive environment, and secure the future success of the Oscar platform.”

product development is the lack of versatile and high-endurance platforms to meet the old as well as emerging needs of many drone clients,” explains Hadarou Sare, founder and CEO of SpaceTIS-UAE. “In fact, SpaceTIS-UAE has identified two main problems with the existing UAVs in the market: lack of versatility, and lack of highendurance. SpaceTIS-UAE therefore proposes to develop an innovative UAV that meets the versatility issues and the lack of endurance issues. We do this by implementing the following traits in our innovative UAV technology: modular and highly adaptable swappable components to meet the versatility requirements, and an inflight battery charging system and fuel optimization algorithms to prolong flight time and expand the mission envelope in order to meet the endurance requirements.”


US$110,000 raised by the startup team’s family and friends, and it was also invited to exhibit its services at COP28 by the UAE Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology. “We’ve also grown to a team of five people!” Shawar adds. “Since our launch, we’ve secured two distribution partnerships with WSP, a leading sustainability consultant, as well as Procore, a project management platform widely used in construction. And, finally, we’re also running three pilots concurrently with leading clients in the UAE.”


UAVs on the market. And so, the product is a milestone development in the UAV/ drone industry, as the first drone with above 75% indigenous content in manpower. Moreover, our UAV’s airframe is made of light aluminum, its wingspan is 3.5 meters, it has an endurance time of three hours minimum, and the communication is long-range (more than 50 km), with the control system being a mobile ground station.”

} SpaceTIS-UAE’s main source of revenue lies, therefore, in the sales of two primary UAV technologies: a multi-rotor UAV, and a fixed-wing UAV. “Our revenue model also involves selling components we develop as part of our innovative UAV, namely, hybrid propulsion, inflight battery charging system, fuel optimization algorithm, and highly adaptable and swappable UAV components,” Sare says. “And finally, we also offer auto starting systems, training and human capacity development, and onboard power generation systems. In the long term, SpaceTIS will be developing multiple other space technologies and components in the UAE.” Note here that SpaceTISUAE is being supported in this regard by the UAE Space Agency, the premier entity tasked with shaping the UAE’s space sector and expeditions.

→ SPACETIS develops a range of innovative components for space vehicles and for space and terrestrial applications. In the UAE, the startup is working towards disrupting the local UAV market.

} Now, before attempting to understand how SpaceTIS-UAE’s technology operates, it is perhaps necessary to understand the implications of the current technology’s flaws. For starters, UAVs have been often constrained by their battery life, which, in turn, affects their range and endurance. This can be a major obstacle for applications that require long-duration flights or long-distance operations. Another issue faced by UAVs is maintaining reliable communication between the UAV and the ground control station- signal interferences and loss of connection

can render the entire operation useless. And it is precisely these challenges -and others- that SpaceTIS-UAE is hoping to negate with its own UAV technology.

} “In terms of technology development, we’ve completed the design and testing of each component of the technology, and we have also completed manufacturing a prototype of the technology, with patents already filed,” Sare says. “We believe technology such as ours does not exist in the current UAE market. Our products are also more affordable than existing

} Now, as SpaceTIS-UAE works towards creating create impact within the UAE market, it does so with the experience of having worked and collaborated with renowned global entities in the spacetech space. Indeed, over the years, it has partnered with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Florida Space Institute, the US Department of Defense, the King AbdulAziz City for Science and Technology, the Nigerian Space Agency, and the South African Space Agency, among others. And now, with the support of the MBRIF Innovation Accelerator Program, Sare and his team hope that their goals can be realized effectively. “We chose the MBRIF program due to its alignment with our vision for pioneering UAV technology,” Sare says. “The program offers invaluable support and opportunities for growth, making it an ideal fit for SpaceTIS-UAE’s aspirations!” February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 105



Uktob /uktob.ai/

↓ Kareem Ayyad and Emad Ayyad are the co-founders of Uktob

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“Uktob offers a cutting-edge transformative solution that enables businesses to create and deploy AI agents that augment key business functions such as sales and customer service,” Kareem explains. “For example, our AI agents significantly improve median email response times -from the standard 45 minutes, to just one minuteand reduce operational costs by over 80% for our customers. This results not only in cost efficiency, but also in superior performance outcomes for business teams. But particularly for the MENA region, our models are multilingual, excelling and outperforming any other solution in Arabic.” } Among the AI agents that Kareem alludes to, there is one that is named Faheem, an AI-powered personal assistant that offers a range of productivity tools and services for day-to-day tasks. It is through Faheem that Uktob users can not only cut down their email time by 80% through auto-generating draft responses, but they can also receive text personalized to one’s writing style and tone. “Our approach is a blend of superior AI infrastructure -think proprietary datasets and deep learning models- with a keen insight into the Arabic language and the MENA’s business ethos,” Kareem adds. “We see this unified value being unique; a purple goat in a field of the ordinary. And at the heart of our uniqueness is our commitment to the MENA region, addressing the largely untapped market of Arabic-speaking businesses and consumers, focusing on a demographic that has been



n the conversations that revolve around the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on businesses worldwide, one aspect that most stakeholders would agree upon is its ability to reduce mundane and repetitive tasks. But while AI has seeped into innumerable elements of the business ecosystem, the use of this technology is still relatively nascent within Arabic-speaking entities. It was in a bid to rectify this that Kareem Ayyad and Emad Ayyad came up with the idea for Uktob, a generative AI startup that deploys AI-driven solutions to help businesses boost their operational efficiencies.


↑ Uktob leverages cutting-edge generative AI to produce human-like content just by providing a text prompt.

You simply describe what you need and Uktob will generate it for you in seconds.

historically underserved in the AI space. Our solution isn’t just about the technology; it’s about bridging a crucial gap, and bringing the cutting-edge advantages of AI to the Arab world.”

} But while Uktob oversees a wide range of businessrelated operational tasks, it appears to pay keen attention towards the processes of team building as well. “As such, Uktob.ai addresses the universal challenge businesses face in talent acquisition, management, and scaling,” Kareem says. “The conventional process of building and managing a team is resource-intensive, and it is often a bottleneck for growth. Our AI agents offer

a solution to this problem by enabling businesses to scale efficiently with minimal headcount. In fact, the inspiration for Uktob.ai first came from observing these persistent challenges across industries, and recognizing the potential of AI to empower each team member to significantly achieve more with less.”

} Launched in February 2023, Uktob has already onboarded more than 350,000 users at a zerodollar customer acquisition cost- the startup’s client acquisition process has been “purely organic,” Kareem emphasizes. “Operating as an enterprise software as a service (SaaS) model, our revenue is generated by

offering customizable AI solutions that businesses can deploy and embed into their teams, enhancing their operational capabilities,” he adds. “This model allows us to adapt to diverse business needs, creating a scalable revenue stream. We are now expanding our team, and we’re continuously enhancing our product offerings. Having also raised a pre-seed round, we are well-positioned to expand our market presence, especially in the MENA region. Our long-term potential is anchored in our unique AI solutions, and our deep understanding of the local market, with specialized models that outperform in Arabic across any dialect.”

} That vision is certainly being supported by the startup’s enrollment in the MBRIF Accelerator Program as well. “The decision to apply to MBRIF was a no-brainer for us!” Kareem says. “The MBRIF is rare in the way that it tailors its program and support system in a customized way, to each startup’s specific needs by connecting us with customers, capital, mentors, and a network of likeminded founders that we can rely on. So far, the value that we got out of the program has been incredible, and we’re excited and grateful to be part of this amazing community.” As Kareem and his team now move swiftly towards their future goals, he notes that his startup’s vision is rooted not just in the technology it leverages, but also in the journey of the clients it works with. “Innovation is at the heart of what we do at Uktob, especially in the fast-paced realm of AI, where change is the only constant,” Kareem says. “Our team culture and operational strategies are deeply embedded in staying ahead of technological trends and executing swiftly. Understanding and adapting to these rapid advancements is not just a part of our strategy; it’s integral to our DNA. But we are also committed to being a supportive partner to our enterprise customers, prioritizing their success, and walking alongside them at every step. This balance of cutting-edge innovation and human-centered service is what, I believe, positions Uktob.ai for future success in a dynamically evolving AI landscape.”

February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 107





he high risks associated with on-site jobs within industries such as construction, oil and gas, and mining are plenty. But the repercussions of such hazards can be avoided, says Gary Ng, co-founder and CEO of automated construction management software platform viAct. “At viAct, we use scenario-based vision intelligence solutions for risk-prone workplaces including construction, oil and gas, manufacturing, facility management, and mining to build smart cities and nations,” Ng says. “With the vision of making a safer and more secure work environment in risk prone industries, viAct has developed and deployed over 100 pre-built artificial intelligence (AI) modules in government, public, and private sectors since its inception in 2016 by transforming vision to practical actions. This aids to reduce the number of accidents, optimize compensation costs and track environmental non-compliances.” } With a team of more than 50 members worldwide, this Hong Kong-based startup has now made its way to the UAE as well, and it is entering this new market with a slew of recognitions. “Over the years, viAct’s disruptive AI powered solution has been trusted by Google, World Economic Forum, Forbes, and KPMG for its one-of-a-kind video intelligence powered surveillance approach that manages man-made environments through proactive detections and AI-powered solutions facilitating real-time onsite and remote monitoring in a far smarter way than humans can do through manual means!” Ng says. “viAct has a business-to-business (B2B) monthly subscription model, working with international large real estate

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↑ Hugo Cheuk and Gary Ng are the co-founders of viAct.

and construction enterprises, public transportation, and utilities. Users can choose from different types of AI modules from our marketplace, and simply plug-and-play these modules on their project stage as per operational needs.”

} But as per Ng, such global validation has been a direct result of some of the unique properties exhibited by the startup’s services. “For starters, viAct offers over 95% accurate AI solutions, it is 10 times faster than peers in deployment with the auto-AI pipeline, and it offers a unique algorithm-based edge computing hub,” he continues. “We also believe we are the world’s first scenario-based AI algorithm, and use AI and internet of things (IoT) with a very high number of data sets- all of

↑ viAct enables companies to empower risk-prone jobsites with automated

construction management software powered with AI-video analytics.




which have allowed us to become a leading company in Asia already.” And while the startup is now a part of the MBRIF Innovation Accelerator program with a goal to prepare for a Series A funding round, Ng notes that viAct’s journey in the UAE began through a participation in the Dubai Centre for Artificial Intelligence’s (DCAI) accelerator programs. In fact, it was that experience that opened doors for viAct to deploy a number of pilot projects within the country. “viAct, with its more than seven years of on-ground experience in developing various AI and vision intelligence-based solutions focused on workplace safety and sustainability, has been selected for pilot projects with four different governmental departments, namely: Dubai Media Council (DMC), Dubai Customs, Dubai Municipality, and Road and Transportation Authority (RTA),” Ng reveals. “These pilot projects range from computer vision applications for DMC and Dubai Customs, to chat -based applications for Dubai Municipality and RTA.”

CELEBRATING DIGITAL EXCELLENCE The E-Business Awards returns for its 2024 edition


ominations are now open for the E-Business Awards 2024, an annual event staged by Entrepreneur Middle East to recognize and reward key players in the MENA region’s digital business landscape. The E-Business Awards 2024 will be held on March 8, 2024 in Dubai, with the gala ceremony set to bring together -and celebrate- the most prolific digital businesses, startups, and SMEs in the MENA region. The deadline for nominations is March 1, 2024, and they can be submitted on the E-Business Awards website in the following categories:

/Fastest Growth /Best E-Government Solution /Best E-Solutions Provider For SMEs /Best Digital Transformation Of The Year /Most Innovative Digital Healthcare

↓ viAct offers industry leading vision technology

Solution Of The Year

that enables 24x7 remote visual monitoring on different scenarios, and ensures usage of safety kits and timely task completion.

/Most Innovative E-Solution Of The Year /Most Innovative Blockchain Solution Of The Year

/E-Banking Solution Of The Year /E-Investment Solution Of The Year /Al Solution Of The Year /E-Payment Solution Of The Year /Best F&B Solution Of The Year /Best B2B Solution Of The Year /Best Crypto Solution Of The Year /Best Digital Customer Service

/Trading Platform Of The Year /Cloud Kitchen Company Of The Year /E-Delivery Company Of The Year /Best E-Service Company Of The Year /Fintech Company Of The Year /Digital Healthcare Provider Of The Year /Foodtech Company Of The Year /Crypto Company Of The Year /Proptech Company Of The Year /Startup Of The Year /E-Business Of The Year /Disruptor Of The Year /Ecosystem Enabler Of The Year /Crypto Entrepreneur Of The Year /E-Business Entrepreneur Of The Year /Lifetime Achievement Award

Of The Year

} And it is with the belief that Dubai will prove to be a major catalyst in viAct’s growth that Ng and his team are looking forward to their future in the UAE. “The adaptability of AI and vigilance about technological advancements are the major benefits of operating in the Emirates,” Ng says, “This opens up viAct for global reach in new sectors and markets, as it not just opens up opportunities to work with Dubai’s government entities, but also connects entrepreneurs to a network of experts and specialists from across UAE and the globe.” February 2024 / E N T R E P R E N E U R . C O M / 109

In The Loop/ → INNOVATE FOR TOMORROW is a pioneering innovation initiative, inviting global innovators and scaleup companies to conceive impact-driven solutions addressing critical sustainability challenges in the UAE, and help in elevating sustainable practices across the country.

→ HUDA BUHUMAID, Chief Impact Officer, Dubai Holding.

Focused on the future


ubai Holding, a UAE-based global investment holding company that operates across 13 countries, has opened applications for its global sustainability-focused challenge, Innovate for Tomorrow. Open to innovators, entrepreneurs, and scale-up companies across the world, the competition invites scalable and impact-driven solutions that can directly address pressing sustainability issues in the UAE. Submitted ideas must either be in the minimum viable product (MVP) form, a service, or a combination of both. The solutions must also exhibit a clear emphasis on production practices that are in line with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12- a policy that encourages more sustainable consumption and production patterns through more efficient management of environmentally toxic materials. The applications can thus be operational across areas of focus such as economic circularity, resource efficiency, supply chain sustainability, waste reduction, and consumer education. “As a socially responsible business that operates ‘for the good of tomorrow,’

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sustainability is at the forefront of our operations across Dubai Holding,” said Huda Buhumaid, Chief Impact Officer at Dubai Holding. “Our unwavering commitment to deliver positive impact and shape a better future for all our stakeholders is grounded in a steadfast dedication to sustainable innovation. Through initiatives such as the Innovate for Tomorrow Challenge, we actively pursue transformative opportunities to strengthen our contribution to national sustainability agendas, including reinforcing Dubai’s ambition to reduce its environmental impact, as well as cementing our position as a catalyst for meaningful change in the UAE and beyond.” Innovate for Tomorrow has been launched in collaboration with in5, a Dubai-based startup incubator that falls under UAE-based multi-sectorfocused company, TECOM Group. With the challenge focused primarily on sustainability development, it seeks solutions that can further the UAE’s goals in creating a circular economy as well as achieving net zero. “This challenge offers a valuable platform for impactful collaboration with global innovators who share a commitment to

implement scalable solutions to help create a better, more sustainable and inclusive future for all,” Buhumaid added. “We look forward to seeing the innovation the applicants will no doubt showcase, and working alongside them to provide the vital guidance and support to bring their solutions to life.” The winner and runner-up of the challenge will be announced in May 2024, after an elaborate evaluation process. The winner will then be given the opportunity to implement the solution through an exclusive pilot program under Dubai Holding, and will also gain access to personalized mentoring by its industry experts. Both the winner and the runner-up will receive a set of comprehensive rewards to build and scale their ideas, including access to TECOM Group’s in5 business incubator as well as cash prizes. Additionally, the five finalists of the challenge will get to showcase their innovations and solutions to key industry stakeholders at an investor pitch event. Interested individuals can submit their applications by March 31, 2024 on the Innovate for Tomorrow website. ” innovate-for-tomorrow.dubaiholding.com


Applications are now open for Dubai Holding’s global sustainability challenge, Innovate for Tomorrow

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