Entrepreneur Middle East January 2023 | Future Foresight

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INSTIGATING CHANGE / Secret Skin co-founder Anisha Oberoi P.37 MAKE IT HAPPEN / Turn your passion project into a business P.68 IN TUNE WITH THE SELF / The Chopra Foundation’s Deepak Chopra P.48 CO-FOUNDER, PHOENIX GROUP BIJAN ALIZADEH
This veteran of the UAE’s blockchain space explains why he continues to look at the sector with realistic optimism
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Future Foresight

Bijan Alizadeh, a veteran of the UAE’s blockchain space, explains why he continues to look at the sector with realistic optimism.


In Tune with the Self

The founder of The Chopra Foundation and Chopra Global, Deepak Chopra, on why entrepreneurs need to redefine what success means to them.


Instigating Change

Having recently raised US$765,000 in an angel investment round, Secret Skin is all set to lead in the sustainable beauty space, says co-founder Anisha Oberoi.

← ANISHA OBEROI is the co-founder of SECRET SKIN, a discovery platform that connects global conscious brands in the women’s health and wellness sector to consumers in the Middle East.


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Contents /January 2023
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→ For the last 30 years, Deepak Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution and his 93rd book, Living in the Light taps into the ancient Indian practice of Royal Yoga and offers an illuminating program for self-realization, bliss, and wholeness.


63 Structured For Success

Legal Circle’s Suraya Turk explains how you can go about setting up employee share option plans for your enterprise. 66

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor

Reedz co-founder Haithem Kchaou lists three tactics that can help entrepreneurs get on the fast-track to success.

68 Make it Happen

The Dreamwork Collective’s Kira Jean offers ten tips that can help you turn your passion project into a business.

EDITOR IN CHIEF Aby Sam Thomas aby@bncpublishing.net

CEO Wissam Younane wissam@bncpublishing.net

DIRECTOR Rabih Najm rabih@bncpublishing.net

CREATIVE LEAD Odette Kahwagi design@bncpublishing.net

MANAGING EDITOR Tamara Pupic tamara@bncpublishing.net

STARTUPS SECTION EDITOR Pamella de Leon pamella@bncpublishing.net

FEATURES WRITER Aalia Mehreen Ahmed aalia@bncpublishing.net

REGIONAL 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

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CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Mayur Bommai, Fida Chaaban, Kira Jean, Haithem Kchaou, Suraya Turk SUBSCRIBE Contact subscriptions@bncpublishing.net to receive Entrepreneur Middle East every issue COMMERCIAL ENQUIRIES sales@bncpublishing.net ENTREPRENEUR.COM Access fresh content daily on our website All Rights Reserved 2023. 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. PO BOX 502511 DUBAI, UAE P +971 4 4200 506 Contents January 2023 71 Picture This UAE-based Shapes Defined is redefining the scope of visual content for e-commerce businesses. 74
EntMagazineME Entrepreneur-me
A Springboard For Growth India-headquartered Spocto expands into the UAE to further the global ambitions of its parent company, Yubi. 76 In Focus A roundup of up-and-coming startups in the Dubai-based Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund accelerator program that you should be keeping an eye on.


Haters gonna hate- but not everyone is a hater either

“haters,” and either choose to turn a blind eye to them and what they say, or, worse, ridicule them for even daring to share their thoughts.

Now, I’m sure that all of you, like me, have witnessed examples of such defensive attitudes play out on social media, but I have to admit that it was particularly alarming to personally witness them in entrepreneurs around me. For instance, there was one who, despite being quite successful and quite popular, turn prickly and paranoid at the mere suggestion that not everyone may be onboard with them and their brand.

Another had seemingly adopted a “pay them no mind” philosophy when it came to people who disagreed or found fault with the ideas they spouted. They had instead to chosen to live in a bubble of their own making, surrounded by only yes-people, and an abject refusal to entertain any contrarian views at all.

Look, I get it- it’s a lot more pleasurable to live in a world where everything and anything is as we want to see it. But not only is such a notion absolutely unrealistic, it’s also important to remember that blocking out criticism also blocks us from evolving into better versions of ourselves.

Has anyone else noticed how people today seem to be becoming increasingly unable to take even an ounce of criticism that’s directed at them? Of course, it’s always been hard to for any of us to accept uncharitable commentary about our work or our business, but, of late, I feel like we’re tipping into a culture where the modus operandi we’re adopting in response to feedback like this is something along the lines of “you’re either with us, or you’re against us.”

No middle ground is spared to even just consider the critiques we receive; instead, we simply deem those who profess such sentiments to be

There is value in being open to different perspectives, and, yes, while I will agree that not all criticism is equal, I also believe that it’s dangerous to paint them all with the same brush. As entrepreneurs, there’s really a lot that can be said about you and your businesses in terms of how you respond to criticism on those two factors- and that, by itself, should make you reconsider how you go about doing just that. You may just be missing out on valuable (and constructive) tidbits.

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Editor’s Note /


Healing Clouds,

a metaverse-enabled concept for enhancing employee mental health, wins the UAE Ministry of Health And Prevention’s BE BOLD 2022 program by TAMARA PUPIC

Healing Clouds, a metaverse-enabled mental health support system for workplaces, was declared the winner of the second installment of the BE BOLD program, a future foresight and design thinking program by the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) in collaboration with Entrepreneur Middle East Impact. Besides winning a cash prize, the Healing Clouds team will now gain support from MOHAP to implement their concept on a national level in the UAE.

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The BE BOLD 2022 graduation ceremony was held at the House of Wisdom in Sharjah.
In The Loop/

The BE BOLD 2022 graduation ceremony was held at the House of Wisdom in Sharjah in the presence of H.E. Dr. Salem Al Darmaki, Advisor to H.E. Minister of Health and Prevention Abdul Rahman Al Owais, Saqr Al Hemeiri, Chief Innovation Officer and Director of the Strategy and Future at MoHAP, and high level representatives of Dubai Health Authority (DHA), Emirates Health Commenting on the program, Al Hemeiri said that BE BOLD is the first innovation-focused initiative that unites healthcare professionals and entrepreneurs under the slogan #TogetherForHealthUAE to help build policies and programs that will establish MoHAP’s position as an innovator at developing government systems for efficient healthcare.

}“Programs like this are critical for the sustainability of the healthcare sector, and secondly, for the UAE’s healthcare system that is targeted to be amongst the top 10 healthcare systems in the world by 2030,” Al Hamiri said. “MoHAP is very focused on the health and well-being of UAE community, and we are currently leading the efforts in the World Health Organization to design a resolution for health and well-being for all WHO member countries. As a result, this will also contribute to UAE’s focus on its people’s happiness.”

More than 1,000 applications were received for the 2022 edition of BE BOLD, from which 22 participants

were shortlisted to be a part of the program, who then worked in teams to build four different concepts. While Healing Clouds focused on employee health, the other teams worked on themes of national importance like tissue and organ donation (Wasla), mental health in the workplace (Liyaqa), and mental health of parents of children with disabilities (Ma’i).

As a program developing the capabilities of young people in the UAE, the BE BOLD program has been developed in alignment with the initiatives of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, who, in 2019, encouraged design and innovation thinking in all fields of government work. The second edition of the BE BOLD program had healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs, experts, and government representatives to work together over a period of three months.

The program, which included 14 training courses that focused on three main axes (public health, mental health, and women’s health), was conducted through bi-weekly learning sessions in the form of workshops, masterclasses, panels, and working groups. Participants were also mentored by experts from entities like IBM Healthcare, World Health Organisation, Klaim. ai, Johnson and Johnson, Nabta Health, Viatris, and others. beboldme.com

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January 2023

Weaving Sustainability Into Healthcare

Working with governments and policymakers to advance sustainable healthcare systems has underscored a major part of Naam Jamshed’s career, and in her current role as Head of Government Affairs and Policy EMEA - Emerging Markets at Johnson and Johnson (J&J), she has contributed to the shaping of future healthcare policies in the UAE. “My work echoes the J&J credo that underlines our responsibility to the communities in which we live and work,” Jamshed says. “We live by it as we aim for people around the world to be healthier, supporting better access and care, better health, and education. My role within the J&J family of companies supports shaping healthcare and innovation policies across the region and driving strategic public-private partnerships.”

}As such, the latest iteration of Jamshed’s efforts in this space has been through J&J’s participation in the 2022 edition of the BE BOLD program. Launched in September 2022, BE BOLD is a first-of-its-kind federal initiative in the UAE staged by the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) that aims to design the future of healthcare in an innovative and proactive way by building the capabilities of UAE talent. “As one of the leading players in the UAE’s healthcare sector, we are honored to be part of this program and I am extremely proud to have one of my own team members as a talented participant in BE BOLD,” Jamshed says. “The UAE is at the cutting-edge of

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← NAAM JAMSHED, Head of Government Affairs and Policy EMEAEmerging Markets, Johnson and Johnson Naam Jamshed , Head of Government Affairs and Policy EMEAEmerging Markets, Johnson and Johnson, sheds light on her and her company’s involvement in the BE BOLD 2022 program



healthcare, and mentoring young Emiratis about the opportunities that exist in this sector, and getting them to talk about challenges, such as mental health, and the benefits of data and digital transformation in this sector, have been an incredible experience. A program such as this provides a great opportunity for all stakeholders to come together and harness the talent that we have in this country to develop capabilities and knowledge within the healthcare ecosystem.”

}Now, a major goal of the BE BOLD 2022 program has been to find ways to encourage more collaborations between the public and private healthcare sectors. For Jamshed, working towards such a vision is something she’s all too familiar with. “Public-private

partnerships and collaborations are an essential part of our heritage and at J&J, we actively collaborate with governments and industry stakeholders to develop and deliver the healthcare needs of diverse populations worldwide to achieve our goal of making the disease a thing of the past,” she elaborates. “Looking ahead, healthcare systems will be under ongoing pressure to increase the quality and efficiency of care, remaining focused on wellness and disease prevention. Health systems will need to become more integrated, addressing care needs across the continuum, while utilizing technology to enhance delivery.”

}As an enterprise, J&J is no stranger to integrating technological innovations within healthcare. From

using artificial intelligence and automation to make surgeries smarter, to adopting genomic sequencing and gene therapy, the company has constantly found ways to facilitate clinical trials and development of new medicines. “As a company, we bring to the table scale, know-how, and capability. Our strategic investments have a direct impact on healthcare outcomes, productivity and economic indicators,” Jamshed says. “Innovative medicines have helped people around the world to live longer and healthier lives. They have benefited societies by getting people back to work, improving quality of life, preventing hospitalizations, reducing caregiver burden, and increasing the efficiency of the healthcare system.”

}When it comes to J&J’s contribution within this space, Jamshed specifically highlights the work done by J&J MedTech Middle East. “J&J MedTech Middle East is leading the change by leveraging purposeful technology that may empower our healthcare partners to strive for better patient outcomes,” Jamshed says. “As part of this, J&J MedTech recently announced the implementation of its surgical process institute platform, the first of its kind in the UAE. This is aimed at helping patients benefit from more standardized procedures that may reduce adverse events. The platform empowers surgical teams to design, apply, and analyze surgical workflows to reduce variability in surgery time, improve procedural efficiency, and enhance team education approaches. The real-time data provided unlocked plenty of opportunities for healthcare providers looking to effectively harness future digital health technologies, for which solid healthcare data analytics are a prerequisite.”

But Jamshed is also quick to point out that with such advancements, come its own set of unique challenges as well. “As we strive to achieve sustainable healthcare systems, we are faced with challenges, such as driving care delivery efficiencies without compromising the quality and outcomes, preparing, and responding to public health challenges such as caring for an aging

23 January 2023 / ENTREPRENEUR.COM /
→ NAAM JAMSHED during a BE BOLD 2022 panel discussion under the theme of Digital Health The Role Of Technology In The Healthcare Ecosystem Of Now And Tomorrow.

population with longer life expectancies, rising number of patients with chronic conditions and disruptions such as pandemics and large-scale health emergencies,” she explains. “At J&J, we believe in value-based healthcare that maximizes the quality of care and health outcomes to ensure that financial resources of healthcare systems are used efficiently, thus improving financial sustainability as well. We are, therefore, looking at value-based investments in healthcare, efficiencies in healthcare systems, digital transformation, and prevention as opportunities for the future, as we continue to invest, build capabilities, and drive policy change to help advance these critical areas.”

}And according to Jamshed, the adoption of value-based healthcare services will benefit the sustainability of multiple healthcare ecosystem stakeholders. “Since valuebased healthcare focuses on improving health outcomes that matter to patients relative to the cost of delivering these outcomes, it can help decision-makers target investments more effectively,” Jamshed says, “We believe that value-based healthcare creates headroom for innovation so that we can advance our medical practices and enhance healthcare outcomes. True value is created in patient, healthcare, and societal impact. This will lead to more resilient healthcare systems, improve patient access, as well as help bring innovative medicines to market and make us pandemic prepared.”

Now, while the focus of the healthcare sector often lingers on treating physical health and diseases, Jamshed

reminds everyone that J&J is equally attentive towards its work within mental health.

“Last year, at the UAE Mental Health Innovation Lab, we initiated projects to tackle the stigma of mental illness in the region,” she says. “It’s impossible to transform care without first raising awareness that those struggling deserve better treatment.

Patients struggling with mental illness continue to face barriers in almost every aspect of their care, whether it’s cultural stigma, or simply a lack of access to help. That’s why Johnson & Johnson has committed significant investments to help advance an ambitious goal: to completely transform mental healthcare for all of humanity.”

And in this stride towards ensuring better healthcare for all, Jamshed iterates how significant the role of women empowerment is. “Today, women comprise an estimated 70% of the 43 million healthcare workers around the world according to the World Health Organization,” Jamshed says. “But despite our dominance in the workforce as doctors, nurses, or pharmacists, we are largely under-represented in the senior leadership roles. These gaps, which continue to widen, are driven by systemic stereotypes, discrimination, power imbalance, and privilege. In the UAE, it has been incredible to witness the advances of women and young female leaders, especially in the STEM fields. According to my personal observations, Emirati women are inspired to explore their unique talents and academic pursuits, and gender equality is of paramount importance for the leaders of this nation.”

Jamshed, however, doesn’t shy away from mentioning

that much more still needs to be done, especially in the wider Middle East region. “Women are key catalysts for creating a healthier future and as leaders, we need to create meaningful roles for women in the industry, and support inclusion, equity, and the diversity agenda,” she says. “ At J&J, we are committed to building a diverse women in science, technology, engineering, math, manufacturing and design (WiSTEM2D) community. Through a multi-faceted effort, we meet girls and women at pivotal development stages in their lives. To date, we’ve reached over six million girls through long-term programming and science, technology, engineering, math, manufacturing and design (STEM2D) curriculum implementation, and by 2025, globally, we aspire to engage 2 million girls through short-term and employee led STEM2D programming and impact 15 million girls through long-term programming and curriculum development alongside our non-profit partners. For the UAE we, at J&J, have set a target to reach 2000 youth each year to contribute to our global footprint in WiSTEM2D.”

}But one mustn’t assume that J&J’s efforts in ensuring more female healthcare professionals is a sudden shift, says Jamshed. “J&J’s first 14 employees included eight women, and back in 1908, J&J hired its first female scientist in an era when less than 3% of women attended college,” she recalls. “Our rich legacy in this area continues to motivate us as we shift attitudes and behaviors about the role of women as colleagues and leaders, adopting transformative policies that advance gender equality and close gender gaps in leadership and pay.” With a focus on female empowerment, and a vision to achieve the aforementioned value-based healthcare model, Jamshed now remains certain that such an approach can build a resilient healthcare system for all. “I believe we must work across the ecosystem and collaborate to maximize the quality of care and health outcomes relative to the expenditures, which is critical to ensuring that the system’s financial resources are used efficiently and effectively,” Jamshed declares. “Ultimately, this will go a long way in building effective infrastructure, and leading to sustainable healthcare systems.”

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In The Loop/
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THE PALM DUBAI, the ninth annual edition of Entrepreneur Middle East’s Enterprise Agility Awards recognized individuals and enterprises that have made an outstanding contribution to the MENA’s business ecosystem.

A production of BNC Publishing, the media house behind Entrepreneur Middle East, the event, which was presented by du and organized in association with and in collaboration with in5, TechVenue, Fluidmeet, and Numai Real Estate, recognized the movers and shakers of the MENA business arena over the course of 2022.

With Katie Overy acting as the emcee for the event, the awards were presented to the winners by Saeed Al-Nofeli, Director of in5, Wissam Younane, CEO of BNC Publishing, as well as Rabih Najm, Managing Director of BNC Publishing.

“I would like to thank the entrepreneurs present here for showing resilience during the year gone by, and for having made this another successful year for the ecosystem,” said Younane, in his address at the event. “As always, the Agility Awards is all about celebrating your success, so thank you for the hard work you’ve put in to make those achievements and milestones happen!”

Fastest Growth Award Plan B Group

Digital Innovation Platform of the Year Kanoony Foodtech Startup of the Year Jalebi Healthtech Startup of the Year Detectiome Corporate Service Provider of the Year Virtuzone Investment Services Provider of the Year Century Financial Asset Management Company of the Year Ladun Investment Company Logistics Firm of the Year Al Masaood Commercial Vehicles And Equipment Construction Firm of the Year Sobha Construction Communication Firm of the Year K Consultancy Community App of the Year Kapturise SME of the Year WOOW Communication Venture Capital Firm Of The Year Global Millennial Capital Most Innovative Architecture Firm Of The Year JT + Partners Ecosystem Enabler of the Year Emirates Angels Investors Association Crypto Personality Of The Year Bijan Alizadeh, co-founder of Phoenix Group and the founder and General Partner of Cypher Capital F&B Entrepreneur of the Year Rabih Fakhreddine, founder and CEO of 7 Management Entrepreneur of the Year Shadman Sakib, founder and CEO of Vurse Visionary of the Year Dr. Lal Bhatia, Chairman of Hilshaw Group Outstanding Contribution to Business H.H. Sheikh Sultan Bin Rashed Bin Humaid Al-Nuaumi


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Achievement Award The late Yousuf Al Mulla PHOTOGRAPHY FAROOQ SALIK
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Year 2022


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Katie Overy,


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← ANISHA OBEROI is the co-founder of SECRET SKIN, a discovery platform that connects global conscious brands in the women’s health and wellness sector to consumers in the Middle East.

Instigating Change

Having recently raised US$765,000 in an angel investment round, Secret Skin is all set to lead in the sustainable beauty space, says co-founder Anisha Oberoi by

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The Big Idea

Ambition has no gender.” That’s the response Anisha Oberoi -co-founder of Secret Skin, a discovery platform that connects global conscious brands in the women’s health and wellness sector to consumers in the Middle East- gives when asked if she had faced any gender bias when raising funds for her startup. Having announced in December 2022 a raise of US$765,000 in an angel investment round, Oberoi states that the success of a business depends on the founder’s vision, and not their gender. “I truly believe that I have never had a yes or no from a potential investor only because I was a woman,” she adds. “You must blind everyone with your light if you genuinely believe you are affecting change.”

It is with this belief that Oberoi and Mayank Chauhan, both tenured Amazon executives, founded Secret Skin in 2020 with an aim to build a business on a framework committed to “people, planet, and purpose,” and empower customers to buy safe and affordable toxin-free beauty and personal care products. Over the last two years, the entrepreneurial duo has launched a number of international and local clean beauty brands, implemented a subscription service, and established strategic partnerships in the region, while 2023 will see them launch female intimate health and wellness categories through alliances with local pharmacies.

“The global beauty and personal market is expected to reach $729 billion by 2026, while the Middle East and Africa region is worth $36 billion, and it is expected to reach $61 billion by 2026, and GCC countries continue to have one of the highest per capita spend globally of $250 within the category,” Oberoi explains. “I believe that Secret Skin is uniquely positioned to be the leader in the sustainable beauty sector within this space.”

Oberoi reveals here that 65% of Secret Skin investors are women, and that its latest angel funding round included senior executives from a number of the region’s corporate giants like Amazon, Walt Disney, NMC, Aster, Baccarose, Al Hokair, and Sunset Hospitality, as well as global INSEAD and Wharton alumni groups. “The advantage with angel investors is multiple-fold: angels invest in founders with vision, a roadmap of success, and the burn-the-bridges determination to fail fast and scale fast,” Oberoi explains.

“Angel investments happen based on a personal connection, ‘the vibe check’, the belief in the mission, and the capabilities and background of the team. These are typically smaller checks, which may not move the runway needle as much as VC investments later, but are still critical to the lifecycle of the business.”

When asked about the biggest challenges she faced as an entrepreneur in the women’s health sector in the UAE, Oberoi points towards two factors inherent in the ecosystem. “The lack of awareness around women’s health and wellness in the region as a concept is one, and the lack of investor confidence in women founders, in general, is another,” Oberoi says. “But, in all honesty, the latter is also influenced by thin deal flow from women-founded startups; hence, the issue is cyclical. It’s also true that, as women, we have self-limiting beliefs due to this bias, and don’t strive to

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↑ SECRET SKIN currently has marquee brands from England, USA, India, South Africa, Australia and UAE in keeping with its promise to support “glocal” small businesses in the skincare, makeup, and baby care domains.



Fundraising tips from Secret Skin co-founder Anisha Oberoi

Find Your Flow

Jawaher Al Fardan’s Niya Yoga aims to create a warm and vibrant yoga community in Qatar

For Qatar-based entrepreneur Jawaher Al Fardan, the adage of following one’s passion ignited her jump to entrepreneurship. “I always knew I would dedicate my life to be in service of wellbeing, and what that means to me evolves along the way,” Al Fardan says. Al Fardan’s background is in psychology; however, she found the clinical setting to be unable to “provide lasting solutions to people who simply wanted and needed to change their environments.” This is what led Al Fardan to discover “the power of mindful movement,” with her becoming an advanced yoga teacher who has, to date, undertaken more 500 hours of training in the discipline from the United States, Indonesia, and India. “It organically altered my own life, seeping into the way I ate, lived, felt, and about 10 years ago, I decided I wanted to share this,” Al Fardan reveals. “I think entrepreneurship happens spontaneously- find something you love, and if no one else is offering it, then why not start it?”

overcome it. If we believe that we have the potential and an incredible idea, nothing stops us from taking it to the brilliance it deserves.”

Looking forward to 2023, Oberoi believes that markets will remain challenging, and fundraising will get tougher. “Double down on what’s working, and constantly audit spend,” Oberoi advises entrepreneurs. “You never stop raising, so every meeting is a potential opportunity for the future. Be brave to pivot if all signs point to change.”

} SEEK SMART MONEY «Find the investors that can provide strategic inputs, and not just the check. Look for experts in your industry who can add value with advice or connections to optimize your operations or marketing proposition.»

} SET TARGETS (AND STICK TO THEM) «Have a minimum check size for your round, as this ensures you use your energy effectively across multiple conversations. Every minute spent on fundraising is time away from building your product. Time is money.»

} NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK «LinkedIn is your only address, so network like an investigative journalist to build connections, and strategically navigate the fundraise. Make your dashboards.»

With an aim to spark the wellness revolution in Qatar by creating a vibrant yoga community, Al Fardan set up Niya Yoga alongside her other venture, Evergreen Organics, a fully plant-based café and market. Founded in 2016, Niya Yoga started off with pop-up classes on local beaches and hotel cabanas in Doha, as well as private sessions in Al Fardan’s private home studio. “I used to teach a lot of the classes myself, and test recipes in my own kitchen,” Al Fardan recalls. “My house was our first headquarters. A lot has changed since, and Niya is no longer just a yoga studio, but a holistic community space.” With six specialized wellness and fitness studios, the startup today offers classes, internationally-led workshops, holistic therapies, wellness weekends, yoga teacher training courses, and more.

}With the goal of offering a sanctuary and a home for “a conscious community of seekers and shakers,” Al Fardan is keen on ensuring the brand is different because of the intention of the brand. In fact, the entrepreneur shares that Niya translates from Arabic as “intention” too. “You can build a gorgeous space anywhere, but the purpose infused in your work will always speak for itself,” Al Fardan explains. “It’s felt in its intangible essence. It’s not a huge space made out of the finest materials, but what it is, is simple, natural, earthy, and simultaneously uplifting and grounding… It’s born out of pure love, and not ego. It’s not a business just to be a business. It’s an offering. Everyone in the studio shares from that place.” Set up under a holding company called OxFitness Lab

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(founded by Al Fardan and Mohammed Abu Issa), the self-funded brand offers unlimited memberships or pay-asyou-go plans for people who wish to make use of its offerings. The brand offers 20 full-time and part-time instructors, as well as another 50 across all studios. Al Fardan explains, “Our trainers are our partners and work independently, at their own time and schedule, with a profit-sharing model.” Attempting to make an impact in Qatar’s wellness space has come with its share of ups and downs, says Al Fardan. “I’d say the biggest challenge in building this business was also our biggest blessing,” she says. “We were the first to bring this offering to Qatar, which meant that many people were so new to these practices and workout culture. We got to build a community around it, and train people to teach, and watch people evolve so much.”

}While seeing this growth firsthand was rewarding, Al Fardan notes that it also encouraged new players to the market. “The success of our impact also meant inspiring lots of competition, but that’s always a great way to keep learning and growing,” Al Fardan says. “We had to keep an open mind, stay grounded in our intention, and trust the integrity of our work.” When asked if being a female entrepreneur in Qatar has brought with it any challenges of its own, Al Fardan negates that notion. “I don’t think it makes any difference being a male or female entrepreneur in Qatar,” Al

Fardan says. “I didn’t face any setbacks because of that at all. If anything got in my way, it was my own deep-rooted conditioning on gender differences, and those layers are ones we all have to continuously overcome.”

}That also leads into Al Fardan’s advice for entrepreneurs, which is centered on finding one’s intention in entrepreneurship. “Be very honest about the purpose of your business, because the outcome will always be connected to that,” Al Fardan says. “Don’t just do something just because everyone else is.” Al Fardan also points out that mistakes and hurdles need to be considered as being part of one’s journey in entrepreneurship. “It’s in our failures that we really ever learn anything, so don’t be too disheartened when that happens,” she says. “A setback is always a set up.” In terms of the road ahead for Niya Yoga, Al Fardan says that the enterprise will continue to evolve with its circumstances. “I can’t say too much about the future, except that the space is a living entity that matures with our community, and is undergoing a subtle adjustment that reflects that, while maintaining and even further committing to its initial seed intention of community service,” she explains. This sentiment, by the way, happens to be reiteration of Al Fardan’s personal thoughts about entrepreneurship. “Let your brand evolve with you,” she declares. “Stay true to your vision, not to a vision. If it no longer resonates, let is grow.”

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B /The
Big Idea
“ ”
↑ NIYA YOGA WAS FOUNDED IN 2016 by Jawaher Al Fardan, with the intention of creating a warm, vibrant community here in Qatar where everyone is welcome to explore the power of yoga. IMAGES COURTESY NIYA YOGA
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→ MUNAF ALI AND BIJAN ALIZADEH co-founded Phoenix Group, which is today a conglomerate of 23 businesses that operate nine mining facilities in the US, Canada, Russia, and the UAE, in 2015.



This veteran of the UAE’s blockchain space explains why he continues to look at the sector with realistic optimism

Bijan Alizadeh, the co-founder of Phoenix Group, a global leader in the cryptocurrency and blockchain arena, and the founder of venture capital fund Cypher Capital, speaks with unshakeable confidence when he says, “We used to see Miami and Singapore as the main hubs for crypto entrepreneurship, but I strongly believe that the UAE is the third crypto hub of the world.” Here, I find it hard to decipher whether Alizadeh puts more of his trust in crypto or in the UAE, but it seems that the answer is a mixture of both. “I’m a big supporter of regulation, because it will help grow the crypto ecosystem,” Alizadeh explains. “That is why I believe that people who live in UAE are lucky, because this government is in favor of implementing new ideas.”


43 January 2023 / ENTREPRENEUR.COM /

Indeed, Alizadeh has witnessed firsthand the UAE opening itself for blockchain-based businessesfrom the Dubai Blockchain Strategy set by the Dubai Future Foundation in 2016, to the Dubai World Trade Centre turning into a comprehensive zone for virtual assets in 2021, and onward to the launch of the Dubai Virtual Asset Regulation Law in April 2022. The Emirate of Abu Dhabi has been following suit, with the Abu Dhabi Global Market issuing a comprehensive crypto asset regulatory framework in 2018, and more recently, Abu Dhabi’s Financial Services Regulatory Authority publishing guiding principles on its approach to virtual asset regulation and supervision. But while Alizadeh has been privy to the advancements made in the crypto sector in the UAE as well as from a global perspective, he has also witnessed the challenging

↑ IN 2021, ALIZADEH SET UP CYPHER CAPITAL, a $100 million worth early-strategy venture firm investing in crypto, blockchain, and other digital asset projects.

Towards the end of 2022, Cypher Capital opened its 10,000 sq.m. hub for crypto and blockchain startups in Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Residence neighborhood.

market conditions it is currently undergoing. And when I ask Alizadeh about his thoughts on these ongoing circumstances, he is both realistic and optimistic, but adds that he believes that regulation is the answer for the issues in the crypto space.

“Yes, there will be hurdles, but if want the blockchain community to go from 3%-4% of the world population to 20%, you need regulations,” Alizadeh says.

“You need discipline. You need adult supervision. I also believe that governments now understand that blockchain is the future, and so, everybody is trying their best to come up with these regulations. Yes, it takes time. You cannot change a financial system that has worked for centuries overnight. But I believe everybody is working to the best of their abilities to reach and build a foundation, and then, from that foundation, you go step by step, and implement stuff around it.”

This philosophy is emblematic of Alizadeh’s own entrepreneurial story as well. From 2010 until today, Alizadeh and his business partner Munaf Ali have been pushing boundaries in crypto mining and blockchainfocused venture funding, creating an extraordinary business conglomerate in little more than a decade. Their story starts when Alizadeh, a graduate of electrical engineering from the American University in Dubai, teamed up with Ali in 2010 to work on real estate projects. Three years later, while Alizadeh was vacationing in Bali, Ali suggested that he met with a potential investor in one of their hotel development projects on the island. This investor -whom Alizadeh recalls as being only 21 years old at the timeended up becoming his introduction to Bitcoin, and with it, blockchain as well, and that further led to

Alizadeh and Ali opening their very first account on the US-based cryptocurrency exchange and bank, Kraken, to accept a payment of US$400,000 from that young investor in Bitcoin. “A year later, Munaf called me and said the price of Bitcoin rose, and that our $400,000 was then worth $2 million,” Alizadeh says. “We knew then we had to go into this business, and that it was the future of the financial system.”

In 2015, Ali and Alizadeh established Phoenix Group, which is today a conglomerate of 23 businesses that

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operate nine mining facilities in the US, Canada, Russia, and the UAE, the last of which being where its joint venture with the Abu Dhabi government has built a $2 billion crypto mining farm that is now considered the biggest of its kind in the world. Meanwhile, other companies in the Phoenix Group act as mining hardware resellers and providers of hosting and other related services for all mined assets. “We started in 2015 from a small warehouse in Dubai as a proof of concept, and we quickly started getting issues with cooling the premises during the UAE summers [crypto mining is an energy-intensive process], and so, we moved to Canada,” Alizadeh says. “That is our flagship site in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which is still there. Then, I received a call from Abu Dhabi, and after a lot of research, we

came up with a very unique solution to use only water to cool the equipment, which is now called hydro mining. At the time, it was a myth, but we ordered it, and our site on the Reem Island is now quite a unique site in the world. In finishing that, we have become one of the biggest mining companies in the world, as per capacity.” Now, there are a lot of environmental concerns associated with crypto mining, which makes use of a network of energy-hungry computers that validate Bitcoin transactions, as well as to compete to solve computational challenges and earn new Bitcoin. For his part, Alizadeh is well-aware of these issues, and doesn’t turn a blind eye to them- which is why he is proponent of satiating crypto mining’s need for power from renewable energy sources. }}

45 January 2023 / ENTREPRENEUR.COM /
→ PHOENIX GROUP formed a joint venture with the Abu Dhabi government to build a $2 billion crypto mining farm in the UAE.

”About 95% of our power comes from hydropower plants, so we have no issue on that part,” he says. “I think that in the future, Bitcoin and crypto miners need to be very careful, because the world is going to be carbon neutral by 2030 or 2035, so anyone investing in crypto mining should use electricity that is green, either solar, wind power, or essentially hydro.”

The next chapter for Ali and Alizadeh was creating a venture capital arm under the Phoenix Group that aimed to invest in blockchain startups. “In 2019, one of our managers asked me to give him seed money to start investing in a blockchain project, and my immediate response was that we are a Bitcoin miner, that I’m a Bitcoin maximalist, and that I don’t

believe in anything else,” Alizadeh recalls. “But he came back two-three times, and so, we started by investing $500,000 in a blockchain project that went really well. In six months, we increased the capital for Phoenix VC to $10 million, and the team has since invested in over 150 projects.” The success of Phoenix VC led Alizadeh to set up Cypher Capital, a $100 million early-strategy venture firm investing in crypto, blockchain, and other digital asset projects, in 2021. “We put in our own money,” Alizadeh says. “We didn’t raise money from outside sources. The idea with Cypher Capital is to invest in blockchain projects, with an eye on regional talent. If you get a regional talent-driven project, our Cypher Lab will try to help, essentially not only to fund them, but also with other business aspects, because few look at business the way we do. We are very structured, and this structure will help them avoid mistakes.” To this end, Cypher Capital opened its 10,000 sq. m. hub for crypto and blockchain startups in Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Residence neighborhood towards the end of 2022. “Essentially, it’s a co-working place for all the talent here to get help from experts,” Alizadeh explains. “At the same time, it is also a place to find fresh talent. Plus, if we see a project that has a potential, we will invest with them, or invite

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→ BIJAN ALIZADEH, founder, Cypher Capital, and co-founder, Phoenix Group

partners or other venture capitalists to invest in them. So, it’s a win-win story for the people. This concept was born in UAE, but eventually, we will expand it to Singapore and Miami.”

Within its first year of operation, Cypher Capital has invested in about 40 projects, mainly in the gamefi, defi, and metaverse space, and Alizadeh says that their approach to investing is quite methodical.” At the end of the day, it comes down to the level of due diligence that you do,” he explains. “You invest in young talent, and at the same time, you invest in founders who already have a proven track record. That’s essentially the way we do it.” However, Alizadeh does not deny that startup investing in general, and especially in the blockchain space, is high risk. “Someone once told me that investment and guarantee are two parallel lines that never touch each other,” he says. “You cannot do an investment with a 100% guarantee from any risks. You can always do your due diligence, but market awareness is also very important.” At this point in our conversation, we touch upon the few sudden failures of crypto darlings over the past year, and Alizadeh again strongly highlights the importance of regulatory supervision, or as he puts it, adult supervision. “When a young entrepreneur gets access to $20 billion without any regulation, and then he runs a company that is worth $30 billion without any adult supervision, mistakes can happen,” he explains. “When you start with a small mistake, then you need to cover it with a bigger mistake, then it becomes a

domino effect, and that’s where we are.”

In Alizadeh’s opinion, high valuations of blockchain projects and the relating inflow of huge amounts of capital in the sector have also proved to be cold winds contributing to the crypto winter. “We had inexperienced founders whose projects were valued at millions of dollars overnight,” Alizadeh says. “They would start making mistakes, spending massive amounts of money on advertising or something unnecessary, but then, when the market situation tears, and there is no next round of funding, they start running out of cash, and the poor people who invested in their first round lost all their money.” It is thus in a bid to better navigate such uncharted territories that Alizadeh instructed his 25-strong Cypher Capital team to invest only in up to 30 projects per year. “It is

because we want to be deeply involved in the progress of these projects, to be part of their success story,” he says. “We look at how you spend your money (not that we tell you what to do), but because we are a billion-dollar entity with systems we can use those to help you structure your finances, and many other things. I think that’s the key differentiator of Cypher Capital.”

Many times through the course our conversation, Alizadeh proves to be balanced and grounded in his thoughts about the crypto industry, and after talking about his success stories in this space, he once again urges caution for anyone choosing to following his lead in this sector. “It’s our job as business leaders in this field to educate people that they need to be careful,” Alizadeh says. “Nothing comes without hard work.

Nothing comes without proper due diligence and discipline, financial discipline. I think we’ll see many success stories in Web3, the defi space, and many things in blockchain are emerging, while regulation is coming, so it’s a very exciting time.” This enthusiasm about the blockchain space does not fall short of evidence either, and Alizadeh ends our conversation with some realistic optimism. “In Web2, we now have 20 million developers around the world, but in Web3, we have only 25,000. Imagine what will happen when this number grows,” he says. “The other number I can tell you is that out of eight billion people around the world, only 300 million have crypto wallets, which is about 4%, so imagine what will happen when 10% or 15% of the world population has crypto wallets. Where we are right now is just the tip of the iceberg.”

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The founder of The Chopra Foundation and Chopra Global -who is also an author of more than 90 books- believes entrepreneurs need to redefine what success means to them

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49 January 2023 / ENTREPRENEUR.COM /
→ DEEPAK CHOPRA, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a modern day health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation.

For someone who has been described often as a guru, be it for meditation, self-help, or even the so-called “New Age,” I was surprised to find out that Deepak Chopra has once said that he actually doesn’t consider himself that. In an interview with The Guardian in 2014, Chopra said that it was the media that labeled him a guru, adding that he just shares his ideas with people, and that “there seems to be a resonance.”

Given his stated disinclination towards being characterized a guru, one of the first things I asked Chopra when I got to meet with him during his visit to the UAE in November last year was, well, to introduce himself: who is Deepak Chopra? In response, Chopra pauses to think, looking away for a moment, and then stares me in the eye, and says, in his characteristic, soothing voice, “To define somebody is to label them, and confine them, and box them in. I’m reminded, as you ask, of a poem from Rumi. He said, ‘Define me, label me, nail me down in a box with cold words… That box will be your coffin.’ So, I don’t know who I am. I’m your own voice echoing off the walls of God. In other words, who I am is what you see; that’s it.”

Chopra’s response is characteristic of the philosophies that he has espoused over the course of his illustrious career, which has seen him author more than 90 books, while also launching a non-profit called The Chopra Foundation, as well as “a modern-day health company” called Chopra Global. Chopra is today 76 years old, and yet, he doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down what he does on a day-to-day basis, and as such, he continues to be at the forefront of global discussions centered on integrative medicine and personal transformation. So, when I asked Chopra about what is it that gets him to wake up every morning and do what he does each day, Chopra smiles and replies, “Mainly, I do it for fun. So, I ask myself: is this going to be fun? That’s number one. Number two: am I hanging out with people who are fun to be with? Because, these days, we need a team to do anything effective. And third is: is it helping [someone]? Is it alleviating some kind of mental, emotional, physical distress? That’s it. If those three things are there, I’m on. Otherwise, I’m not available.”

Chopra’s ethos about how he goes about his daily work comes across as a stark departure from the tenets that govern most people in the entrepreneurial sphere today, and he acknowledges this, given that he meets with a lot of young entrepreneurs, especially from Silicon Valley, who are young and intoxicated with their ideas. But Chopra points out that most of these startups often go on to not last that long, and the reason for that, he says, is because they have gotten on this journey they are on with the wrong intentions in mind. “When I talk to these entrepreneurs, I ask them, ‘Why are you doing what you do?’” Chopra says. “And they [often] say that they they’re doing it to make money, and they’re all already planning an exit strategy before they even start a business. That kind of attitude is doomed to fail, in my opinion.”

According to Chopra, entrepreneurs need to reconsider what success actually means for themselves and their enterprises. “You have to define success,” he says. “Success is the progressive realization of worthy goals, it is the ability to love and have compassion, but it is also true self-esteem. However, people these days have sacrificed their selves for their selfies. Your self is a field of possibilities. Your self is creative. Your self has amazing imagination. Your self understands synchronicity. Your self understands the value of focused awareness. But none of these things come into entrepreneurship. People are only thinking about the end result.” But then, what exactly should entrepreneurs be working toward? “When I wrote my book Abundance: The Inner Path To Wealth, it was actually inspired by Bob Marley. In one of his lyrics, he said, “Some people are so poor, all they have is money.”

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“Success is the progressive realization of worthy goals, it is the ability to love and have compassion, but it is also true self-esteem.”
→ DEEPAK CHOPRA IS THE AUTHOR OF OVER 90 BOOKS translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers.

Many people confuse their net worth with their self-worth. So, don’t do that. If you want to be successful, know your self-worth, which is more important, and then, your net worth will follow.”

“If I was giving advice to entrepreneurs, I’d say, ask yourself the following questions,” Chopra continues. “Number one: is there a need for what I’m offering, what I’m creating, be it a service, product, or what have you? Number two, am I an expert in fulfilling that need? Do I know everything about it? Do I have all the knowledge, all the information to execute it? That’s number two. Number three is, am I replaceable? Because if you’re replaceable, then, well, anybody can do it. So, what you’re offering has to be so unique that it can’t be replaced right now... And in order to be a pioneer, you’ve got to be listening to the collective conversation that’s happening [in your domain]. So, right now, in my field, the collective conversation is well-being. Is there a need? Sure, for mental and physical well-being. Do I have the expertise? I’ve spent 45 years doing that. And am I irreplaceable? I’d like to think that, at this moment, I’m not. Maybe 10 years from now, yes, because everything has a lifespan, and everyone is replaceable. But at this moment, what I’m doing is so unique that there’s no one else who comes close. I feel confident saying I can do all three criteria.”

Chopra has been certainly moving ahead with some ambitious initiatives of his own lately- one of these has



been the ChopraVerse, which has been described as “a metaverse for wellbeing” that is being built as a collaboration between The Chopra Foundation and SEVA.LOVE, a Web3 platform also co-founded by Chopra, and Utopia, a Web3 ecosystem focused on bridging the physical and digital worlds that has the backing of Alejandro Saez, Maria Bravo, Eva Longoria, and Javier Garcia. While it has several different aspects to it, a key feature about the ChopraVerse is that it’s the site for the House of Enlightenment, an immersive virtual reality and web-based experience that has been pegged as Chopra’s personal home in the

metaverse. In a statement, Chopra said that the “ChopraVerse is creating homes for multidimensional living, nourishing the body, mind, spirit and environment as a unified experience in awareness.”

Now, the ChopraVerse is just one of the many, many things that Chopra has got under his belt for 2023 and beyond, and if one is to look for a common thread connecting all of what he is getting up to, it becomes easily apparent that his goals today are global in nature. “I’m focused on a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier, and joyful world, reaching a billion people,” Chopra declares. “I have

offered the services of our foundation for conflict resolution in places where there is conflict and distress- not by taking sides, but by offering real solutions, which lead to economic prosperity and peace. Peace and prosperity go at the same time, unless you’re making drones, or weapons of mass destruction, or something that’s a killing machine- [in that case,] you’ll make a lot of money, [and, yes,] a few people are making money. But otherwise, in general, peace, prosperity, and progress go together… That’s my vision right now. A more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier, joyful world.”

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SINCE HIS TAKEOVER OF TWITTER in late October this year, Elon Musk has laid off nearly 50% of the workforce of the social media company, while also accepting resignations from more than 1,200 employees- a Bloomberg report in November last year noted that these developments have brought down the headcount at the company from 7,500 to 2,750.

Many have not reacted well to Musk’s role in causing this mass exodus of Twitter staff, and their misgivings about the entrepreneur have only been exacerbated with the erratic, chaos-loving persona that he seems to have taken on during this tumultuous period.

Like many of us, Deepak Chopra -the globally renowned author who is the founder of The Chopra Foundation- has been keeping tabs on Musk’s antics at Twitter, and he too has his two cents about the whole situation- which he shared with Entrepreneur Middle East during an interview amid his visit to the UAE in November.

“I look at what Elon Musk is doing right now, and there are two ways to interpret it,” Chopra said. “One, he’s crazy, he’s full of himself, so anything he does brings attention to him, which means he’s insecure, notwithstanding his success.”

“There’s another way to interpret it, and that is [that] maybe

he’s right in what he’s doing,” Chopra continued. “Many organizations have too many employees, and we learned that in the [COVID-19] pandemic. I think he may be right- maybe, for every 1,000 people, you only need a 100, and it gets more efficient.”

“So, the jury is out- we can’t get into his mind, [to find out] why he’s doing what he’s doing. But, maybe, he’s actually revisiting how companies should be run, in which case, all success to him. But if he’s doing it just to get attention, you know, they say, karma never forgets an address,” Chopra smiled.

Chopra’s thoughts on Musk’s current leadership of Twitter tie into what he believes to have been the most important lesson he learnt through the course of his own career.

“The biggest insight is that if you want to be successful, you have to be immune to criticism, but, at the same time, responsive to feedback, which [are] two different things,” Chopra said. “When you are not immune to criticism, you take it personally, [and] you will be offended for the rest of your life, and that will interfere with anything you want to do. At the same time, it is important to be responsive to feedback, because, sometimes, the critics are right, as long as you’re not offended. The rest is easy- be fearless, and be beneath no one.”

Chopra added that when facing criticism, it’d serve one well if they are clear about their reasons for whatever it is that they have set out to do.

“You should ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing,” Chopra said. “If the motivation is self-importance, then that’s self-pity in disguise. If the motivation is creativity, then, if you hold on to your vision, maybe you will succeed, notwithstanding the critics.”

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↑ DEEPAK CHOPRA (right) with Entrepreneur Middle East Editor In Chief Aby Sam Thomas Deepak Chopra on Elon Musk’s staffing cuts at Twitter by ABY SAM THOMAS




Gadgets and doodads that you might’ve missed out on, sourced by a tech aficionado. by TAMARA CLARKE

A clean sweep →

/iRobot Roomba Combo j7+

It is going to get a lot easier to keep your home neat and tidy once you get the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ for yourself. For starters, the two-inone Roomba Combo j7+ vacuums rugs and carpets first, and then vacuums and mops hard floors concurrently, saving you time by cleaning the area in a single job. Using advanced sensors, the robot is able to detect various floor types- for instance, when the Roomba Combo j7+ approaches carpet and rugs, its fully retractable mop arms lift the wet pad to the top of the robot –in a similar way that a convertible raises its roof– preventing wet messes. Also, thanks to iRobot OS and the robot's PrecisionVision Navigation system, you don't have to worry about cleaning up before Roomba does. The Roomba Combo j7+ recognizes more than 80 common objects, which enables the robot to clean more specific places on command, like around kitty litter boxes, toilet bowls, dishwashers, and more. It also allows the robot to detect and avoid floor hazards like cords, clothes, shoes, socks, backpacks, pet

bowls, pet toys, and solid pet waste. To make cleaning even easier, pair the robot with your voice assistant and simply tell it to clean specific rooms or by specific objects in your home, and it does what you ask instantly. The Roomba Combo j7+ understands approximately 600 voice commands, more than any other two-inone device like it. You can also customize cleaning jobs in the iRobot Home app, choosing which rooms should be vacuumed and mopped or vacuumed only, and adjust the amount of cleaning solution that you want the mop to dispense.

Power up ← /Anker



Anker has launched GaNPrime, a new generation of gallium nitride (GaN) chargers, which allows for a safer, faster and more sustainable charging experience. For the uninitiated, GaN is a compound found in modern satellites and radars that Ankur has leveraged to develop smaller, lighter chargers the consume less energy than silicon-based chargers. The chargers can power up multiple devices at a time using PowerIQ 4.0 to detect the power

New year, new you ↓

/Oppo Band 2

Meet your fitness goals for the new year with the aid of the OPPO Band 2, which is equipped with a 1.57-inch ultra-clear large screen, with a pixel density of 302 pixels per inch as well as a larger display area, making it easier to navigate. The screen brightness is up to 500 nits, ensuring a clear display even in sunlight. For fitness enthusiasts, the band supports 100 workout modes and autodetection of four modes: walking, running, elliptical machine, and rowing machine. Additionally, OPPO Band 2 includes helpful health modes such as tennis mode that can record five types of data including strokes, racket swings, activity duration, heart rate, and calories burned. The device also offers heart rate and blood oxygen monitoring to issue vibration warnings if the heart rate becomes too high or beats irregularly. OPPO Band 2 works while you rest too, with features such as the OSleep sleep tracking function, which specializes in setting sleep schedules, monitoring sleeping phases and oxygen levels, and assessing snoring risks to help you better understand your sleep cycles. Meanwhile, the HeyTap health app also works in tandem with OPPO Band 2 to track health data and help you with your fitness goals.

needs of each connected device, automatically adjusting power distribution to reduce overall charging time by up to one hour. With ActiveShield 2.0 temperature detection, GaNPrime also monitors temperature and adjusts power output to prevent overheating. Plus, a single GaNPrime charger and USB-C cable can be used to power over 1,000 different mobile devices, eliminating the need to own and carry multiple chargers.




@TAMARACLARKE theglobalgazette.com

57 January 2023 / ENTREPRENEUR.COM /
B /Gear
TAMARA CLARKE, a former software development professional, 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 to inform about technology and how it supports our lifestyles. to her on Twitter

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 Brioni’s SS23 line,

Brioni’s new Spring/Summer 2023 collection has been described by the Maison as “another foray into Roman nonchalance,” and its garments certainly showcase a breezy, en plein air spirit that is captured through soft tailoring, uncontrived shapes, and painterly colors. Lightness is seen in every one of Brioni’s creations for this line, be it the bomber jacket cut in supple suede, or the shawl collared evening suit. The materials used -which include washed silk and seersucker, alongside extremely light wools and linen- exude this sentiment too, as do the colors in which they are presented: an amalgamation of cognac brown, earth, yellow, blue, grey, black, and white, along with accents of pink, orange, and baby blue. brioni.com

58 / ENTREPRENEUR.COM / January 2023 B /Gear

Having been billed as the brand's return to the forefront of fine watchmaking, Swiss horology brand Parmigiani Fleurier’s new Tonda PF collection is a reimagination of its three founding models -Tonda PF MicroRotor, Tonda PF Chronograph, and Tonda PF Annual Calendar- by virtue of them being outfitted with alligator straps instead of the 18ct rose gold cases and bracelets that they were originally made with. This evolution of

the Tonda PF collection thus brings its models into a warmer and dressier arena, suitable for understated evening wear as well as moments of relaxed elegance. The new straps, seamlessly integrated into the design of the cases, offer sober colors like grey, Milan blue, and brown, which are faithful to the spirit of the brand, and also echo the color palettes of the dials. parmigiani.com

Resync, a wellness center located on the ground floor in Central Park Towers in Dubai International Financial Center, features advanced wellness technologies that have the ability to heal and repair muscle pain, improve performance, increase the speed of recovery, and support ageing and weight loss. In line with its commitment to improving longevity, the centre offers a variety of treatments that includes the Full Body Cryotherapy Chamber, a kind of cryogenic therapy in which you expose your body to very cold temperatures for a short time, Endosphere Therapy, which uses micro-vibrations to assist in body sculpting and tackling cellulite, Cryo T-Shock therapy, which uses non-invasive isolated cryotherapy to sculpt your body or face, and Red Light Therapy, which is a whole-body light therapy using red and near-infrared light to increase blood circulation and heal.

Created by Hermès perfumer Christine Nagel, the H24 eau de parfum is a woody aromatic that draws on the generous, botanical power of enveloping safe, dense high-tech moss, and warm and vibrant sclarene to express the contemporary man. The fragrance’s intensity is echoed in its bottle as well, which, adorned with moss-green lacquer, has been designed by Philippe Mouquet, with its green shades chosen by Hermès Artistic Director Véronique Nichanian herself. And if the eau de parfum weren’t enough, H24 also has a skincare line to its name as wellrich in plant energy, the range suits all skin types in need of calming and reconnection with the natural world. hermes.com

I must confess that reading about the benefits of staying in a -160°C chamber -like that it would help with inflammation and reduce pain or other symptoms- proved to be not enough for me to stay in there for the expected three and a half minutes- a little more than one minute was my limit! The Resync team was however kind enough to suggest another treatment, and before long, I was getting the hydra glow facial, a serumenhanced procedure that uses patented technology to cleanse, extract, hydrate, and bathe the skin. This treatment gives you get glowing, glass-like skin while also helping with a variety of concerns like hyperpigmentation, acne, or wrinkles. At the end of the day, there are plenty of reasons for me to come back to Resync for any of its treatments soon, and I hope to see you there too.

59 January 2023 / ENTREPRENEUR.COM /
↑ BACK TO THE BASICS | Parmigiani Fleurier

The Path To Peak Performance

Under the leadership of Swiss cycling executive Fabian Cancellara, Swiss professional development road bicycle racing team Tudor Pro Cycling Team will feature 15 new and five returning riders for the 2023 season.

They will be competing in the Proteam class of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the world governing body of cycling recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in addition to a development team at the Continental level. Last season, the team won 18 races and placed on the podium 30 times. Tudor Pro Cycling’s Robin Froidevaux was crowned the Swiss champion in elite road racing. Furthermore, Nils Brun got the title of U23 Swiss champion, and Fabian Weiss earned the U23 Time Trial Swiss championship title.

For the upcoming season, Tudor Pro Cycling is welcoming back home talented Swiss rider Sebastien Reichenbach, as well as Swedish and Danish road racing champions, Lukas Eriksson and Alexander Kamp. Meanwhile, joining the Tudor Pro Cycling Team staff are

Ricardo Scheidecker, a former technical and development director of a world-class WorldTour Team (the UCI’s highest category in professional road cycling), as well as Sebastian Deckert, who has joined as Head Coach.

The growth of the team is part of the shared vision of Cancellara and Tudor that puts an emphasis on the human aspect of cycling, encouraging riders to daily concentrate on how they cross the finish line as much as when. The vision is thus to build a cycling team with empathy and respect for the well-being of the riders, with them being placed at the center of everything.

Besides the new talent, the team has also expanded with the addition of more hardware, including transportation and all-new BMC bikes. A new fleet of Tudor Pro Cycling Team cars can be seen in this season; meanwhile, the 2023 BMC team bike will be “Tudor Red” and feature all the cuttingedge technology from the leading Swiss bicycle manufacturer.

The expansion in equipment is expected to fuel the team’s ambition by allowing them to compete in multiple races on the same day, helping them meet their 2023 season goals. tudorwatch.com

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A look into how the Tudor Pro Cycling Team is gearing up for the 2023 season
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Structured For Success


EMPLOYEE SHARE OPTION PLANS (ESOPS) are becoming increasingly more popular with startup founders. They are a great tool in terms of helping a startup attract and retain key talent to a business, as well as providing employees with potential monetary gain should the startup be successful. An ESOP sets aside a pool of company shares that can be allocated in the future to employees, directors, advisors, and/

or consultants. Employees are therefore much more incentivized to work hard and contribute to being part of your startup’s success and growth. While it may seem a bit overwhelming to establish an ESOP, don’t worry. Here, we explore the fundamentals of how ESOPs actually work, and provide some insightful guidance on how best to structure your ESOP for success. }}

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to set up EMPLOYEE SHARE OPTION PLANS for your enterprise by SURAYA


Share options are usually issued on a vesting schedule, meaning that employees will earn them over time. Typically, this is a four-year period, with a one-year “cliff” built in. The cliff is the period of time that must pass before the first round of shares can be vested. After this, share options are issued in line with the vesting schedule. You can decide whether you prefer this to be monthly, quarterly, or annually.

Another option is to link vesting to specific objectives or key performance indicators, essentially when a milestone sales target is achieved then vesting takes place. Vesting offers great protection for both your investment and investors by awarding shares over time, and not in one fell swoop. Apart from your employees being incentivized and invested in your business over the long term, vesting also helps manage potential dilution by safeguarding shares from employees who leave the business on bad terms.

Reverse vesting occurs when shares are already held by a person, but as the vesting period has not been completed, the shareholder has to transfer shares back to the company. This tends to occur when a founder owns all the shares in their startup. Reverse vesting is a form of protection for a business. For example, a company can avoid the situation of a co-founder leaving the company, while maintaining a large ownership interest.


ESOPs can come in many shapes and sizes. The two main types of plans are classic plans and phantom plans. Classic plans are the more traditional of these plans, where actual shares are issued to employees, consultants, and advisers. Phantom plans substitute issuing of actual shares with phantom or synthetic shares. Essentially, these are contractual rights that basically offer the economic benefits of holding shares, without issuing any shares.


So, what are the pros and cons of these plans?


Classic Plan


• Familiar structure

• Incentivized employees, advisers, and consultants

• Funds likely to go directly to employ ees, advisers, and consultants on exit Disadvantages

• Time-consuming and costly

• Complicated cap table due to many shareholders

• Increased documentation and administration in the event of an exit

} Phantom Plan


• Cheap, quick and easy option as no shares are issued

• Clean and simple cap table

• Delivers economic benefits to participants


• Newer concept so participants may need more explanation

• Cap table and shareholder informa tion needs to be tracked and maintained

• At exit, startups may have to adminis ter and pay out large cash sums


Clearly, ESOPs offer a potential win-win situation for everyone. So, what are the key points to address when structuring an ESOP to ensure everyone is on the same page, and avoid any potential confusion?

Options are not yet shares; they provide a right to the holder to buy shares in the company at a future date, at a price established at the time of issue. Therefore, they will not show on the company’s member register, and these options will not dilute other shareholders.

Option holders are usually simply listed on a register. They don’t have any right to dividends, or any right to vote at shareholders’ meetings.

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Option pools do not ringfence a specific amount of shares. When a startup determines the size of the options pool, they are basically informing shareholders of the percentage of the company that may be issued in options in the future.

Shareholders clearly need to fully understand and be onboard with the size of the options pool, and the maximum amount of dilution that will result when options are actually converted into shares.

There is no standard size for an options pool, and the decision on the size of the pool is usually made by the company and its shareholders. Typically, the option pool will not be huge and generally equates to 10-20% of issued share capital of the company at the time of the agreement.

Having a pre-agreed options pool in place will enable a startup to issue options to employees without requiring any additional shareholder consent. It is possible to increase the size of the options pool in the future, but all shareholders must be in agreement, and this needs to be documented.

Investors will be impressed, and potentially more likely to invest, if your startup has an ESOP in place, as they will fully appreciate the value of incentivized staff who are committed to your startup’s success.

Therefore, you may be asked by an investor to implement an options pool if there is not one in place. Key considerations here are the





size of the options pool and how this will potentially dilute this new investment in the future. Seasoned investors may ask you to determine the size of the options pool in relation to company valuation prior to their investment.


When determining the percentage of options you plan to issue to employees, it’s important to factor in how you plan to grow and expand the business in the future. Clearly, you want to reward those who have been with the company from day one, but soon, a handful of staff will expand into a larger team, so planning ahead is vital.

Before you decide on a fair percentage, you should look at your company valuation at that time, current benefits, and remuneration the employee is receiving, and the value this staff member offers now, and potentially in the future. As a benchmark:

• Founding team/original employees (10 staff or less): Early stages may involve giving 1% of the total company equity per employee (10 staff or less)

• Medium-sized companies (10+ to 50 staff): Options may be given out based on seniority or strong employee performance

• Growth-stage companies (50+ employees): Allocate options based on employee role and seniority and as a multiple of employee salary


Well-structured ESOPs ensure that everyone is unified in terms of company goals and objectives and are also extremely attractive to investors.

ESOPs also ensure that the company does not give too much equity to non-cash investor shareholders.

Continually revise how much equity you decide to give away as the company grows and expands, while ensuring a fair equity percentage according to each stage of the company.

Suraya Turk is the Managing Partner of Legal Circle, a UAE-based law firm uniquely positioning itself as a frontrunner in the area of technology in the vital sectors. Legal Circle provides startups, SMEs, multinational companies, and government entities with practical and innovative legal and commercial solutions to navigate and develop the regulatory landscape.

As a former Managing Director of international and local law firms in the UAE, and prior to that as an Australian qualified lawyer, Suraya has led law firms and legal specialist teams. She is currently leading and cementing Legal Circle’s strong reputation for being an agile, nimble, adaptive, and innovative law firm which provides practical legal and innovative commercial solutions for clients. legalcircle.co

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May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor

As startup founders, it sometimes feels like the universe is conspiring to knock us off. We experience this firsthand when we have a working product that breaks during a demo to investors. Or when our lead investor pulls out of the deal at the last minute, leaving us on our own, staring into the abyss, while drowning in despair.

The constant feeling of swimming against the tide is shared among all of us, and there is even a “law” to describe it, known as Murphy’s law. It stipulates that if anything can go wrong, it will.

As pessimistic as it may seem, this is partly true, and the reason lies in a secret force that works against us. It is called entropy, and it’s here to rock our boats, complicate our lives, and eventually kill our startups.

Entropy is the second law of thermodynamics, stating that any system has a natural tendency to degenerate into disorder. It’s a hidden force pushing everything toward randomness, disorder, and chaos. It is so omnipresent that humans have been wired to ignore it.

In our human perception, it is natural for any working system to break over time, but

it would seem highly unnatural for any broken system to fix itself. For instance, we instinctively expect a glass that falls off the table to shatter into pieces. It would be disconcerting for us to witness the pieces of shattered glass spontaneously sticking back together to their initial form.

The level of entropy correlates with the degree of complexity a system has. More complexity causes more entropy, which leads to a higher likelihood of failure. For example, a car that relies on 1,000 components to function is likelier to break than a car that relies on only

500 parts, since the vehicle with the most components has a higher likelihood of a component malfunctioning.

By design, a business is a complex system with a set of elements that needs to align and interact together.

Entrepreneurs must identify a problem, build the right product, onboard great talent, and have a strong market penetration. We must accomplish this while raising funds, competing against other startups, and racing against the clock.

Statistically, there are many causes leading to a startup failure, but only one set of right and timely actions aligned together to achieve success. All it takes is one failure, and the whole system might collapse. So, entrepreneurs need to align everything, and alignment is statistically unlikely to happen. The system is rigged against us, which is why 90% of us fail.

Luckily, there are ways to skew the odds in our favor, and here are three of them:



One cannot talk about entropy and disorder without mentioning Nassim Taleb’s book, Antifragile, where he defines anti-fragility as follows: ”Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors, and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”

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Three tactics that can help entrepreneurs get on the fast-track to success by HAITHEM

To illustrate his concept, Taleb takes the example of Hydra, a Greek mythological creature with many heads. When one head is cut off, it heals by growing two heads. There are also more concrete examples that illustrate this, like the human muscle. By lifting weights, we are causing micro-tears in the muscle fibers. Like Hydra, the human muscle gets stronger by exposure to stressors. Entrepreneurs should embrace chaos and seize the disorder caused by entropy to strengthen their businesses. Though easier said than done, those who can pull this off will reap the benefits of becoming antifragile.

During the 2020 pandemic, governments banned movie theaters, slashing Disney’s revenue by 42%. Disney’s CEO, Bob Chapek, explained that they had to turn to online streaming to compensate for their loss. It helped alleviate the problem, and added a new revenue channel, since movies are now premiered on their online platform. As a result, Disney+ is growing faster than expected, reaching more than 160 million subscribers. It is going toe to toe with Netflix for the top spot in online streaming services worldwide. Disney has turned a potential disaster into a blessing. This is what antifragile businesses do.


The scientific method is the process undertaken to produce reliable results to answer a specific question. A researcher forms a hypothesis, tests it through different means, and then comes up with new assumptions based on the outcome of the experiments. It is an iterative process that

is expected to fail a couple of times before eventually succeeding.

But, unlike some entrepreneurs, scientists don’t get discouraged by failing, as they incorporate failures into their approach. Through the scientific method, humans can see patterns when all seems random, and they can make sense of things that look meaningless on the surface. When leveraged, the scientific method is the perfect antidote to entropy. It goes without saying that the best entrepreneurs use the scientific method when building their businesses.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Elon Musk pointed out the importance of the scientific method. “It is really helpful for figuring out the tricky things. But most people don’t use it; they engage in wishful thinking...” In 2002, Musk invested US$100 million from his money to fund Space X, covering the cost of three failing rocket launches. However, their scientific approach allowed them to succeed in their fourth launch, which was crucial for the survival of the rocket company.

Like a scientist, Jeff Bezos thinks of his projects as “experiments” that are expected to fail first. He said, in an interview at the Business Insider’s Ignition conference, “Experiments are, by their very nature, prone to failure. But a few big successes compensate for dozens and dozens of things that didn’t work.”

Indeed, Amazon’s founder adopted this approach while building his empire. With at least 20 failing endeavors costings billions of dollars, Amazon was still able to become one of the most valuable companies in the


Entrepreneurs should adopt a scientific mindset when building their ventures. We should remember that we are unlikely to be right the first time, so the smart strategy is to aim at being less and less wrong every day. After all, we can’t fail if we aim to fail first.


A framework is defined as a structure that underlies a system. It can be a set of rules, ideas, or beliefs used to plan and build structures that serve a specific purpose. In architecture, this is the foundation on which buildings are built. In programming, it is a set of tools that frame and speed up the development process. The stronger the foundation, the more robust the structure is. It applies to groups and organizations as well, as they also need a shared framework to function correctly, especially at scale.

When a business has thousands of employees, monitoring each employee’s behavior becomes increasingly challenging. This significantly raises the level of randomness and entropy within the structure. This is why CEOs like Netflix CEO Reed Hastings invest much time building a solid culture and communicating it clearly across their companies. With over 120 slides, Netflix’s culture deck has positioned itself as the benchmark for others in Silicon Valley and beyond. Sheryl Sandberg, Meta’s former COO, has called the deck “may well be the most important document ever to come out of the Valley.”

Having a solid culture is then fundamental for large companies. It regulates

internal dynamics by encouraging and dissuading certain types of behavior. This effectively decreases employees’ likelihood of randomly acting against the company’s interests. By reducing randomness in their input, companies can effectively plan and reach their goals, making them less prone to the destructive power of entropy.

None of us can escape the destructive power of entropy. All we can do is counteract its natural tendency towards disorder and chaos. Still, the most successful of us choose to create order out of chaos, and are willing to sacrifice our financial stability, our personal lives, and mental and physical energy. We know that entropy dictates unfair game rules, and we are still willing to play. We acknowledge that the universe is conspiring against us, but remain convinced that we can still accomplish great things despite that. With a great deal of grit, passion, and resilience, we can achieve anything we put our minds to- that is how humans landed on the moon a few decades ago, after all.

Kchaou is a driven entrepreneur with a keen interest in technology and knowledge. He has channeled his passion into Reedz, a startup he co-founded that offers audiobook summaries and podcasts in Arabic. With a strong belief in the power of knowledge and the importance of lifelong learning, Haithem has dedicated himself to creating a platform that makes it easier for people to access and absorb information in a few minutes a day. reedz.co

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The idea of making a living out of doing what you love is something that most of us would aspire to in our working life. The reality is that turning a passion into a profession is a rollercoaster ride of successes and stumbling blocks.

The growing range of visa and business startup options introduced by the UAE government is helping to clear one obstacle on the entrepreneurial path. At

the same time, these measures are encouraging more people to think about translating their interests into enterprises.

Having made the transition from passion to profession in the publishing business (an industry that was itself nascent at the time) with my company, The Dreamwork Collective, there are countless lessons to share. If you’re considering taking the leap, here are ten tips to guide you:

1/ Respond to a market need It’s great to have a passion you believe in, but to turn it into a business, you need other people to believe in it too. This means exploring the market to make sure there is a need for your proposition, researching your competitors and distinguishing yourself from them, and creating your own niche that will stand out to your potential customers.

2/ Don’t quit your day job A passion project takes time to get off the ground when you’re turning it into a business. Sticking with the day job will inevitably involve working on your enterprise during unconventional hours. Nevertheless, resisting the temptation to go all-in at the beginning will give you the time to build your business to the launch stage, while maintaining a regular income.

3/ Don’t share your ideas too soon Your business is your passion, so it’s tempting to share your excitement and discuss your plans with others. Unfortunately, there will always be opponents or naysayers, who will try to distract or discourage your business idea before it gets off the ground. From experience, it can take years of quiet development to build that level of confidence, but when the time comes, you will be well-prepared to tackle any criticism that comes your way.

4/ Find a community Even though it’s your passion, building a business can be an isolating endeavor. Finding a community of like-minded people -whether it be those that share your passion, or fellow entrepreneurs- will provide an outlet to air and resolve your creative or business challenges.

5/ Develop the technical knowledge Building a professional knowledge base around your passion is important when you’re turning it into a business. You’ll need to learn more about the industry and how it operates in your environment. Research your local marketplace, ask questions of the industry where you can, and enrol in courses that will help you develop the knowledge and skills to back up your passion for the business.

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‘T Skillset Ten tips to turn your passion project into a business by
KIRA JEAN Make It Happen

6/ Work with a mentor Finding a mentor who can guide you through the process is an invaluable experience. Having an outsider’s insights, with industry knowledge, encourages you to challenge any idealized perspectives about the business you’re embarking on. Someone who has already achieved what you’re setting out to do will be able to help you avoid the pitfalls, as well as prepare you for the stumbling blocks.

7/ Consider your financing model Financing a passion business is one of the most challenging decisions in the process. External investment can boost your capacity in the beginning, but leave you beholden to repayments that you may not be able to afford. Self-financing leaves you in control, without pressure or expectation, but you could find yourself bootstrapping for quite some time if you choose to go at it alone.

8/ Focus on the end consumer A mistake many of us make when we’re looking to monetize our passion is to focus on the top-level transaction. In publishing, this means fulfilling the needs of buyers and other gatekeepers, rather than addressing the preferences of readers and growing a readership community, which is what ultimately sustains the business.

9/ Be prepared for the passion to fade When you’re building what you love into a business, the challenges and frustrations you encounter along the way will inevitably lead your passion to fade from time to time. Amid the day-to-day struggles, you might sometimes wonder why you made the transition, but every milestone you do achieve carries a multiplied sense of success.

10/ Build your business by giving back When you’ve successfully turned your passion project into a business, you’ll be considering how to build to the next level. With an enterprise born out of enthusiasm, growth can be in purpose, just as much as profit. As publishers, our goal is to create a community, grow readership across the region, and build the capacity of the industry to serve those readers, which also helps boost the business bottom line.

Kira Jean is the founder of The Dreamwork Collective, an all-women, independent print and digital media company that supports local talent to share their expertise and stories with the world.


Five of the Best Ways to Scale your SME

(With No Investment)

If you’ve just started an SME, then you probably feel you must get investment to keep going, and bring your business to the top of its game. Well, not exactly. You can get by just as well without early investors, and I’ve got some tips on how to do just that.

Competing in a crowded market with other startups in the same sector often means SMEs get off to a difficult start in terms of generating investment. After launching my company, Laundryheap, in 2014, we bootstrapped, and we then waited a further three years before any investment began to come in. This period was and is for many a tricky time, but thanks to some of the tips in this piece, we survived those early years, and went on to flourish.

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1/ Put things in order It sounds obvious, but it’s always best to start with a plan. Identify your goals, so you can figure out how you’re going to achieve them. You should also naturally prepare for any surprises along the way. But most importantly, planning will help you to remain financially stable. When scaling a business, money is at the forefront of everything you do, so having a well-thought-out plan will ensure you’re spending the right amount of money at the right times.

2/ Pick the right talent Your workforce is invaluable to you and your business. Without them, you simply wouldn’t survive. But you can’t just hire anyone. You need the right people for the tasks at hand, so it’s useful to have a hiring strategy. Role delegation is a clear way to ensure everyone knows exactly what is expected of them. It involves scoping out people with the specific talents for the jobs you need to get done. In addition, hiring those with

specialist skills will aid in the smoother running of your business. For instance, it’s handy to have a salesperson and someone good with numbers. And you can never go wrong with a tech person. Hiring people with specialisms will help streamline your workflow. Of course, smaller businesses may not have the budget to go on a hiring spree, but sharing resources with other businesses or delegating tasks to the most appropriate team member can work well as a first step. You just need to ensure you prioritize the roles most advantageous for your business.

3/ Evolve and adapt to stay relevant The world is constantly evolving, and so are businesses. Whatever it is you offer now, changes will need to be made as you adapt to the markets around you, be it the way something is manufactured, or approaches to bringing in new customers. You’ll need to constantly evolve your thinking and processes to stay one

step ahead. What works now may not work next year or even next month. Also, innovation should always be on your mind. But where do you start?

Well, it’s a good idea to listen to those employees you’ve hired. They’re on the frontlines, so to speak, they know the ins and outs of daily operations and often experience direct customer feedback. The information they share could be the difference between your business moving with the times and stagnating.

4/ Bide your time (if needs be)

Whilst I’m sure it’s apparent that not scaling at the right time can be detrimental, I’m afraid to say there is such a thing as growing too quickly. Poor timing can be very harmful; growing too quickly will leave you with more than you can pay for, while not scaling at the right time could leave you and your business underprepared when things do pick up. It’s best to choose your moments wisely and seek advice. Your planning will help this too.

5/ Spread the word Thinking of running your own ad campaign? Go digital. Online advertising is the way to go these days. The rate at which technology is advancing is incredible and only getting faster. Social media platforms like TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook all rack up consumers in the millions and billions. Tapping into these sources of exposure can do wonders for your business.

There are, of course, many other steps you can take to scale your SME, but these are some of the most important points. Keep these in mind, and good luck!

Mayur Bommai is the co-founder and Chief of Global Logistics at Laundryheap. laundryheap.com

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→ SHAPES DEFINED makes use of the Packshot photography software to deliver services such as still life photography, 3D animation, and 360 degree videos, among others

Picture This

We live in a visual world. People no longer want to browse a website- they want to experience it.” That is how Muna Salah, co-founder and CEO of UAE-based digital content creation studio Shapes Defined, encapsulates the need for impactful visual imagery in the e-commerce domain. “The content needs to be the utmost representation of each brand to create trust and confidence with their consumers,” Salah adds. “There is a direct correlation between better images/videos and higher online sales.”

Now, in a world where online businesses have increased by 87% between 2015 and 2022 as per a Better Business Bureau report (a rise that today amounts to 9.1 million online

retailers globally, according to a study by Tidio), Salah’s words resonate a consumer tendency that has become more prominent in a world after the COVID-19 crisis. But Salah sensed the urgency for better digital content in the Middle East years before the pandemic induced an e-commerce boom- in 2017, to be precise. “The rise of e-commerce in the USA had not yet reached the GCC [then],” Salah recalls. “So, I started looking into the tech necessary to disrupt how the GCC was addressing content creation. It was in its infancy. We needed content, we needed it fast, and we needed it seamless, to buy into the online world. I then began detailed research and development into this, and realized the need for a fully automated studio.”

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Under the leadership of co-founder and CEO Muna Salah, UAE-based Shapes Defined is redefining the scope of visual content for e-commerce businesses by AALIA MEHREEN AHMED

Salah’s foray into this space eventually led towards a collaboration with Packshot Creator- a France-based photography software firm that specializes in still life photography, multi-angle shots, 360° videos, and threedimensional (3D) animation, among others. “I then became the exclusive reseller for Packshot Creator in the GCC to get all the best-inclass machinery, equipment, and photography software to enable my learning journey; Shapes Defined was born,” Salah says. “There are many market challenges when it comes to product photography, and it usually is a pain for online stores when

it comes to communication, consistency, quality, prices, and speed-to-market. We set out to create a platform that removes all these headaches, and we were very pleased with the outcome.”

} Today, Shapes Defined operates as a software-as-aservice platform -aka the Shapes Defined Content Platform- that offers product photography for online businesses. The services are demarcated into three areas: product photography, model photography, and video and animation. Within product photography, the studio’s main offering is its Packshot Product Photography, which uses the aforementioned Packshot software to get different angles of a given

product, including close-ups of its packaging and labeling. Under product photography also comes Macro Product Photography, which offers sharp images of jewelry items, and Ghost Mannequin Product Photography, which makes use of models to display products in the environment they’re designed to be used in. And finally, Shapes Defined’s video and animation offerings include 360° animations and stop-motion videos, among others.

Salah however iterates that her firm doesn’t lean solely on the magic of technology to create value for its clients. “Customer satisfaction is paramount, and it lives within our ethos at the studio from the minute you are on the phone with us, till the cycle of content creation is over,” Salah adds. “From picking up the items, to dedicated time at the studio, and establishing the brand look and feel, we strive to create immersive content for every client. From content delivery, file naming, editing, and quality control, it all must integrate seamlessly to give our client best-in-class content which enables them to stand out among the competition.”

Salah adds that Shapes Defined also offers content writing services for the products it captures on camera. “E-commerce involves so much more than just selling products onlineit’s an entire ecosystem that needs to coalesce in order to supply the products to the masses on a continuous basis,” Salah emphasizes. “One thing that is necessary for growing an e-commerce business is having impeccable writing in product description

pages. The combination of image and the written word is what has the power to convert web visitors into buying customers– and businesses know this!” With an energy that is palpable even via her own written answers for this interview, Salah then goes on to explain how e-commerce content writing must not only capture a brand’s personality, but also “speak” to the subtle needs of its online audience.

“The luxury consumer is spoken to far differently than that of the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) consumer,” she points out.

} Between the power of the written word and the impact of visuals, however, it turns out that the studio’s most valuable asset lies in its quick turnaround time. The Shapes Defined Content Platform enables immediate feedback on uploaded images, as well as real-time image modification by its designers. “The platform has increased productivity by 300%, cutting the cycle from 10 to 14 days (or longer), down to 48 hours, saving our clients time, and, more importantly, money,” Salah says. “By the time the photographer has uploaded the pictures, editors and content writers receive a ping, and start working to meet the deadlines. This has enabled us to achieve nearly 0% error rate for product information, image names, and product/image mismatches across the workflow, from product shipments to final content delivery.”

Such a detail-oriented approach has certainly reaped benefits for Shapes Defined. “Within the past years, we have delivered over a million digital assets between photos, 360° videos,

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MUNA SALAH was inspired to launch Shapes Defined in 2017 when she started researching what kind of technology was needed to disrupt the content creation process in the Middle East.

and social media content,” Salah adds. “We managed to scale overall to 600+ clients regionally with over 80% retention on repeat business, and over 6,000 stock keeping units monthly with over 18,000 digital assets delivered. With Amazon for example, we delivered 26,000 images in the span of 70 days from within our studio as well as onsite at merchant locations.” But in arriving at a spot where such numbers could be achieved, there were detours aplenty, admits Salah. “An early lesson learnt was that the machines/photography software were not the only ‘secret sauce,’” she says. “The workflow process is daunting, and managing the bureaucracy-maze of content writing, asset delivery, and never-ending excel files for inbound and outbound products takes far more than the right tools and the right craftsmanship. It took the team at Shapes Defined, led by my co-founder Amine Zaanouni and I, years of trial and error to eventually devise the optimum workflow of best-practices for each product category to eventually become the market leader in e-commerce content creation in the region.”

} As an endeavor that was kickstarted in 2017 using Salah’s personal savings, Shapes Defined received its first external investment in 2022- a seed funding round led by Dubai-based early-stage venture capital fund Access Bridge Ventures (ABV). “I believe ABV’s experienced team is the perfect fit for Shapes Defined and I see a bright future ahead as we look to expand in the Middle East and beyond into other global markets,” Salah says. “They completely understand the opportunity at hand and have been instrumental at helping us scale at speed. ABV’s mission is ‘identifying talented people with passion is at the core of what we do,’ and we are honored to fit within that.”

At the same time, much of Shapes Defined’s journey as an entity so far can thus be seen as a direct reflection of Salah’s innate entrepreneurial traits.

“I’ve always found myself looking for a higher purpose, a bit bigger than my shoes could ever fill, and always said to myself, ‘What is the worst that could happen?’” she says. “Whatever venture

I’ve undertaken, it was always about doing it better, bringing it to the table with a twist, and genuinely making a

difference.” But despite her propensity to chase the slightly impossible, Salah has a refreshingly straightforward answer to why Shapes Defined has done well so far. “Simple things done on point are hard to come by,” she says. “If you are selling any tangible product online, Shapes Defined is your second home!”

} As we move into 2023, Salah remains aware that operating in an ever-changing industry requires staying atop, and sometimes ahead of, digital trends. “Our office/studio/content factory doubles as a laboratory, and we are continuously looking into innovative technology to remain on top of our game,” she says. “We are actively looking into the metaverse, non-fungible tokens, wearable tech, and constantly pushing into the world of 3D content creation. Lastly, artificial intelligence is, and continues to be, a big component of our platform allowing us to give many variations of content from a single image. I can’t tell you all of our secrets- but we are always pushing the envelope in our pursuit to be world class enablers!”


Tips for entrepreneurs from Muna Salah, co-founder and CEO of Shapes Defined

} FIND YOUR (TECH) TRIBE “Surround yourself with likeminded people who experience trials, tribulations, varied processes, and learn. Never stop learning and asking questions. Tech changes daily, and if your product is not perfect and needs to move fast, move with it. Don’t be afraid of it. Move with it!”

} YOUR GRIT IS YOUR BEST FRIEND “This applies to all of us. Courage, strength of character when all else fails, keep going. And it’s not to say don’t call it quits when you feel it’s a dead end; it’s to say that you need to know the road is long, and it’s a joy ride, with a hell of a lot of grit.”

} GENDER HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT “Avoid limiting beliefs that suggest what you can or can’t do. I›m not preaching utopia; I’m merely suggesting your gender has absolutely nothing to do with how much you can achieve in any industry. It really does fascinate me how men and women pigeonhole people into certain categories. I’m a tech entrepreneur. She/he/they is a tech entrepreneur.”

73 January 2023 / ENTREPRENEUR.COM /

A Springboard For Growth

Given that it’s a part of Indian fintech unicorn Yubi, one would expect that digital collections company Spocto could easily enter any market in the world. And that factor speaks volumes for the appeal of the UAE as a market, in that the Yubi management chose the Arab nation to be the home for Spocto’s very first international office. “The UAE leads the MENA fintech market, making the nation an ideal springboard for Spocto’s global expansion ambitions,” states Gaurav Kumar, founder and CEO, Yubi.

Kumar says that his belief in the UAE stems from it being home to world-class financial centers like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and over 50 onshore commercial banks, as well as a constantly evolving legal and regulatory system, and the region’s highest financial inclusion rate at 46%. However, zooming in onto one part of the UAE fintech market -its debt ecosystem- Kumar shares data that seems even more promising for the Spocto platform, which is designed to help lenders collect and reduce loan default rates, fully via digital channels. “The MENA’s digital lending platform market was valued at US$551.81 million in 2021, and it is expected to reach $2060 million by 2029, registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.90% during the forecast period of 2022-2029,” Kumar explains. “Furthermore, the

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India-headquartered Spocto expands into the UAE to further the global ambitions of its parent company, Yubi by TAMARA PUPIC

Left to right: Gaurav Kumar, founder and CEO of Yubi, Vikas Thapar, Chief Business Officer at Spocto MENA, Puja Srivastava, co-founder and CTO at Spocto, and Sumeet Srivastava, co-founder and CEO at Spocto.

GCC banking sector continued to record growth during Q1 2022, backed by solid economic recovery and demand post the COVID-19 pandemic, with net profits indicating strong quarter-toquarter growth at 25.1%, reaching quarterly levels at $10.9 billion, as compared to $8.7 billion during Q4 of 2021. These figures indicate a good outlook for the region.”

It was in February 2022 that Yubi acquired Spocto on the basis of its strong results- indeed, Spocto’s artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learningpowered solution has, to date, enabled more than 30 institutions to improve collections, served more than 52 million customers, and processed $95 billion assets under management. In bringing this solution to the UAE’s strong fintech market, Kumar is thus confident that Spocto will digitally transform the entire lending experience in the MENA. “Digitizing credit offers is set to bring significant benefits for both banks and customers,” he says. “In our view, access to financial services for those who are new to the UAE is now greater than it used to be, and since our products are tailored to the UAE market, we will continue forging partnerships with financial institutions, of which we already have 21, and building a product that users love and that is in line with the existing regulatory environment.”

The Yubi-Spocto team has appointed seasoned fintech executive Vikas Thapar as Chief Business Officer at Spocto MENA. One goal on Thapar’s everyday agenda is to de-risk credit exposure, and provide guidance for risk assessment and decision making for financial institutions. “Looking at collections at a micro-segment level, we have been very successful in using technology to target much smaller and more narrowly defined groups of

→ GAURAV KUMAR , founder and CEO, Spocto

customers,” Thapar says. “Leveraging the power of data analytics, we help financial institutions maximize the value of customer data, building that trust in borrowers, and expanding lenders’ risk appetite through the Spocto product suite, which implements more than 5,000 proprietary algorithms, applies machine learning, and uses predictive AI to extract insights from otherwise ambiguous data. As a result, we provide lenders with seamless, digitally-led processes that help them expand their business scope, and unlock new opportunities with a wider range of customers.”

Thapar believes that this process will also improve the integrity of the MENA lending ecosystem, and encourage lenders to revise loan terms for individuals and SMEs. “Lending behavior has changed over the past few years, as borrowers have become increasingly digital-first, especially in the wake of the pandemic,” Thapar explains. “Customers are more comfortable than ever using digital channels, suggesting that lenders that provide smarter, more interactive, and more

personalized services will perform better than their less responsive peers. That is where Spocto sets itself apart in the market, as we seek to leverage this evolution to bridge the gap between lenders and borrowers, while maintaining traditional methods and customizing communication through an omni-channel approach.” In addition, Thapar also expects a behavioral change among lenders who are currently too cautious and reluctant to change collection mechanisms. “That is especially the case with large loans such as small business loans, personal loans, mortgages, and credit cards, where product-specific adjustments are required,” he says. “At Spocto, we use machine learning-based predictive and prescriptive analytics, including technographic, psychographic, demographic, and socio-graphic insights, to improve customer engagement and predict behaviors. Thus, we help lenders improve customer engagement by introducing a collaborative, digitallyfocused approach to risk mitigation in the UAE banking and finance landscape.” spocto.com

75 January 2023 / ENTREPRENEUR.COM /


The need for better financial literacy and personal finance knowledge has long been a topic that has circulated among the UAE’s residents. It is, after all, a discourse worth having in a country where 23% of the population is saving nothing out of its annual income, as per a joint study done by HSBC and UAE-based home services booking app ServiceMarket. The same study also shows that only 27% of UAE’s residents save more than 20% of their annual income. “The GCC is a consumptive market- over 70% of young households in the GCC today feel the pinch of rising debt burdens and miniscule personal savings,” explains Purvi Munot, co-founder and CEO of UAE-based fintech startup Sav. “The increasing avenues of lifestyle spending are causing young earners to spend beyond their means, and to borrow more than they can ever pay back. This behavior is becoming common across age and income bands. The common denominators here have been the lack of financial awareness and access to relevant money management products that keep such young earners from being in complete control of their savings and spending.”

Swooping in to save the day -or at least aiming to- is Sav. Registered at the Dubai International Financial Centre and launched in October 2022, Sav is a hyper-personalized money management app that enables users to achieve goals-based savings. “Sav helps young earners in the GCC to understand, save, and organize their money effortlessly,” Munot adds. “By using the power of automation and rewards, Sav is building products that will help customers stress less about day-to-day money management, while also laying a sustainable foundation for their financial future. Sav thus aims to be a customer-first company where we offer hyper-personalized, sustainable

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↑ PURVI MUNOT , co-founder and CEO, Sav IMAGES COURTESY SAV Sav/sav.money/ A roundup of 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

financial and lifestyle ecosystems around customers’ needs. This involves relevant financial products interwoven for geographies and merchants.”

} Using Sav, an individual or household can set personal goals -from buying a dream car to sending money back home to even preparing for emergencies- for their savings. Users can have one or multiple such goals. The actual savings part then happens automatically, for every purchase or other expenses, using Sav’s free prepaid debit card. Then, every time a particular goal is achieved, the Sav platform offers rewards such as free movie-nights or free dinner. “Sav rewards good money habits and sustainable consumption,” Munot explains. “We are the first savings-focused fintech in the region with exclusive gamified and automated savings functionalities, that take away the efforts required for savings towards goals. Users also earn Sav coins for every dirham saved, which can be redeemed for lifestyle benefits on 200+ merchants. The ‘save now, buy later’ functionalities curated with leading merchants in the region are a win-win for both brands and consumers, and lays foundation to sustainable affordability solutions.” But how does Sav itself make a buck while helping others save theirs?

“Our revenue is majorly generated from financial product aggregation, commissions from merchants, and interchange income on Sav prepaid debit card,” Munot replies.

As someone who moved to Dubai in 2020 and very quickly fell in love with what the city had to offer, Munot prides herself on Sav’s “UAE-grown” status. But kickstarting her entrepreneurial journey in a new city came with its own set of unique challenges, she notes. “I discovered the huge white gap in the savings-led financial ecosystem, and after pre-work of over four months, I decided to pursue it full time in November 2021,” Munot recalls. “It’s always a difficult decision to leave a cushy corporate role, and start a 0-to-1 journey, especially being a first-time female founder. However, I’ve been constantly blessed with a star team,

→ SAV enables its users to automatically save on purchases and other expenses using a goals-based model

banking partnerships and investors, which accelerated our journey multifold.” The team Munot alludes to is a 11-members group comprising fintech founders, consumer bankers, as well as tech developers. “With the help of an all-inhouse tech team, we turned around a complete neo-banking infrastructure in less than five months and saw one of the fastest go-to-market rates,” she adds. “We have seen incredible traction from the very start. Within the first four weeks of launch we had 1000+ saving goals created, and US$50,000 in balances built. We are now after a $5 billion opportunity in savings. With the new capital infusion into the business, we are all set to onboard more users, strategic partners, and team members.”

Munot notes here that part of the reason Sav was able to so quickly go from a concept to a fully-launched app was due to the MBRIF program, and she also believes it will serve as the perfect launchpad for all the future plans she and her team are working on. “In the coming months, we intend to refine the product and expansion strategy and learn the successful hacks of scaling an early-stage business,” Munot reveals. “MBRIF’s ecosystem of mentors, peers, and network

has remained unchallenged for years–early introduction to experiences, perspectives and approaches can groom us to be much more confident founders. Besides, Sav shares MBRIF’s vision of building sustainable businesses from the UAE, for the world.”

} Looking towards Sav’s journey in 2023 and beyond, Munot remains upbeat, particularly as the UAE’s fintech sector continues to grow. But in the midst of highlighting the need to keep innovating, Munot also makes an important observation: financial savings are deeply rooted in human behavior. And it is the latter that will continue to dictate the future of Sav. “We must be nimble in our approach and have flexibility in our infrastructure,” Munot declares. “At Sav, we are constantly on the lookout for innovative solutions both internally and externally to provide better customer experience, reduce operational bottlenecks and of course to offer unique solutions to our users. But more importantly, Sav is using technology to build tools rooted in behavioral psychology that helps our users spend confidently on things they love, while still achieving their financial goals!”

77 January 2023 / ENTREPRENEUR.COM /


Ever opened your refrigerator to find that the fruits and veggies you bought only some short time ago have already got spoiled? We’ve all been there. But when such wastage happens across millions of homes, it becomes a contributing factor to a very pressing global issue: food security. Tackling this concern head on is Saudi Arabia-based foodtech startup Uvera. “Food loss and waste significantly affect the global economy; according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, worldwide food waste cost is estimated at US$750

billion,” Asrar Damdam, founder of Uvera, says. “To limit the severity of this issue, we invented a novel solution that can extend the shelf-life of perishables.” Damdam is referring here to Uvera’s main product, Aurora. A next-generation artificial intelligence of things (AIoT) device, Aurora can increase the shelf-life of fresh food up to 97% on average, within only 30 seconds of use and without the use of any chemicals. This end-result is achieved by combining ultraviolet-c (UV-C) light and vacuum sealing- also known as germicidal light, UV-C light is known for disinfecting water and destroying

harmful microorganisms in liquids, food products, and on surfaces. “Uvera technology has been developed to help businesses and consumers avoid wasting food,” Damdam adds. “The technology can increase the shelf-life of fruits by up to 141% on average, vegetables by up to 123% on average, and meats by up to 33% on average, without any use of chemicals and within a few seconds of use, and it is powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to track the food inventory and the shelf-life of food during the storage period.”

} To understand how Aurora works, one could simply picture a device akin to a microwave. In the first step of this process, a user downloads the Uvera mobile app, and registers their newly bought device. After this, a given food item simply needs to be placed within a food container, and then placed inside the box-like device. Pressing a “start” button commences the 30-second process wherein the food item’s shelf-life is elongated. After that, the container can be stored in a refrigerator or pantry, per usual. Uvera’s main source of revenue will thus be through the sale of Aurora. “Our business model for consumers is hardware-enabled softwareas-a-service model (HESaas), which involves selling the hardware device, while earning recurring revenue through the sale of additional storage containers, and the monetization of data through the mobile application,” Damdam elaborates. “For retailers, we

have developed a subscription business model. Through this model we will provide a package that includes the needed hardware and software to maximize the shelf-life of perishables, enable retailers to benefit from our AI technology to better manage the inventory, and, ultimately, reduce the wastage of food and increase revenues.”

} It is important to note here that Aurora is still in its manufacturing phase. “But we already had significant traction with our pre-sales campaign that we launched in September 2022, where we made $21,438 within one month only,” Damdam adds. “As for the retailer’s product, we are 90% done with our first minimum viable product, and we will be ready to launch our first private beta test by the beginning of 2023.” But apart from product development, Damdam and her team have one other goal moving into 2023. “We are not in the UAE yet, but we wish to be there soon!”

Uvera is currently located in Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), and it operates in parts of Taiwan, Turkey, and Egypt as well, but its roots lie in Silicon Valley. It was there, in 2019, that Damdam’s entrepreneurial inclinations first took form.

“As a scientist, I’ve seen many great scientific discoveries that could revolutionize the way we live; however, most of them never see the light of day,” he says. “So, when I observed the necessity for bridging the gap between science and business and getting

78 / ENTREPRENEUR.COM / January 2023
↑ ASRAR DAMDAM , Founder, Uvera

↑ For households frustrated by unnecessary food spoilage in their homes and in the world, Uvera has created Aurora, a next-gen AIoT device that can increase the shelf-life of fresh food up to %97 on average, within only 30 seconds of use and without the use of any chemicals.

gamechanging discoveries out of research labs, I became motivated to learn entrepreneurship. And with regard to the concept of Uvera, it was one of the scientific discoveries I looked into throughout the first year of my doctoral program.”

} Damdam’s entrepreneurial skills and mindset have also since been spurred by her participation in the MBRIF program. “As an inventor and entrepreneur, I have come across all sorts of challenges in launching a new product, and I understand by now the importance of surrounding myself with like-minded entrepreneurs and mentors who are familiar with the obstacles faced by innovators,” Damdam says. “Introducing a novel technology to the market is not an easy task. It requires commitment, specific knowledge, and expertise in terms of science, business strategy and commercialization. To succeed in this endeavor, it is important to find mentors that believe in innovation and are confident in their capacity to assist in the development of innovators. Therefore, we believe that the MBRIF mentorship will help us reach our short-term and long-term goals efficiently by enhancing skills and building an endless pipeline of collaborations with industry, investors and startups.”

Buying non-fungible tokens (NFTs) with fiat money may have not become commonplace yet, but Dubai-based startup txPay is on a mission to achieve just that. “txPay provides a turnkey payment infrastructure solution that enables direct credit card payments towards any kind of smart contract and seamless settlement of digital assets and services,” explains Stefano Gaspari, co-founder and CEO of txPay. “Smart contracts and blockchain enable the next revolution in the software industry. Today, such technologies have not yet been mass adopted by the public due to its complicated nature. We acknowledge the future of such technology, and we are committed to developing fintech solutions that facilitate and accelerate public access to it.”

79 January 2023 / ENTREPRENEUR.COM /
→ STEFANO GASPARI and MOHAMED MOSBAH, co-founders, txPay
txPay /txpay.us/

} If you find your brows furrowing slightly while reading this, let me attempt to explain the technologies at play here. In the world of Web3, smart contracts are simply programs stored on a blockchain that run when predetermined requirements are met. Now, NFTs are digital assets that are powered through smart contractsinformation regarding ownership and NFT transaction are stored on a smart contract. The txPay platform, which was launched in December 2021, thus offers users access to any type of smart contract, and supports payments that use over 95 fiat currencies, and over 150 cryptocurrencies. “The txPay unique selling proposition is to provide a one-step automated ‘smart-ramping’ process, which permits anyone to purchase any type of smart contract service with fiat money in a few seconds,” Gaspari adds. “Our business model is based on three elements. The first is to provide an intuitive and seamless access to anyone to any type of Web3 services (value proposition). The second involves leveraging a strategic partnership with a major licensed payment gateway and on a proprietary application program interface (value creation). And finally, the txPay model focuses on generating revenues with a fee model based on a pay-per-transaction scheme on the user side, and a pay-per-subscrip-

tion scheme on the Web3 merchant side (value capturing).”

} With such an approach, Gaspari hopes that txPay can prove to be the bridge that connects Web3 payments to the rest of the world. “Even though innovation plays a big role for txPay to ensure that our products have the most up-to-date performance and security standards, the core of our activities is to keep and consolidate the relationship with the users of our solution and with the Web3 merchants, to consolidate and enhance the level of credibility txPay has in the crypto payments industry,” he adds. Now, Gaspari’s vision, of course, could not have found a better place to come to fruition than the crypto-friendly city of Dubai. “The main benefits we got operating in Dubai are derived from the fact that the Emirate has created an environment where it’s possible to participate in big events of the crypto industry, and it’s possible to get special attention from government acceleration programs such as the MBRIF program,” Gaspari notes. “The main challenges are mostly linked to the fact that the local ecosystem

of Web3 projects is still in the early-stage phase, and it’s difficult to find local partners that can help you in your growth process.” But helping txPay in navigating such hurdles is the MBRIF program. In addition to fine-tuning txPay’s go-to-market strategy, the initiative has also enabled better connections for his startup, says Gaspari. “We chose to join the acceleration program of MBRIF for several reasons, but mainly because we wanted to get support in implementing our go-to-market strategy, and also gain facilitated access to specific services in the UAE such as banking services and legal services,” Gaspari adds.

“We also hope to leverage on the important network of investors that MBRIF can access.”

Having already completed a pre-seed funding round, txPay is now in what Gaspari calls a scale-up phase. “The company has already a mature product ready to be scaled on the market,” he says. “The objective now is to scale the business and to expand the team from 5-6 employees to 25-30 employees, and to prepare the upcoming seed round with venture capital firms.” It may have been operational for only just a year, but txPay is clearly dreaming big for the future. Onward and upward!

↓ TXPAY provides a turnkey payment infrastructure solution that enables direct credit card payments towards any kind of smart contract and seamless settlement of digital assets and services.

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Books are getting shorter. If you’re an avid reader, this is an occurrence you might’ve already observed. But there are plenty of studies to prove that it’s happening too. As per USbased research organization

WordsRated, the average length of the New York Times bestseller decreased by 51.5 pages from 2011 to 2021, from 437.5 to 386- a total decrease of 11.8%. Now, I will leave it to you to find out the cultural and other reasons behind this phenomenon. This article, however, is about a startup whose foundation is deeply linked to this gradual decrease in the lengthiness of books.

Launched in the Tunisian capital Tunis in 2021, Reedz is a mobile app that offers audiobook summaries of global best-selling books in Arabic. “Through Reedz, our users can self-actualize and learn in a few minutes per day,” Haithem Kchaou, co-founder and CEO of Reedz, explains. “With the rise of the new industry of bite-sized and condensed formats like TikToks and reels, classic sectors, like the music and book industries, are reinventing themselves to adapt to this new reality. For example, the average song currently lasts around three minutes 30 seconds, and is expected to decrease to two minutes by 2030. We can notice the same trend in the book industry, with the average non-fiction book going from 467 to 270 pages. We are part of this global trend, as we are driving the change in audiobooks in the Arab world. Though we love books the way they currently are, we firmly believe the books of the future will only last shorter.”

Currently built as a freemium model that allows users to access some of the audiobooks, podcasts, and other

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→ CHEHIR DHAOUADI and HAITHEM KCHAOU, co-founders, Reedz

content on the app, Reedz’s premium version gives unlimited access to the entire library. The premium version also offers features like offline usage and a sleep timer. But Kchaou says he is far from done in coming up with the final iteration of the Reedz model. “Building a startup is also a constant pursuit of answers to endless questions,” he adds. “So, we are planning to A/B test [a user experience research methodology that uses two or more versions of a given variable] a new business model that would be different from the current one. I think that, by definition, a startup should have a culture of innovation that encourages and supports new ideas, risk-taking, and creative thinking. In our case, we have trained an AI algorithm for over 3000 hours to summarize long texts and books.”

Having reached nearly 100,000 downloads since Reedz’s launch, Kchaou and fellow co-founder Chehir Dhaouadi decided 2022 was the right time to shift base to the UAE. The duo believe the UAE will prove to be a focal point in their aim to access, and cater to, the diversity of the wider MENA region. “The MENA region is culturally rich,” Kchaou elaborates. “It has more than 63 dialects with several clusters like North Africa or GCC that have their own specificities and sub-culture. We have started developing more localized content in Tunisia and each country in our target market. The app and content get personalized depending on the country where it is used. We are also investing in artificial intelligence (AI) to automate the summarization process. We are witnessing a significant breakthrough in natural language processing (NLP), and we firmly believe our algorithm could summarize hundreds of books in a couple of hours.”

} Kchaou and his team’s approach towards innovation has already opened many doors for the startup. For one, Reedz was accepted into US-based AI computing firm NVIDIA’s inception program for AI startups. “Through their support, we

are getting access to the best minds in NLP, perks essential to our development, and connections to international investors,” Kchaou adds. “In the future, our algorithm could summarize thousands of books and long texts in hours.” Closer to home, participating in the MBRIF program has helped Reedz expand its services in the Middle East. “With its large network of investors, partners, and alumni, MBRIF has gained the reputation of being one of the best accelerators in Dubai, and rightly so,” Kchaou says. “Their program is designed in a way that is tailored to the startup’s needs, while being mindful of the founders’ busy schedules. The optional sessions make it easier for founders to manage their time. The MBRIF team has greatly assisted us in our expansion here, and we are proud to be part of their network.”

} And while Kchaou is all praise for the UAE ecosystem, he notes that certain issues still need to be ironed out. “With its accelerators and incubators, the UAE has certainly established itself as a hotbed for startup activity in the Middle East, and it truly is the place for any startup aiming to scale internationally,” he says. “That said, significant barriers, such as a high cost of living and the difficulty of opening a business bank account, must also be accounted for.” As for Reedz itself, having already raised a pre-seed round of funding through Egypt-headquartered seed and early-stage venture capital firm Flat6Labs, the startup is now seeking to raise a seed round as well. “During 2022, we managed to launch the product, and strike a partnership with five telecom operators from Tunisia and Egypt, allowing our users to subscribe through their mobile money,” Kchaou adds. “Expanding to the UAE now will help us to be closer to our target market, and also give us access to a larger pool of investors for our upcoming seed round.” Reedz thus has big plans ahead for 2023- here’s wishing the startup all the luck!



of summaries of nonfiction books in various different fields for people who want to develop their knowledge and skills in the least possible time. Currently built as a freemium model that allows users to access some of the audiobooks, podcasts, and other content on the app, Reedz’s premium version gives unlimited access to the entire library. The premium version also offers features like offline usage and a sleep timer.

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When Karim Dakki and Ahmad Ghafour launched Abu Dhabibased fintech startup Klaim in December 2019, there was one clear goal the duo had set out to achieve: solve delayed and/or rejected insurance claim payments for medical providers in the UAE. “The birth of the company was formed over a casual meeting among friends who shared a common entrepreneurial passion and personal interest in the medical sector,” Dakki, who is also Klaim’s CEO, recalls. “After learning that healthcare providers are suffering from insurance claims due to the complicated claim filing process, rejections, and payment delays, a revolutionary concept was born. The emergence of the concept and transformation of the healthcare system by presenting a solution to a problem faced by healthcare providers resulted from the exchange of various ideas and perspectives.”

Klaim’s business model involves a multi-step process. First, healthcare providers must create an account with Klaim, following which the entity’s financial performance is vetted- this is done using Klaim’s tech-driven platform, which assesses and buys low-risk claims (have a high chance of being paid by the insurer), and rejects claims that offer high risk. Following this, the medical provider then signs a contract with Klaim, which makes them eligible to receive medical claim payments in cash within seven days. “So far we are focusing on healthcare finance, especially business-to-business,” Dakki explains. “We would like to streamline medical billing from

} A-to-Z and for revenue cycle management activities that encompass three pillars. One is technology automation for claims management and revenue cycle activities. Second is the capital services for accelerating claims payments through purchases of receivable purchases. And then the third revenue model is reliabilitycentered maintenance services. By bundling the three of them, we come up with a new way of doing revenue cycle management that we’ve called revenue cycle management 2.0, where healthcare facilities transform their medicare and claim process into a cash process that is instant and hassle-free.”

By eradicating working capital woes for medical providers, Klaim thus works towards creating a more seamless healthcare ecosystem. And the startup’s numbers thus far speak for the efficiency of its business model- since its inception in 2019, Klaim has already managed claims worth over AED700 million and supported more than 100 medical entities across the UAE and Saudi Arabia. “It’s a very unique DNA that matches between financial services, giving us an edge when it comes to being at the crossroads of healthcare finance,” Dakki adds. “One of our unique selling propositions is the brand and the trust that we built in

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↓ KARIM DAKKI, co-founder and CEO, KLAIM

the difficult industry to penetrate, which allows healthcare facilities to trust us for sharing with us their finances, which is not something that they are open to doing easily with others.” But despite constantly keeping an eye out evolving tech and innovation that could be integrated into the Klaim model, Dakki says that it is the human factor that really makes its offering stand out. “We focus a lot on bringing a new way of doing things, not only in terms of technology, but also processes that can allow us to disrupt an

↓ KLAIM.AI is the nextgeneration claim management platform designed to let you concentrate on running your practice while we take care of boosting your financial performance and easing your cash flow.

industry that is very conservative and very resistant to change; namely, human connection with the customer base,” he says. “And so, while we use technology for back-end operations, we make sure that the link with the customer stays there all the time with the account manager, just constantly visiting the customers, and being close to them.”

} With six subsidiaries across Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Saudi, and Oman, Klaim is now in its pre-series A stage. In November 2022, the startup had announced that it had raised US$5 million in a seed investment round led by Dubai-headquartered venture capital and private equity firm Knuru Capital. “We’ve raised so far between debt and equity by more than $14 million,”

Dakki says. “We are currently at $2 million of annualized revenue with a very high margin, and a team of around 50 people that are geographically spread.” Dakki adds here that his startup being a part of the MBRIF program has been a major catalyst in it being able to set up valuable connections with the UAE government- a step that is absolutely crucial for a startup looking to create a ripple effect of change across the healthcare payment system. “It’s a prestigious program that we wanted to be a part of to prepare for our Series A, and establish specific relationships with the governments,” Dakki says. “And having access to such government resources is definitely helping a startup like us to tackle the challenges of the health-

care industry and support the healthcare ecosystem as a whole.”

} Indeed, the Klaim team’s efforts have certainly been in alignment with the UAE government’s vision- a feat that Dakki believes will also hold his firm in good stead moving into 2023. “I think that our system could have only been done in a place where healthcare digitalization is advanced, which is the case in the UAE, and it has been spearheaded by the UAE government,” he notes. “So, we are a value-add service on central government platforms, and we would not have been able to exist if these things hadn’t been done initially by the government. So, I think that’s a big plus. We are proud to be in an ecosystem where startups and founders are valued.”

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In The Loop/

Delicious by Design

Khaled bin

Ventures joins Series A round for American foodtech startup

distinctive flavor, identify the same molecules in plants, and then reconstruct the depth of meat flavor -including mouthfeel and richness- using only plants.

“Our minds associate meat with a shape, a texture, and a flavor,” said Kumar, in a statement. “While texture has been the focus of meat innovation, flavor is a white space. Our debut lamb made from plants has more depth of flavor, richness, and appetizing aromatics than other meats, full stop.”

plants- as having been “shockingly good,” and with taste being a vital aspect of customer adoption, he believes the startup will be able to rule the roost when it comes to the plant-based meat market.

KBW Ventures, the investment firm founded by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin

Talal Al Saud, has been announced as one of the investors backing the US$12.3 million Series A round raised by San Francisco-based foodtech startup Black Sheep Foods.

Founded in 2019, Black Sheep Foods is in “in the business of giving consumers access to the most delicious meat variety, using plants instead of animals,” according to co-founder and CEO Sunny Kumar.

Black Sheep Foods’ patent-pending flavor technology allows the company to isolate the flavor molecules that give any animal meat its

Besides KBW Ventures, Black Sheep Foods’ Series A round has been backed by New York headquartered Unovis, as well as Bessemer Ventures Partners and AgFunder, both of which are based out of San Francisco.

Commenting on KBW Ventures’ investment in Black Sheep Foods, Prince Khaled described its first product -lamb made from

“KBW Ventures is backing Black Sheep Foods with our eyes on the massive addressable market size of sheep and the other heritage meats that the company has in the pipeline,” Prince Khaled told Entrepreneur Middle East. “The company’s technology, allowing for an amplified flavor profile, excellent texture, and good nutritional approach, makes for a winning platform. We see Black Sheep Foods blazing a new trail for a needed product profile that has thus far gone unaddressed.”

While the new Series A round is aimed at bringing Black Sheep Foods’ lamb made from plants to restaurants across the United States, the new infusion of funds brings the total amount of investment the startup has raised since its launch to be $18.05 million. kbw-ventures.com

← While many plant-based meat companies focus on the texture of their products, US-BASED BLACK SHEEP FOODS says its differentiating factor lies in offering a variety of flavors.

86 / ENTREPRENEUR.COM / January 2023
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