The evening kicked off with opening remarks by Your Middle East COO Aurore Belfrage – the hostess for the night – and the Swedish ambassador to Qatar, Ewa Polano. After some initial stories about Sweden’s entrepreneurial history, which includes inventions such as the zipper and Mindcraft, the stage was set for the charming Nima Adelkhani, founder of PITME, who came all the way from San Francisco to share some hard truths about what it takes for MENA entrepreneurs to grow internationally.
”The message was loud and clear – it’s all about You as an entrepreneur – passion, stamina and the desire to walk the extra mile,” explains Aurore Belfrage. ”I learnt a new word: coopetition. Brilliant – cooperate with your competition. It is all about getting the job done and finding partners wherever necessary.”
The founder of Bayt.com and MumzWorld, Mona Ataya, followed and shared her perspectives on growth. ”Mona’s experience is that it’s relatively easy to start a one million dollar business with a team of five,” says Aurore. “The hard bit is growing that to a 100 million dollar business and lots of employees. The entrepreneur needs to be a leader or at least a manager…which isn’t always the case.”
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Swedish entrepreneur Magnus Ohlson then joined the panel to share valid lessons from his venture Careem. Ohlson thought he had founded a “cool tech company”, but realised after a while that Careem is an operations business and the captains (the drivers) are really the main asset. Only when realising this was he able to build the culture of inclusiveness, empowerment, and pride that gave them their actual USP – the end result is a fleet of captains that provide great service.
It was now time for the perhaps most important part of the evening: pitches. A new group took the stage to discuss the importance of storytelling and rhetoric when wooing investors. The investor panel included Numan Numan (MD 212 Istanbul) and Maher Hakim (serial entrepreneur and Professor at Carnegie Mellon University).
The entrepreneurs were passionate about their diverse ventures. Aurore Belfrage identifies three key lessons from the experience: “1: create an emotional connection with your investors early on, all cheap tricks are allowed; 2: assume investors are lazy and help them understand your thinking and take the opportunity with stats and graphics; and 3: let them ask questions and they’ll feel smart.”
Your Middle East is looking forward to more exciting Swedish-Qatari initiatives to promotes the regional startup ecosystem. And a special thank you to WISE, Qatar Business Incubation Centre, Ericsson, Nasdaq, 7ayak Hub, QatarLiving, DohaTweetups, Women Investing in Women, Girls in Tech, PITME, TechWadi for believing in us and making the Doha event a success.