As we gear up to kick-start 2020, we delve into the top tips we heard on the Startups Without Borders Podcast. From inspiring panels on battling fear, to deep dive interviews on growth hacking, these are the tips you shouldn’t miss before you start your business in 2020.
By SWB Team
It’s not only a new year; it’s a new decade. In the first two seasons of the podcast, we’ve interviewed some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the Middle East and Europe, from Big Data pioneers, to social gamechangers to adventurous champions. We’ve taken on lessons on changing mindsets, raising funding, and partnering, as told through the stories of valiant entrepreneurs who took on the challenge to start new businesses in a whole new land. These are 7 of the most inspiring tips they’ve told us.
1. “Learn something new everyday. If you’re not willing to invest in yourself, why should anybody be willing to invest anything in you?”
“If you’re not willing to invest in yourself, why should anybody be willing to invest anything in you?” says Ahmad Sufian Bayram, in the first interview of the Startups Without Borders podcast, where we discussed Building an entrepreneurial mindset.
As the Regional Manager for the Middle East and Africa at Techstars, Ahmad has been supporting hundreds of Syrians to gain access to entrepreneurship opportunities through Startup Syria. He is also Jusoor’s entrepreneurship program manager, and advisor in the Board of Techfugees.
As Ahmad notes, working on your mindset is key when thinking to start your business. “People usually invest in people, not in ideas. So you have to keep learning, keep growing, and keep working on your mindset. When it comes to mindset, you don’t just have the mindset, but you work on your mindset all the time.”
Listen to the full interview on Episode 1 of the podcast, here.
2. “Embrace fear and take the leap. Courage is not the absence of fear; it’s having the fear and being able to go with the task nonetheless.”
“Fear is something that lives in the brain,” says Omar Samra. “It’s there to keep you safe, to jump out in a situation and get you out when it is not safe. As entrepreneurs, we can think, we can do the business plan, we can do anything; our brain will get us just to the edge of the cliff, but it will never allow us to jump. So in order to be able to take that leap of faith, you have to depend on something else other than your brain,” he says in a panel that was pure inspiration at the Startups Without Borders Summit.
“Fear is uncomfortable, we don’t like it. But the second you are comfortable, you are not growing,” adds Omar Nour, in the same panel. That’s something I remind myself every day. You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
Nour and Samra are two of Egypt’s most inspiring adventurers and entrepreneurs, who set off on a mission to row across the Atlantic Ocean in a challenge known as “the world’s toughest row.”
As they set off on the journey, the entrepreneurs teamed up with UNHCR to raise awareness on the refugee crisis. What they didn’t know was that only nine days later they would face the same dangers, terrors, and decisions refugees face as their boat capsized and failed to self-right.
Listen to Episode 8 on the podcast here.
In an insightful interview on Episode 6, Egyptian entrepreneur, speaker, and strategist, Nader Sabry spills the beans on the secret to growth hacking: finding what he calls “off-the-grid” revenue, or “new spaces where there is no to very little competition,” he explains.
“Take a look at people nearby in the industry; what are they doing and what are they changing. The next point is to look at industries other than yours and how they are innovating and changing the game. Then there’s what I call an ‘open world’, which is truly open-form creative thinking, combining the first two business models,” he says.
Netflix is a perfect example: when they were competing with Blockbuster as a rental service, they were merely growing, but then they disrupted an entire industry and themselves by building a whole new business model which is streaming. This allowed them to scale, changing the way series and movies are produced.
Listen to Nader’s interview on Episode 6 here.
4. “Show the world what you are doing. Half your success is what you do, and the other half is how you are shouting about what you do.”
“Half your success is what you do, and the other half is how you are shouting about what you do. Especially when it is a tough market and there are a lot of competitors,” says Egyptian entrepreneur Karim Khalifa in a panel at the Startups Without Borders Summit.
Karim discussed exists at a panel alongside Rasha Tantawy, Head of Entrepreneurship at Egypt’s Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre; and Mohamed Salah, Country Manager of Startup Grind Amman, to discuss exits.
“Do a lot of PR, go out there on stages, write thought-leadership pieces, prove to the world that what you are doing is making a difference. Internally, you need to get yourself in shape, because if anyone comes to talk to you, they are going to be looking at your numbers.”
Khalifa championed the creation of the mobile advertising industry in The Middle East, launching the first comprehensive mobile ad portfolio in the Region in 2008. In 2009, he Founded Digital Republic, the leading creative, digitally inspired Ad Agency based in Cairo and Dubai, that was later acquired in 2016 by Dentsu Aegis, becoming part of their digital agency Isobar.
Listen to the full panel interview on Episode 10 here.
“One of the main things I learned is to think of yourself as an entrepreneur. If I’m making money and not covering myself then it’s a problem,” says Ana Álvarez Monge in an interview on Episode 4 of the podcast.
Ana is the founder of Migration Hub, a collaborative network for social entrepreneurs and a platform for migrant entrepreneurs, which was recognized as one of the 100 Landmarks of Germany. A migrant entrepreneur herself, tips of advice in this episode are crucial if you are starting your business in 2020.
“The most important investment that you’re gonna do is on yourself. Employees and the team will come and leave. At the end of the day, it’s your idea; it’s your liability. So first find a way to sustain yourself,” she says.
Listen to the full interview on Episode 4 of the podcast here.
6. “Leverage on your network to find partners. You need to look at who seems to care about what you are doing.”
“Look at who seems to care about what you are doing. You have to throw yourself out there,” says Aline Sara, founder of Natakallam, in her interview on “Partnering Like a Pro” on Episode 2 of the Podcast.
“In order to secure collaborations with a partner, you need to leverage your network, find a personal contact with them, or find someone who can introduce you to them. That will give you an unquestionable advantage and increase your chances of starting the conversation with them,” she says.
Listen to the full interview with Aline on Episode 2 of the podcast here.
7. “Look for the light. Even in the darkest moments and the darkest corners of the world, we can still find some light.”
“Live an love life, because even in the darkest moments and the darkest corners of the world, we can still find light. So look for that light because it leads you to more light.”
Chaker Khazaal is a Palestinian-Canadian author and entrepreneur who opened the Startups Without Borders Summit, presenting the world’s first interactive silent speech.
Born as a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, Chaker immigrated to Canada, graduating from York University. Soon, he became a public figure as an author, a journalist, and an entrepreneur.
In a candid conversation after his keynote speech at the Startups Without Borders Summit, Chaker shares his message to the world. His words deeply resonate with youth in the Middle East and around the globe. Wherever you are, there is always an opportunity to find some light, create an initiative – and light the way for others.