Monday, December 21, 2009

Having the reality check

Not long ago I had this real but harsh reality check. I always believed in our youth to be our next entrepreneurs. I had this dream to preach them to venture into the road of entrepreneurs. Until I was challenged by a couple of VCs when they asked me this very strange question, "Do you really believe that entrepreneurs are fresh graduates who are enthusiastic and want to take the challenge? you are wrong" Yes it came to me as a shock. They explained then to me how that most successful entrepreneurs are experienced people, who worked for a time, detected a problem, thought of a solution and decided to start their startup over it. Mostly there former employers are their first client.

Experience, nothing weighs the experience. I had a flashback then, of how a tough ride I had learning by trial and error. And I was almost that close to believe them, until I came back to my senses. It does not matter if you are a fresh Grad or Business Veteran.. It all boils down to the simple fact of living the thrill, and more important, to believe. Believing is the main ingredient here.

It is the role of the experienced people to offer their help to the young entrepreneurs, so they won't live the hard times we lived to manage. don't condemn the entrepreneurs and say they will fail for not having the experience, empower the energy and bring it to action. Tame their flame and direct them. It is their job to be enthusiastic, energetic and wild, and it is the job of the VCs to be wise, and experienced.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Win-Win or no deal

It is your fear from killing your pet project, or finalizing a client relation, or even leaving for a new job. How many times have you feared from moving on but you get stuburn thinking that you can turn the situation to a better state, if you just gave some in some compromises. My advise, DON'T.

You always need to assess the situation, to know what you are giving and what you are taking in return, and you always make sure that both parties are in a win-win situation.

A client we had, started to face problems working with us. I personally grew attached to this account as it was one of eSpace's first success story. I started to throw resources into the problem hoping that it could fix the problem and we can get back on track. Then I started to offer lower rates to compensate the client. and at all the time we have failed to win his 100% satisfaction. The problem was that our compromises started to be the natural tren, and loosing money became a habbit for this account. We never looked at it this way, we always tried to keep this client on board, hoping that we could regain some money at the end.

The problem grew bigger when the client started to run out of cash, and under the current economical situation maintaining his work became a big problem. and the situation just continued to get ugglier and the relation went from worse to worst.

Thinking of it again, we turned this situation to a problem the moment we accepted our first compromisation. The day I pushed the first resource into the problem, is the day when we lost the account. We should stopped at this moment, saw what the client needs and what we need and make sure that we can both deliver each others needs. If we don't have what he wants, and vice versa, then it is sure the time to end the realtion and get out with respect to each others. Maybe then you could work again together later. By this you will end your losses and his.

This is called WIN-WIN or NO Deal.

Monday, November 24, 2008

37signals, the myth

I have been planning to write on this for a long time. Actually this subject is the everlasting debate between me and my friend Mohammed Ali, whom is our CTO at the same time.

So 37signals managed to make lots, and lots of money just from the simple advice, "Put a price tag" . They have been attacking investment models, and they always looked at money spent in investments for ad based projects a loss of money. Although I can not totally disagree with them on the second point, I surely don't see how putting a price tag could be the magical solution for all problems, or else there would have seen much more companies joining the success track of 37signals.
Sure there is a missing ingredient which DHH is keep in the closet. From my humble point of view, It is called marketing.

Know your market, and attack it. Even though 37signals did this unconsciously, they played in their market "Developers Market". Armed with the reputation of makers of Rails, they offered project management utilities. Sure anyone would at least try the tools used by the Rails makers.. I did :). You will gain money as much as you know your market dynamics, don't think of the world as a market, choose a slice of, but make sure to choose the slice that you know most.

At the end 37signals were able to put their price, simply because they were well marketed. No matter if you are a service provider or an ad based portal, you need to know your market well. No matter how big or small this market is, if you were able to push yourself in it, and know what it needs, you will get your money.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Startups in Egypt

In my opinion, there are many challenges that entrepreneurs here in Egypt face, but the two most important factors are the entrepreneurs themselves and the investors. I remember at the beginning of our work, when eSpace was established, the culture of Angel investments and VCs were not yet mature, and at the same time, we were not educated enough to handle the experience of creating a startup. Right now, I can see many VCs and Angel investments starting to put an eye on Egypt, but regretfully, there has not yet been any proper introduction between these investors and the entrepreneurs. On the other hand, the culture of entrepreneurship is still far immature, and I believe that investors will face major problems in finding startups to invest in, let alone good ones.

This culture needs to be seeded in our youth. We should start by educating them on how to build their own successful startup rather than leaving them to learn by trial and error, or even worse, eventually abandoning their dreams for a more "secure" job. The next step would be establishing a basis of contact between these entrepreneurs and the investors whom will help them realize their dreams. I truly believe that the government should play a key role in this, as currently is the case in Jordan, and ITIDA especially should start to act more actively in these two directions. Lastly, I also believe that we need more privately owned incubators and consultancy companies that could play a role in building this healthy ecosystem.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Get some focus

Ok, you have the spirit, you are going to take all the risks, and you want to start your very first startup. You brainstormed with your team and you came up with this brilliant idea which will take the world by storm.

Once you started implementing this idea, one of your team members comes up with a more brilliant idea which is an opportunity that you can not lose, and which you must grasp right now. So you innocently decide to put what you are doing on hold or even worse, try to manage juggling things around and balancing between those two lines.

Bad enough, another member of your team think of another brilliant idea, which will not change your direction, but might require some changes in the plan. Again innocently you fall for this huge opportunity that you can not miss, and start to tweak your plan to adopt this huge next big thing.

Before realizing it, you find out that you have made many changes that you are not able to find you original plan now. Every thing seems fuzzy and regretfully you could not create one success story cause you were busy changing plans rather than making them succeed.

Once a friend told me, when a leopard goes for a hunt, he stands still until he chooses a pray from the herd. Once found he goes after it until he catches it. If another pray passes by his shoulder, he never blinks towards it, cause if he did, he will end up jumping around chasing every pray for a moment until they all run away.

Ideas are not the building brick

when Masaru Ibuka starred Sony in 1945 he had no specific product idea. Their first attempt was a simple rice cooker which failed. If this proves anything then it proves that ideas are not the building brick in any startup, its the team which matters. The spirit and the feeling that you are able to face the world and realize your dream. This heat will generate the success and ideas, and will be able to adopt any failures and change it into success.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Balancing P/PC

Always balance your productivity over your productivity capacity. Most entrepreneurs rally their team towards work that generates money, and they miss investing time in developing their team, their process or even their infrastructure. Others tend to spend all their time doing what they like and miss meeting their revenue targets.

Its always the balance that keeps your startup moving forward and preparing itself to the next level.