Womentum Series: Episode 9 – HALA DUBAI | وومينتوم: الحلقة التاسعة

Energy is so high. Things are just going so well. They’re going too well. And I just did not want to be the one to drop this bomb on them. Which is the sad truth. I’ve built my roadmap around three, kind of, main things that I wanted to hit and accomplish. One of those was finding a technical counterpart or CTO who’d also be a co-founder. Co-founder dating. Exactly, co-founder dating. When we talk to VCs and we don’t get constructive feedback, this is something I can’t work with. The shareholders agreements have been signed to give equity to Borhan and Al-Ameen? Yeah. Not yet to be signed, but this is what should happen, God willing. Hello, hello. Welcome to Dubai. Dubai is not only my hometown, but it’s also the investment capital of the Middle East. So any startup in the region that needs to raise funding, needs to come here. So it’s coming down to the wire. We have two weeks left to decide who we will invest in, and it’s very clear, there are some companies that are really strong, they’ve hit their milestones, they’ve executed well. Other companies are falling behind and are in danger of not being ready for Demo Day. Now, I may not be 100 percent sure on who I’m going to be investing in, but my team seems to have a little bit of an opinion. Ok so Amira, what’s your – Yeah what do you guys think? Alright, Amira, what are you – Ok, if I were to invest – I’m a huge fan of Furnwish. I have been since we had the Womentum info session at Left Bank in Zamalek, and Reham came in and she grilled us. But I’m also a big fan of their technology and I think it could be really big in Egypt if it’s positioned in a specific way. Outside of Egypt, I would say Seabex. And then, I want to say Mrayti because it already has a lot of traction. So I feel like a lot of the work has been done and now it’s about scaling. She’s on a different level. Does that list align with who you think I’m going to invest in? I’m not sure how you feel about Furnwish. Not as them as entrepreneurs but as far as, like, the idea and the technology and the model. I think Sarah is one of the strongest founders we have. Romouz and Sarah are the strongest, also I think because they’re experienced professionals. They have a lot of experience. I’m really impressed with We Share’s recent traction. They were struggling a lot at the beginning and I was really worried about them but they got a lot of traction. They just signed three deals. They were pivoting already in Berlin. Basically they’re not business-to-consumer as they were when they pitched to us. Now they’re business-to-business-to-consumer. Tina, who would you invest in, if you were an individual angel? Ok well I’ll put it this way, I would want to be always a mentor and advisor to Furnwish. So you would mentor Furnwish? I would mentor Furnwish. But who would you back right now? If Mohamed gets his tech in-house, I would probably invest in them. XPay? XPay, yeah. Because really think Mohamed is a great founder. Is this something we as Womena have ever told them? That you guys should do this. We had a discussion about this when we were in Berlin, actually. A lot of people told him I think it’s a risk – a lot of the startups were telling him that. And he kept on saying, no, I think it’s fine, I have experience with this. I’ve been doing it for years in my previous company. It’s fine. As things are today – The problem is we’re always going to choose the later stage companies because it’s more logical to invest in a company that has traction and numbers, so Mathaqi and Mrayti obviously would be the best options for any investor. Because I feel like they have product-market fit, they already have orders coming in. They just need to keep doing what they are doing and scale, but otherwise, everything is in place. They should succeed. I’m really looking at the teams and entrepreneurs that I think can handle the pressure that’s coming ahead of them, that will pivot, that will take criticism, that will grow. And I think what’s interesting is, you know, your opinions are based on Berlin and on the administrative elements of this program. Whereas I’ve had a little bit of an upper hand and I got to know the startups really intimately, I got to know their families, I got to see their work ethic in their hometown when their guards were down. That switched things up for me a little bit. Our mission as Womena has always been to encourage diversity in entrepreneurship, not to encourage innovation in entrepreneurship. As a premise, I think diversity leads to innovation, right? The more diverse the voices are around the table, the more innovative the solution is likely to be. Do you feel like these next two weeks are going to show you anything different? I think everybody always ups their game in the 11th hour. I have this $100,000 budget that I want to invest within the companies at the end of it. As the startups are physically here and they’re reminded at the beginning of the program that there is investment coming from us at the end of it, they’re going to up their game a little bit. Still assessing, figuring it out? Or have you? No, I’m still figuring it out. Still figuring it out. Because every two weeks I think I have my top three, and then something happens or a new deal is signed, or something new is announced. Or we’re on the tour and we spend an extra 24 hours with a different team, and that affects my listing. And then with every team that we spend time with. There are some companies right now that do not have basic legal elements in order, and I’m giving them one of the greatest law firms on a silver platter, for them to organize themselves and to use those resources to get ready for investment. I don’t care how innovative your product is, I don’t care how good your founders are, I don’t care how much money I could make, I’ve just given you four months to take everything you can and structure yourselves so that all I need to do is wire money into your bank account. It has been so many emotions, and it’s been so positive and a growing experience for all of us, but at the end of the day, it’s a business decision, right? Which changes everything. Let’s go change the world, everybody. Let’s do this. From now on we have to be everywhere you go. You have CTO meetings set up. Yeah, we’re meeting for the first time tomorrow morning. We haven’t met in person. We’ve had, like, hours of video face time. But, yeah, he’s going to take part in this part of Womena with me. And we’re going to see – yeah we’re going to see. Because it’s Womentum, it’s going to be like bootcamp so eight months of things we would have done crammed into two weeks. We’re going to test every aspect. My cousin. So we doubled our targets in terms of sales. And we are revenue generating. We won first prize in the BetaPitch Berlin and we’re traveling back to Berlin to compete globally. And we actually partnered with CDA, which is Cairo Design Award, and they’re going to be our partners for the next couple of years. We will be in TechCrunch Beirut next week. We won the Queen Rania competition as second place. And we have closed two government entities, and so if you go to their Facebook, you see Powered By Sadeed. We have three customers, so our first three customers. With a lot of hard work from Sarah to get those three customers and to get them on board. We crossed 1 million Saudi riyals in sales. And then we opened a counter in Zain office for one year and as well as in KPMG. We got selected at the Bridge Program with Seed Morocco, which is a program where we will have two customers at the end of the two months. And we got selected out of 7,000 projects worldwide to represent the Arab world and the MENA region in the LafargeHolcim Next Generation Awards in Mexico. So the energy was all nice and fluffy. The cohort got to meet some of the co-founders that weren’t there in the first segment. We got Al-Ameen, Taher and Saif. Dara also introduced her potential co-founder Cawley to the team for the first time. It’s like baby steps. I graduated. And met Cawley, that’s a big win. We met very recently. We’re exploring the possibility of working together as co-founders. So far so good. But we met for the first time this morning, so baby steps. Now, all these things are really exciting. Add to it the fact that they’ve perfected their business models and made some sales over the summer. But the truth is, they are nowhere near ready for investment and they really needed to focus on their branding, their fundraising strategy, and their legal structures over the next two weeks if they’re going to secure investment. What has been your favorite workshop of week one so far? I would say that the biggest takeaway was in the sales. The sale session, it was amazing. Seeing Ramez sell that pen to Dara. Like, I thought I knew sales. To me, particularly, I resonated the marketing. I always knew that marketing is not my area, but I knew it’s something that you’ve really got to do and do right. I didn’t think we have to do a lot of changes, but sitting with Samir, it was like oh my god, you need to redo a lot of things. My name is Mohamed Samir, and I’m a designer. I worked with a lot of big and small brands for like five years now. I’m here actually to help them with the brand identity and how to take everything further. Habiby Mohamed Samir. Mohamed Samir is the guy behind Womena’s branding. As a founder, I spent three years saving up and arguing for the rebranding of the company. And when I met Mohamed, it was like a match made in heaven. This guy is so talented. He’s definitely the most talented designer in the Middle East right now. He was working in the Netherlands and now he works for Apple as a software designer. It’s fantastic to have him on board, and he flew in just to give this workshop. Branding identity is not, like, one go. It’s kind of a process. So you really need to be able to learn and adapt every now and then, based on the strategy. Because the company is changing. All the audiences and also all the competitors are changing, so every now and then you need to look at your brand identity and see, ok, everything is working correctly or not? Do I need to change something or do I need to make a rebranding, or I just need to change one of the elements. So as we’re all buzzing and the week is starting and everyone is in Dubai and the energy is so high and things are just going so well, they’re going too well. Something had to go wrong. I’ve called this impromptu meeting, I thank you all for taking the time and coming. So out of nowhere, Elissa calls for a team meeting. Initially, I was like, guys, I’m trying to run a program, we have a workshop, we have a schedule. I have something I’d like to present to you. Look at Tina’s face, she’s absolutely terrified. I just start feeling this sinking feeling in my stomach. But this is not my news to tell, so I will leave the floor to Haurga. Basically, I have told yesterday to Elissa, but we find it also very much important that of course the whole team should know about it. But I’m leaving Sadeed. Why Yeah, I mean, there’s definitely multiple reasons. One of them is definitely that the strategies of the company itself is just not aligned with the founders. And we didn’t find, like, a common ground or common understanding in order to proceed with this. And then with all the ups and downs and how we are handling it even complications, it’s also very much different from each other. I totally understand this in any type of business, we handle it very differently. But long term wise, I haven’t planned yet really something in particular. For me it was the first important step is actually to step back. I mean, how long have you been feeling like it’s not really working as far as strategy and aligning? Or why are you deciding now? There was no communication flow in terms of, like, where we are today, where we are looking to be in the next three months, and what is the vision for the next two years. Me, I didn’t mind to grow organically. Investment is for me not the first priority. The other founders are finding the point of investment very important and this is one of the main goals. I have really took the decision actually, literally two days before I came here. There’s not much we can do about it, and the decision has already been made. Her last day is at the end of the week. She came to the program so that she could tell us in person. So what’s the plan now with Sadeed, are they going to continue? Have you told them? Are they going to continue on? Yeah, I have sent an official mail with all the obstacles that I had and anything that was inside my heart I definitely said. And I also talked about what we have to clear out. And I really hope also for Abdalla that he will continue, and he might get also successful with it. There’s no hard feelings. I feel like I’ve been in exactly your position and I know how hard it is, and how hard the past maybe few months have been. How torn you can feel in just, making this decision and friends and co-founders, and something that you’ve built. So I know it’s really hard so – sorry I’m getting emotional. It must be really hard, yeah. But, like, dont – I had these negative feelings for a while after, because it’s kind of like a bad relationship and like a bad breakup, but – I don’t know why I’m getting emotional. No, it’s tough. Yeah. But, like, you get past it and you find passion in something new. So then we had to figure out what we were going to do. I mean, this is a family member at the end of the day, who’s not only choosing to leave her company, but her decision to leave her company means that she’s out of the program. From our end, it means that Sadeed is no longer eligible for Womentum, which means that I’m hoping to have a call with Abdalla tomorrow and you, Tina. We’ll have to speak to him. We want to hear also his side of the story. And how he feels about his co-founder leaving, but also to just inform him that this doesn’t make him eligible anymore. Sadeed can no longer be a part of Womentum and will not pitch in front of investors at Demo Day. That’s the realities of the industry that we’re in and the journeys that we’re all choosing to go on. So, the first thing I thought of is, how is this going to affect the rest of the companies? We were on a really high note, we were going forward, we were leading up to Demo Day, and I just did not want to be the one to drop this bomb on them, and the dynamics of how that would affect the cohort’s cohesion.

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