Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Story from the Trenches – SuperMama

by Lana Al-Kazimi

Yasmine El-Mehairy is a native of Cairo, Egypt. She studied Computer and Information Science at Ain Shams University in Egypt before later receiving her MSc in Interactive Multimedia at the University of Westminster, UK in 2004. She has worked in IT since then, holding positions such as Quality Assurance Specialist at International Business Machines (IBM) and Portal Project Manager at Al-Masry Al-Youm Newspaper. Her dual interest in entrepreneurship and social change ultimately led her to co-found SuperMama a year and a half ago with her partner, Zeinab Samir. SuperMama is a parenting website that features support, advice, videos, feedback and much more for parents and parents-to-be, a completely new idea in the Middle East. SuperMama is the epitome of creating a new market instead of entering an existing one, and Yasmine was kind enough to share her startup experience with us!

How did the idea of SuperMama come to life?

Right off the bat, let me state that I am not a mother myself. The thing is, my partner and I always knew that we wanted to do something that added value, not something for the sole purpose of money-generation. We were on the lookout for the right idea until coincidentally, my sister-in-law announced that she was pregnant. We soon realized how lucky she was because my entire family is made up of doctors, so anytime she needed advice she had easy access to verified opinions and was comfortable researching the web to get authentic information regarding her pregnancy. However, that is not the case with the majority of mothers and mothers-to-be in Egypt. It’s not easy to get practical parenting advice – in fact, the most popular source of information is someone’s mother or mother-in-law. These sources advise based on how they did it, or how their sister or aunt did it, and so forth. There’s no guarantee that the information the parents receive is authentic or credible. It’s all based on lessons from past experience, which I’m not belittling at all, but we are now faced with problems that our mothers and grandmothers didn’t have to deal with back then. That’s when we realized we wanted to offer something that would help mothers manage their lives accompanied by practical, tested and proven advice such that they can spend the time they need focusing on their families.
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The Freedom to Start – An Insider’s Perspective

by Lana Al-Kazimi

Karim Kobeissi is currently the Senior Legal and Policy Advisor to the Minister of Telecommunications in Lebanon. Moreover, he is a managing partner at Kobeissi and Frangie, a law firm established in 2006 that specializes in various facets of law, such as finance, commercial, corporate, real estate, construction, insurance, telecommunications, and energy. Karim received his Bachelor’s of Science in Computer and Communications Engineering from the American University of Beirut before turning his focus to Law and gaining a degree in International Law from Saint Joseph University in Lebanon and his LL.M. from Harvard Law School in 2000. Over and above that, Karim used to play professional basketball for the Lebanese national team, is co-founder of the Civil Center for National Initiative in Lebanon, president of the Harvard Law School Association of Arabia, and teaches at both the graduate and undergraduate level at AUB, among other things.

A prime example of giving back to his country, Karim’s latest endeavor is the Beirut Digital District, which is the key focus of this interview. Karim was my Business Law professor while I was pursuing my Bachelor’s, and I am proud to say I am still learning from him!

What is your view on entrepreneurship in the MENA region?

Entrepreneurship is a mindset, and to allow it to flourish you need to have the necessary institutions in place

This is an interesting question. There are definitely a lot of talented people here. Countries in the MENA are well equipped in terms of education to produce entrepreneurs. However, there needs to be more emphasis on certain freedoms, such as the freedom of speech and assembly. Entrepreneurship is a mindset, and to allow it to flourish you need to have the necessary institutions in place. There is not one initiative that can take off without having the freedom to do so, just look at the examples in the USA. The beauty of Lebanon is that the freedom to aspire and create is here, but it needs to trickle over to other countries in the region. At the same time, the market itself needs to be positioned correctly, and not all countries in the MENA have this at the moment. For entrepreneurship to flourish, the market needs to be open and receptive, as well as ready to experiment. Ultimately, there is definitely a lot of potential for the region, but we are still working towards it.
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Disruptive Innovation – How VCs View Startups

by Lana Al-Kazimi

Bilal Zuberi is a principal at General Catalyst Partners, a Venture Capital and Private Equity firm with offices in Boston, New York City, and San Francisco. He moved to the United States from Pakistan and brought with him a wealth of clean-tech focused knowledge. He holds a PhD in Physical Chemistry from MIT and had a short stint in management consulting before starting a company in 2004 that commercializes advanced materials [advanced ceramic technology] for automotives and other applications. GEO2 Technologies commercializes the automotives’ emissions control technology in partnership with Corning, Inc. That then led to a spinoff biomedical device company called BIO2 Technologies. Once launched, he joined General Catalyst Partners [about four and a half years ago] as an investor. Bilal’s side interests include ENTER, a program he co-founded to help college-level entrepreneurship, active membership in the TIE Entrepreneurship Taskforce, and engaging in intellectual conversations, to name a few.

Needless to say, I was fascinated by Bilal’s accomplishments. Even better? He’s approachable! If you have any questions that I didn’t cover below, please do reach out to him, that’s how interested he is in helping people!

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How I did it? The Pubget Story

by Lana Al-Kazimi

“How I did it” is part of an ongoing series of real entrepreneurial stories. If you would like to contribute to this series, contact us at exec@yallastartup.org with your proposal.

Ian Connor, an Australian native living in Boston, MA, studied Physics and Math at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. He then went on to pursue his law degree, which he obtained in 1997 and shortly thereafter started his first job in the legal world. That didn’t last long, however, as six months later as he discovered he enjoyed the database implementation portion of a legal advice he was working on a lot more than the actual legal work. The switch in his career path was swift, and a few jobs later, he decided to move to Boston to focus his energy on software development at companies like Iris Associates and later IBM. Eventually, he became addicted to the ‘Web’ and took a leave of absence from IBM to do his ‘own thing’. It was after that point that the idea of Pubget surfaced.

Pubget, the startup that Ian co-founded in 2007, stemmed primarily from co-founder Ramy Arnaout’s need for quick and easy access to scientific research. That need, along with a lot of hard work, led to the launch of a budding startup. In 2008, the Pubget search engine became active in institutions such as Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Massachusetts General Hospital. By 2011, Pubget was activated in over 200 institutions, and in January 2012, it was acquired by Copyright Clearance Center.
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