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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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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This is a cross post from Sami Shalabi’s blog
Taking on entrepreneurship is one of the most life changing events any person can embark on; it not only impacts the individual, but impacts the community and even the world. An entrepreneur is someone who just does not accept the status quo, but has a vision for the future and makes the impossible happen to arrive at this vision.
Entrepreneurship is not easy anywhere in the world. Each region has its unique challenges, and in the same ways has its unique opportunities. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is in transition. All market indicators whether it is around consumer usage patterns, infrastructure availability, business demand or overall business and political disruptions indicate the MENA is ripe with opportunity. Things are moving quickly and it is clear that it is a major and growing world market.
What does this growth mean for MENA entrepreneurs? We are about to enter the age of MENA entrepreneurship. MENA Entrepreneurs are going to be the life blood of all MENA economies. If you have what it takes, now is the time to act and take that idea you have always wanted to do and just make it happen. Only good will follow!
In my journey as an entrepreneur, I too started with a desire and an idea. This idea took me to unexpected places and taught me plenty of lifelong lessons that I will share with you in a list of 10 confessions:
1. Be your #1 customer
I have always found that the greatest products service the needs of those that create them. Solving a real personal pain point makes you passionate about the space, and solution. Being your #1 customer makes you use your own product everyday and forces you to keep improving it before the rest of the world asks you to. Your problems are potentially business opportunities.
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(this is a cross post from Ariel Diaz’s blog The Ambitious Life)
The Product-Distribution Framework
Given that the product vs distribution debate is not just an either or, I wanted to create a framework to help me think and evaluate the tradeoffs of each, and take into account the strength of each. So I created a simple 2×2 matrix comparing weak and strong product vs weak and strong distribution, using a fun theme of plants to characterize the various types of companies (trust me, it’s much safer for work than the initial images).
The Oak Trees – Great distribution and product feed on each other to build great companies
At the top right are the truly great companies, that have created solid products and achieve successful distribution to reach enough people. These great companies are household names, including Facebook, Apple, and Google. There are various paths to get there, but most of these companies have a fanatical devotion to creating a solid product, coupled with a very smart, disciplined, and powerful distribution. Throughout the growth, these two strengths continually feed on each other creating a positive feedback loop.
Example: Apple in 2010 – Apple is firing on all cylinders, led by Steve Jobs’ literally maniacal focus on creating a perfect product. But it’s easy to forget how strong the Apple marketing engine is, creating hundreds of millions of dollars of free publicity with every product launch. They have also created one of the world’s strongest brands, and use their huge profit margins to build a wildly successful retail distribution channel.
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Where will you be on May 3rd, 2011?
If you happen to be a Jordanian Techie, or in Amman at the time – Amman Tech Tuesdays (AmmanTT) is to Celebrate its one year anniversary in an enlightening and innovative half-day event (3pm-9:30pm) at Zara Expo in Amman, Jordan!
After 14 amazing events throughout the past year, AmmanTT is commemorating its accomplishments in bringing techies together once again on the first Tuesday of May, only this time it’s super special! Doors will open at 3:00pmto reveal an open startup exhibition that will feature 50 exciting early stage Jordanian technology startups & projects. Professional grade booths and other facilities will be provided at no charge to the exhibitors and thus create a unique opportunity to market and promote what they are most proud of and working on to the world. Alongside this portion of the day, a demo stage will be available for those looking to pitch their businesses as well. (A limited number of spots remain open, if interested please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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Cashbury, formerly known as Kazdoor and a YallaStartup Weekend project, wins the ArabNet 1st Prize. Hassan Baydoun shares with us his vision for Cashbury and how it started.
Why do we still have to carry all our loyalty cards in our wallet when they simply can be replaced with a application on our smart device. And since we take our phone with us everywhere we go, we have all our card in the palm of our hand, and turn our fat wallet into a skinny e-wallet.
Looking for a free ticket to ArabNet’s conference in Lebanon?
Tweet a tip on Entrepreneurship from your own experience or tweet what you think an entrepreneur is and attach #YallaStartup #Tip next to your tweet.
YallaStartup will be giving out one free ticket to the best tip – best defined by quality of tip and number of retweets.
Let’s get those tweets going. This starts NOW and ends on March 20th.
There is nothing like it. You have an idea, and you have the stage for a minute, or two, or five. You’re on a mission to sell yourself, your vision, and your team. There is no room for error, and no room for mediocrity.
You need to be the number one advocate of your product. You need to love it, and you need to show how much you believe in it. You need to be passionate about it. Passion is contagious, and the only way you are going to win the crowd over.
With passion, you need to deliver a clear vision. You need to show that you are captaining a plane with a clear destination, and that it would be a mistake not to come along for the ride. That means really understanding your product and getting the basics right:
- Why are you creating the product or service, who is it serving and how big is the market?
- Why your solution? what’s so magical about it that competition can’t replicate?
- How will you make the idea a reality?
- Why your team can take it forward and succeed?
Get those figured out and take the 2 minutes you will have, mix in Passion, Confidence, Clarity and Keep it Simple.
Demo’ers shorten up the above, make it quick and focus on your demo. Show us your product and go through a few scenarios that really showcase your top features. Check out Demo 2011 pitches for some examples. Be very clear and very precise – that means Practice! Practice! Practice!
And now, we will leave you with this –
“If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days [of preparation]; if half an hour, two days [of preparation]; if an hour, I am ready now.” – Woodrow Wilson
ArabNet Shift Digital Summit is coming up on March 22- 25 at the Habtoor Hotel in Beirut.
Jump start your ideas and apply to ArabNet’s Ideathon and Startup Demo. The Ideathon gives selected entrepreneurs 2 minutes in the spotlight to pitch their ideas to investors, incubators and others. The top 3 pitches will win cash prizes as a seed grant to help them build a prototype of their product. The Startup Demo allows selected startups that already have customers/users and a revenue stream to showcase their products in 5-minute pitches to a panel of judges. Additionally, startups will be provided with exhibition space for the duration of the conference.
The deadline to apply is on FEBRUARY 27th [Extended to March 6th]. You can find more information on the event and application process here.
Goaaaaaaaaal! Lebanon 1 – Brazil 0.
Mimix just won the final face off against Mindle from Brazil and became the ultimate champion of Global Startup Battle. Congratulations to Mimix and to all YallaStartup’ers you showed to the whole world that we have the Power of Yalla!
Below from the Global Startup Battle page:
All of us at Startup Weekend extend a huge round of applause to the entire MIMIX team for a job well done! Congratulations to Pierre Daher, Jessica Abou Haydar, Pascale Baaklini, Akram Barakat, and founder Mahmoud Darawaheh. As the Ultimate Champion, the MIMIX team wins a website by Clover and a customized video by SwitchMarketing! These prizes, in addition to those the team received as Week 1 winners, will help catapult MIMIX to the next level of entrepreneurial success.
MIMIX is a web and mobile app which builds on speech recognition and 3D modeling technologies to translate speech into sign language in real-time. The team and their startup have huge potential and we are certain that the winners of Global Startup Battle will have many more successes in their future.