We picked out ten insider tips from the best investors, mentors, and tech geniuses at RiseUp Summit to help entrepreneurs build their businesses.
For two days, startup founders and would-be entrepreneurs from across the Middle East had the chance to meet some of the key players of the startup world in the most unusually creative contexts. From pitching inside an Uber limousine to competing in a boxing ring, Egypt’s RiseUp Summit gathered 4,000 attendees, 240 speakers, and more than 100 investors in downtown Cairo.
From TechCrunch’s Editor at Large, Mike Butcher, to Cross Culture Venture’s Marlon Nichols and Jared Friedman, the investor whose incubator gave birth to giants like Airbnb and Dropbox, the summit presented a vibrant agenda of speakers throughout 130 sessions of on-the-spot mentorship and inspiration. CairoScene has selected the panelists’ top 10 pieces of wisdom, from how to approach venture capitalists (VCs) to finding a product market fit.
1. "There is a massive skills and talent gap in Egypt, if there's a takeaway from that, LEARN, acquire skills. You don't want to end up with a society of wantrepreneurs," said Mike Butcher, Editor at Large of the highest-read technology startup online news source, TechCrunch.
2. “Entrepreneurs see opportunity in uncertainty. So get out of the comfort zone, now,” said Paris de L'Etraz, Managing Director of the IE Business School Venture Lab, as he announced at his panel speech the launch of an app that tests your 'comfort zone'.
Named Czone, the app was incubated by IE's Venture Lab and works as a self-assessment tool to establish your relationship with uncertainty in both your professional and personal life. The tech tool also allows users to both read and share stories and tips about how to become more comfortable with uncertainty. "Entrepreneurs should be themselves. No one should change to fit their surroundings," he said.
3. "Don't ever be a part-time to your startup; it requires more than 100 per cent of your efforts. This is my life lesson," said Bassem ElHady, founder of Kiijami, who succeeded in taking the digital agency into a new level of global localisation through working with SoundCloud, Chelsea, AS Roma, and Bayern FC.
4. “Here are three ways to tell if you're offering something people don't want: 1) don't ask friends or family; 2) don't ask investors; 3) don't trust yourself. Ask your users!” said Jared Friedman, whose startup incubator - Y Combinator - was dubbed “the X Factor of Tech” by The Economist, having become Silicon Valley’s dominating entity in the startup scene.
5. "You have to live and breathe this business from a numbers point of view. Help me understand how big your business could get," said Kamal Hassan in a panel on getting ready for seed and early-stage investments. Hassan is a veteran expert in VCs, acting as a General Partner at TURN8 Fund and Silicon Valley-based Fenox Venture Capital. He is also the founder of The Cribb, an entrepreneurial ecosystem for startups and SMEs, and Innovation 360, a global innovation management firm based in Dubai.
6. “Don't be afraid to work with big corporations. They can polish and accelerate your product,” said Techstars’ Executive Director Greg Rogers, as he pulled out the Star Wars droid created by the American startup Sphero through Techstars’ partnership with Disney.
7. "Be conceited. Believe in what you have to offer and what you've done, and talk about it," said Womena’s Director and 25-year-old female angel investor, Elissa Freiha, to women at her talk: The Golden Age of Women Investors.
8. “Nobody gives a damn about your 'what', they want to know your 'why',” said Google Arabia’s Associate Account Strategist Sara Hegazy in a workshop on how to grow your business with Google.
9. "You have to show something. Revenue is one thing, but there are other things that can be attractive about your business. You have to show me something worth investing in," said Marlon Nichols, General Partner at Cross Culture Ventures, advising entrepreneurs who want to acquire VCs. "You should be getting your investors so excited to the extent that people would start to worry about missing out on something great," he added.
10. “Brands need to create relationships with their customers. We buy products not because we think they are the best possible quality. We buy them because we have an emotional connection with them,” says Paris De L'Etraz, Managing Director of the IE Business School Venture Lab.