“Insurance company processes are all geared towards the top of the pyramid“

The Grid: As the name suggests, the mission of your startup, Democrance, is to democratize insurance. Mobile Micro Insurance (MMI) is ushering in a new age of insurance that serves the middle and lower income brackets through smart phones. Tell us more about the gap it is aiming to fill.

Michele Grosso: The reality for this demographic, particularly across the MENA region, is that they have no risk protection. To date, insurance companies have overlooked these segments as outreach and attaining critical mass for profitability has been too difficult to achieve without a paradigm shift. Our model revolutionizes the whole insurance value chain, by making it accessible for everyone through their mobile phones and also affordable. By using our technology, insurance companies can save money versus resorting to their traditional selling and servicing channels.


“Startups are creating their own intellectual property all the time without realizing it“

The Grid: The main takeaway from our IP protection event for startups and investors at The Cribb today was that although startups cannot really afford the costs for comprehensive IP protection in the UAE, they do what they can. The main areas of focus today were non-disclosure agreements, trademarks and patents. Let’s look at initial practical measures that startups can take without it costing an arm and a leg.

Melissa Murray: Yes, startups are creating their own intellectual property all the time without realizing it. They are often strapped for time and money and since they don’t have the leverage of bigger companies to challenge IP infringements, this can leave them exposed. However, they can start by putting non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) in place to ensure that the signing parties respect confidentiality and that they are taking some measures to ensure due diligence.


“The vast majority of these studies are designed from a western-perspective and do not apply equally to our social context as Arabs, Muslims, or to the Middle East or the wider region”

The Grid: In our event ‘Family Firms: Coming out of Denial, Taking Stock and Lessons Learned’, in which you were a guest speaker, there was a lot of interest in the investment trends of families in the Emirates. What do you see as the key areas of interest at present?

Adil Al Zarooni: Education is key for stabilization in any region, with the Middle East being no exception. I naturally start with the United Arab Emirates. It is the most mature market in the region with a lot of institutions providing education services.


“ hierarchical top-down style of management is ‘industrial age’ and being replaced by self-managed teams“

The Grid: In recent times, CEO life cycles are averaging less than four years. How can leaders optimize their shorter tenures in a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) reality?

Ed Capaldi: The average lifespan of a CEO or an organization, for that matter, has never been shorter and continues to shrink. In these times, leaders who recognize that industrial-age strategizing is dead and develop an agile mindset will optimise performance and will have a greater chance of surviving longer in the role. Disruption across industries requires leaders to be a ‘game shifter’ focused on delighting the customer and able to make people want to do what must be done. In other words, it is about having the ability to deviate from past practices and adapt to change.


“For every action in life there is a reaction, our countries are still heavily in debt that’s why taxes rise.”

The Grid: Being based in Dubai, most of your expatriate clients hail from the United Kingdom however there are universal issues that face anyone living away from home over a certain period. What are the top three long-term monetary concerns that expatriates most often seek counsel on?

Paul Sharman: The current climate affects all expatriates no matter where you’re from, if the UK has a financial issue there is only so much money in the world and each problem has a knock-on effect worldwide. 90% of my time is spent helping clients to secure failing pensions to stop losing more money, this is the hottest topic, based on excessive loss and way more to come. (more…)

” Millennials are bright and quick and know that Google is your friend”

The Grid: As a millennial who runs a network for millennials, tell us; does culture or tradition play a role in your working lives today, how you make/sustain relationships or identify/achieve objectives? Does this differ much, do you think, when it comes to the millennial expat i.e. those outside their home country?

Sunny Jaswal: Millennials tend to have a culture that is unique to our generation. This culture allows us to communicate with one another in a casual fashion. This culture of casual conversation translates into every aspect of a millennial’s life, even as expats. (more…)

“People do not do business or cooperate with those they don’t trust. Your values come across in everything you do”

The Grid: Most entrepreneurs have emerged from a corporate, where they somehow imbibed, by osmosis, the core values or fundamental beliefs of the organization. Many would have viewed them with cynicism, no doubt, if management didn’t live up to the value statement.

When entrepreneurs start their own entrepreneurial journey, articulating core values for the business can take a back seat because there is a lot of other stuff to think about. At what point do you think entrepreneurs need to get the values for their startup, this unwavering guide for right and wrong, in order?

Dr. Constantine: Well, first of all, the size of the company shouldn’t matter. Business ethics and governance define the way your company operates in relation to society and has a far-reaching impact on your reputation.  Understanding, communicating and living your core values is crucial and guides you when faced with a conflict of interest and other challenges. It’s a requirement in starting a business and the only way to build your reputation. It is not something to can “afford” or ‘get’ over time.   (more…)

“Nine out of ten of our customers use Android”

The Grid: Thank you for joining us today. We are keen to hear your insights into the e-commerce market space in the region from a hands-on, practical perspective.

Luma Bourisly: I’m happy to be here. Well, needless to say, this market is very different from other markets around the world, especially in terms of customer trust. The online shopper is not only hesitant to share credit or debit card details but also personal details such as address, phone numbers, age, and so on.

The Grid: Yes, concerns about privacy are certainly understandable. And why do you think they are so hesitant compared to other markets?


November 20, 2016

Consulting in Dubai

“The problem with professional licenses… is that they don’t have limited liability …so you are the asset!”

The Grid: Thank you for speaking at ‘Business Set-up Dubai’, an event by The Grid, where we heard a lot of questions about working as a ‘consultant’ in Dubai.

Effectively, this is where you set up your own company which gives you your own employment residency visa and offer services to other companies. There seem to be a lot of people, who came out here with the Big 4 or a big bank but now opening up their own shop, so to speak. What is the proper business licence for a consultant or consultancy in Dubai?

Stuart Curtis: Anything with ‘consulting’ in it, really, strictly speaking, is a ‘Professional License’.

A professional license can have more than one partner but you can actually request that it is turned into a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or a free zone company with one partner or a FZCo, which usually has two partners.


November 4, 2016

Afraid of Being Poor

“It’s feeling that money can’t be created again in a way”

The Grid: Caroline, what is usually the biggest concern, or let’s say, fear that when you see a client that the issue of money brings about? Is it the issue that people are afraid to lose money and be poor? A psychological barrier of people taking the initiative to embark on an endeavor or start a business, for instance? The fear that if I lose money what would happen to me? Where would I be? Is it going to ruin my life? I mean, is this usually the biggest factor for people or is it something else you see?

Caroline Domanska It’s feeling that money can’t be created again in a way and that you are going to make the wrong decisions. And, I think that comes down to sense of worth around your own abilities actually.