November 12, 2017

Why I will Scale Cheesecake

“Quality is not about how expensive a product is but how consistent it is”

The Grid: You have focused on a specific area with in the food service industry, why?

Rehan Samee: You mean deserts? There was such a glaring deficiency (in terms of quality) and still is. When you go to a Starbucks, for example, you have a variety of food items to choose from; lollipops and packaged nuts near the check out counter to croissants, muffins, cookies and cakes in their display chillers. These are supplied by different vendors. What we found – and what we still find – is that the quality of these products, particularly bakery and pastry items, is very average. There is sweetness but nothing else.

Now take a step back and just visualize what “food” is to us today … it’s not just a means of survival … it is an experience! Switch on any TV network in any language. There are channels just dedicated to food. Look at the trends reflected there and on social media. There is a growing consciousness of the quality of ingredients, flavor subtleties and texture combinations and clearly a demand for more.


November 12, 2017

A Sweet Spot in Outsourcing

“We wanted something more scalable than [a restaurant] at a small incremental cost”

The Grid: From banker to B2B desert maker. What was that moment of change?

Rehan Samee: I always had the entrepreneurial curiosity. Since I first came to Dubai twenty years ago I have been itching with ideas. Whether it was to create nutritious preservative free TV dinners, inspired by the most amazing Thai red curry cooked by my ex-wife; or looking to establish different types of entertainment centers when all my boys would have to play with in malls when they were growing up were ball pits! Why not carting, archery or even miniature golf… with some kind of F&B? So I have been down a lot of paths that never materialized.

The Grid: Why do you think that was?

Rehan Samee: In hindsight, it was not as much about the feasibility of the product as it was the type of co-operation – particularly with the TV dinner idea. The person you think of as the co owner of the company interprets roles differently to what you do sometimes. Pieces therefore don’t fall into place.


“We meet a lot of other start-ups launched by two brothers”

The Grid: What inspired you to start HeyDoc!?

Ahmad Al-Hidiq: My brother and I launched a digital marketing agency (WebMisc) three years ago and that got us thinking about the HeyDoc! concept. We did a lot of work in the healthcare world and saw the issues they faced and wanted to find a solution.

The Grid: So you and your brother have had previous experience creating businesses?

Ahmad Al-Hidiq: I have a background of creating new businesses, in the early days as part of larger corporations, more recently as stand alone entities. We founded four start-ups together. The first two failed but the last two are doing well.

The Grid: That must really test a sibling relationship and create moments of tension. What is it like, working with your brother?


“If they don’t read it before signing, that’s scary, and if they are too pedantic that is also a red flag”

The Grid: At the Venture Café Talks event last week at The Cribb, you shared your experiences with confidentiality breaches as a startup, specifically focusing on NDAs and third party agreements. Though your experiences haven’t always been great, you would still have them in place. Is that right?

Ahmad Al-Hidiq: A lot of people see them as just a paper and no one takes them seriously. We are keen on having them in place because you never know what can happen. It’s more of a scare tactic than actually going the route to hire a lawyer in the case of an issue at the early stage of your business. NDAs also help filter through people to work with based on their reaction. If they don’t read it before signing, that’s scary, and if they are too pedantic that is also a red flag. It reflects intent to break an NDA. The review process helps you understand your counter party’s character and willingness to co-operate. You work more with those who follow through and even return information as per the NDA after the engagement.

The Grid: How long are your NDAs and do they differ quite a bit depending on whether they are signed with an “employee” versus a “vendor” for instance?


“If an organization is not ready for the change, or sold technology that is an overkill, they run into trouble”

The Grid: We know that new technological innovation can be extremely well-received by consumers or just as equally rejected. As a Mobile App Publisher and Digital solutions provider, how do you educate SME clients, who want to implement technological change so they can remain competitive and ultimately delight their customer base?

NgageU: Firstly, we try to make them aware of the difference between ‘automation’, where business processes are optimised by reducing human intervention versus ‘digitization’, where the same processes are optimised by reducing the amount of paper used.

From there, we talk to them about ‘digital automation’, which is a combination of both. Technological change doesn’t always mean reinventing the wheel and starting from scratch.

Whatever the solution, simplifying business processes to enhance the customer experience is the priority. We keep that at the core of all discussions and make sure the client is not blindsided or bedazzled by the technology.

The Grid: And how do you make sure of that? (more…)

“The future is governed by large corporates that are looking to innovate with digital experiences”

The Grid: How can fintech businesses, particularly in the payment space, engage better with large corporates in a way that is mutually beneficial?

Moussa Beidas: Bank led initiatives haven’t worked so well. We believe the future is governed by large corporates that are looking to innovate with digital experiences. Take Starbucks, for example. It has a mobile wallet solution that allows customers to pre order beverages, avoid queues and earn rewards in the US. Starbucks can do this because they own the entire customer experience and can leverage how to utilize it.

And because they see the value, customers are doing what is counter intuitive in many ways, i.e. pre loading money rather than paying afterwards like they may have done for decades before.

We believe in our region that a lot of large corporates and even system integrators or middlemen are poised to have a similarly profound impact in the next five years in defining how the related landscape emerges. As they say, “Data is the new oil” and we are heavily invested in making sure that the white-labeled product we provide is targeted to large corporates so that they get data and can use it to optimize their offering.


“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.


“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?