Hi Kareem and welcome to InspiredStartups! We have met at the most recent Dublin Launch48 Startup event back in 2013 during which I learned about your interesting startup idea.
But firstly, tell us a few words about yourself and also what brought you to Ireland?
"I am from Cairo, Egypt. I have moved to Ireland to complete my education. My background is in marketing and WOM communication. While I have always been interested in entrepreneurship, I have never thought of starting something here in Dublin. It struck me one day to get involved, and ever since then I have been part of the startup community here. I only wish I had started sooner."
Looking back at your past experience with the Dublin Launch48 weekend, how did you benefit from taking part in this startup accelerator event?
"Launch48 was one of my most significant introductions to the startup circle here. I have met great people that I am still in touch with today, and have received great support from friends and mentors alike who helped me shape what was going to be the beginning of my new startup. I am very grateful for the experience and would love to do it again. It's a high energy environment where everyone around you is working on something great. It's very inspiring and motivating to be in the presence of that kind of energy, since it's something that you don't see around you all the time. A truly awesome experience!"
I was pleased to learn recently that your startup idea TRIBEfoodie is now in development stage. How did you come up with the idea and what added value do you wish to bring to the restaurant landscape with this service?
"It probably came to me out of hunger one day. TRIBEfoodie is simply a mobile social network for people who can't stop dining out. It's a community made for those who know great food in Dublin, who wish to share their experiences with others, and get privileges for doing so. If you gain weight because of us, then we're probably doing something right. It's a new experience. However, in order to get in, one would need to know someone in the Tribe as it is invite-only."
Kareem, what are your early entrepreneurial learnings with your current startup business? Would you like to share them with our startup community?
1. There's a really cool quote I've come across a few years ago that says every person you meet is your superior in some shape or form. I am always hustling to meet as many people as I can. With over a thousand followers on twitter this might seem impractical, but I believe that there is something to learn from every person we meet in person, and so the first thing I learned is that having conversations with people in real life can give you ideas and open doors that you never knew existed for both for your startup and your personal life."
2. The second thing I learned is try your best to help people as much as you can. Especially in the entrepreneurship circle, everyone is more or less in the middle of hustling toward something. If ever you find yourself in a position to help someone somehow, never hesitate to do so. Sometimes it feels like there's not much you can offer, but sometimes it could be as simple as connecting two people together."
3. Another thing I have learned is that you should never worry when others say no to your idea. We have had all sorts of people who said "no" to us. What we eventually realised was that every "no" was an opportunity in disguise for us. It's a blessing when you finally see it, and it all makes sense in the end. People say no to you because they don't have the same vision that you do, they don't see the world your way. There's a reason they aren't building what you have set out to build. Could you be completely nuts? Maybe. But if you sincerely believe in what you're doing, and the impact it could have; if you can live in the future before your friends get there, then you are probably destined for something pretty cool. My friend James McBennett wrote an eye opening article titled Fishermen, Explorers, and Trading Ships on how changing the way you view your startup can determine whether you succeed. Read it. So to summarize:
- Hustle to meet people - let down your guards and be willing to learn
- Hustle to help others with whatever you have
- Many times what "no" really means is that they don't trust you yet. That's not permanent.
Thanks, that's very insightful. I had a look at your portfolio and I could see you you are a Lean Startup Practitioner. Can you tell us how you apply the learn startup concept to your early-stage business? Any visible benefits so far you wish to share?
"I was just having a discussion about this with my friends today. The lean startup concept is a very straightforward one, yet probably one of the most powerful frameworks to follow when building your startup. As most would agree, it can be summarized in a 3 step process: Build, Measure, Learn. Build something as quickly as you can, the less perfect the better. Release it and measure how your market reacts to it. Learn from their feedback (sometimes receiving no feedback is feedback too) and figure out what you need to change, remove, or add. The quicker you can go through the build measure learn loop, the quicker you are bound to succeed. Some friends of mine even flipped the model to make it 'learn, measure, build'. That also works.
It's an interesting and vast field to look into, but quite simply it reasons that you would do your business more good by learning from the market and validating your business that way, than sitting in your office planning every single detail, thinking you and your team know it all. The best ideas will probably come to you from customers being dissatisfied with your product. Learn what's making them unhappy, and work to fix that.
Don't invest resources before getting market validation that you are moving the right direction. This is particularly important if you are starting out. Market validation could be as simple as shooting a video of what your app would look like in action (Dropbox started that way), or just designing a landing page to measure potential interest."
You are also a big advocate of Word-of-Mouth Marketing and you wrote the dissertation on this topic. Would you like to share the outcome of your study and describe the triggers that make us talk and spread ideas on?
"Absolutely. As technology advances and the world gets busier, one thing that remained constant (since the earliest tribes) and will always remain the same, is people's trust in those they care about and those that care about them. If you are thinking of marketing your product, little things are more effective and sincere than having your customer hear about it through a friend. People no longer trust ads as much as they trust their friends. I've found that there are certain key factors that evoke word of mouth. The key question to ask is always: "What do I need to add to my offering to make someone want to tell their friend about it?"Seems basic enough. So we can go a little deeper.
William James, one of the first psychologists in America, said that human's deepest desire is the craving to be appreciated. This brings to mind a slightly more sophisticated question that first: "How are you going to design something that will make the very act of spreading it make the sender appreciated?"
WOM is ideal for startups to embrace since it costs nothing. It does, however, take significant planning to get right. I am very passionate about the subject and I am trying to figure out a way to make this knowledge more available to startups. For now, interested startups and like-minded people should feel free to connect with me if they want to talk WOM. There is never a guarantee of virality, but there is always a guarantee that you would tip the scales in your favour, and it costs nothing."
Any experience with elevator pitch so far? How did it go? Anything to improve upon next time?
"The best way to pitch your idea to others is to use what Ash Maurya calls the "high concept pitch". Simply, think of an existing product in a different field that your product mimics in another field. For example, when YouTube started out, they pitched their idea as a Flickr for videos. Maybe you're an AirBnB for musicians. Maybe you're a Twitter that's only for basketball. Sometimes your idea is really unique and may be combining a few existing products into one. You can do that too. That is a surefire way to make sure your pitch is under 15 seconds. It is after you establish this basic connection with those you are pitching to, can you then easily add to it mentioning all your unique points. Do not talk about the features of your product, and do not even talk about the benefits. Instead, talk about the end user story that would take place after your product has been used."
Very interesting thoughts. Now, what are your favourite startup resources online?
"StartupDigest.com is a great resource for staying up to date with startup events around the city. Entrepreneur, FastCompany, and TechCrunch. InspiredStartups too! As there is nothing quite like this in this region - so watch this space. Additionally, Silicon Drinkabout is a weekly startup networking event run every Friday in cities around the world, including Dublin where I co-organize it, and is also a great event to meet lots of bright people and hear about what's happening in the regional startup scene."
Based on your early startup experience so far, what would you recommend to others just starting out?
"Sometimes ideas may seem great at first, but ultimately may not work out. Sometimes it suits to be loyal to the pursuit of becoming an entrepreneur than any one particular idea. Having said that, come up with as many business ideas as you can think of. That way: if something doesn't work out you can move on to the next one swiftly. Always look around and be really good at noticing things, especially the ones you think are boring. That's where remarkable ideas sprout from!"
Can you share some recommendations for doing a startup?
1. Be Specific: Be as specific as possible when choosing a target market. The more specific, the more impact you can have.
2. Observe Trends: Look and what's been done already. Look at trends around you and see what's not working.
3. Make New Friends: Become best friends with your target market. Fully immerse yourself in everything they are about.
4. Talk Talk Talk: Talk to your customers about what your building. The last thing you want to do is keep it to yourself. See what they think. Urge them to be honest. No one is going to steal your idea! If they do, they probably won't be able to do it the way you would.
5. Build Your Brand From Day 1: Execution is a commodity. Building a brand is the most challenging task while it at the same time the single most important thing you can do. Tech will come eventually. Focus on what values your brand will embrace.
6. Build Measure Learn: Follow the Lean Startup methodology. Build fast, fail quicker, learn and do it again.
7. Hustle and go to Drinkabout: Come to Silicon Drinkabout. Everyone that comes is looking to help. They would be more than happy to share tips and maybe even connect you with people that can help you. The one in Dublin takes place every Friday at 6pm. Don't be shy. Don't think people will steal your idea. Ideas are nothing without execution and everyone's plate is already full.
What are your plans and what comes next?
"We are having a great time working on this project and look forward to releasing it soon. We hope it will resonate with the people we built it for. In the meantime and only until we release, invites are still available - so sign up if you like at TRIBEfoodie!"
Three words to describe yourself?
"I like to think I'm a pirate. I'm also adventurous and spontaneous."
Finally, where can our startup community find you online?
Twitter: @mkareemo or @TRIBEfoodie
Thanks Kareem for sharing your early startup journey with us. We are confident you will do well with your current startup project and also many other projects which are yet to come!