Global Tech from MENA

If you think about it, there is no reason why technology could not start from anywhere, specifically from MENA. There are some huge market opportunities that are so specific to emerging markets that they are not even on Silicon Valley or Europe’s radar. While attending a quiet barbecue at his dad’s house in Lebanon, my partner Henri Asseily discovered a tech geek who created a 50-micron 3D printer faster than a coffee brewer in his garage next door. My house in Beirut has electricity 24/7 in a country with power cuts that average 6 hours a day thanks to a Read More …

Entrepreneurship after Oil in MENA: 4 Hard Truths

When I was a kid, we were taught in school that oil would be drying up, and so would revenues from oil. At least they got one thing right: oil revenues are drying up, albeit for vastly different reasons. And those governments that used to rely on oil revenues for income are going to have to switch to the good old taxation systems. But taxation systems only work in economies that have a thriving private sector, since a governement that takes back money that it gave away in the first place can’t last very long. So the oil problem boils down to Read More …

The difference between a CEO and a COO

The difference between a CEO and a COO is surprisingly easy to understand, but it is also surprisingly misunderstood by too many entrepreneurs who start as CEOs and devolve to COO roles. At Leap Ventures we have had to explain these roles enough times that I feel compelled to write about it, in the hope that we can simply point to this post in the future. So what is a CEO, how does she differ from a COO, and where’s the problem? A CEO does what he wants to do. A COO does what he has to do. — Hervé Read More …

Why Now Is The Time For The Middle East To Invest In Youth And Innovation

I am a big fan of Chappatte, the Lebanese-Swiss cartoonist who often draws for the New York Times. I find a lot of wisdom in his drawings. When I saw this recent comic above, I thought it illustrated a moonshot opportunity for the Middle East. Current oil prices have put all Arab countries on an equal footing: whether oil producing or not, they are “oil-poor” given current oil prices. The moonshot opportunity is to reach 30% of GDP coming from the digital economy in any Arab country within 10 years. Leaders in these countries should start this process today by Read More …

Startups: Valuing equity, cash, and the team

Valuing equity can be very hard in startups, but so is valuing cash and the team. I gave a talk a few days ago at the TechWadi Roadshow powered by Google For Entrepreneurs, that took place in the UK Lebanon Tech Hub in Beirut. I was asked to discuss the importance of teams when launching a startup, so I decided to explain the relative importance in time of the triumvirate: teams, equity and cash. A major error by many first time entrepreneurs is to misprice the value of equity and cash, and generally assume they’re constant over the life of Read More …

Startup payroll: stay lean

Back from a trip to Silicon Valley, I thought a few lessons from there on CEO and founder salary in a startup would be most beneficial to our middle eastern startups. I had the chance to interview a few CEOs and venture capitalist, and discussed with Quanergy founder Louay Eldada his 3-year without salary and then 50% salary cut in paycheck in year 3 when he started his company, despite a recent closing on a $30 million dollar-round. Louay left a position as CTO at SunEdison to found Quanergy. His effective salary the first 3 years was negative as he Read More …

You’re on stage: entertain!

I’m talking to you, the boring person on stage behind the mike, looking at your screen or notes, reading a speech with long sentences and big words in a monotonously boring voice, clicking a device to move forward an endless stream of badly edited PowerPoint(TM) slides. What is wrong with you? No, really. I mean it. What is wrong with you? You’re given a (somewhat) captive audience. You have the opportunity to impact the next 2, 5, 20 minutes or hours or years of dozens of people. And you squander it all away. Why? Do you really think you’re actually good Read More …

Determining The Value Of Your Company

I was asked by Entrepreneur ME recently to explain how I valued companies, and as I was thinking about writing a post here on Leap’s website about it, I’ll just instead link to the article. I’ll just quote myself… I am in no camp whatsoever regarding valuation, and, to enrage all philosophy teachers out there I have to state that the answer is ‘it all depends.’

Don’t start a startup alone

Image caption: Leap partner Henri Asseily (right) and Farhad Mohit eating dinner in Farhad’s parents’ dining room while starting Bizrate.com in 1996. Their office was the greenhouse just outside. I got a call the other day from a young entrepreneur who’d heard we had started Leap Ventures, and that we’d invest in companies like his. Mistake #1: don’t call someone, send an email. In the email, you can structure your thoughts correctly, and you won’t be bothering that person who’s probably in a meeting and probably will want to send your info to the right analyst anyway. At Leap, send your pitches to businessplan@leap.vc. Read More …