Opinion: What they don’t tell you about starting up

Everybody has heard some version of the adage ‘don’t let money stand in the way of your dreams.’ You’ll find thousands of blogs and articles, tips and advice, and ‘do’s and don’ts’ urging you never to give up. Add to this the advertising and marketing campaigns that champion the Careem and InstaShop success stories of the world, and it can feel like every new startup is destined for triumph.

The humbling truth is that success is anything but guaranteed. A good idea is not enough. Startups need investment, and a person selling a unique concept often doesn’t have the money to fund the venture. Instead, they pitch to family, friends, angel investors, and venture capitalists to get it off the ground. Even with funding, launching a successful start is not as easy as it looks.

What we see is the PR packaged version of startups. Success stories are repeated in magazine articles to sell the entrepreneurial dream. What we don’t see is the blood and sweat that goes into becoming successful.

Here’s how it actually plays out.

It’s not a leap – it’s a plunge.

Looking for funding is a hard job – considerably harder than it is made out to be. I’m originally from the US and deciding to pitch to investors in the UAE versus Silicon Valley was a tough decision. It’s a small pool locally, and every debutant startup is vying for attention.

While the UAE’s economy and regulations create an ideal environment for startup incubation, you still need to do a lot of leg work to get where you need to be. Add to that a global recession, and suddenly your ride will become a lot bumpier. The usual advice still holds: find your niche, hire a strong team, innovate, and get funding, but while these tips are valuable, they only scrape the surface of what it really takes.

The funding world is full of choppy waters, with investor sharks out for blood. You need to be thinking smarter and working harder – with an airtight business plan and even more optimized MVPs. At some point, you have to get selective about which meetings you entertain. There are a lot of investors that are simply looking at what comes their way but may not have the funding required to support your startup. Needlessly leaving you hopeful of a positive outcome for a long period of time, before you yourself lose interest and stop the pursuit.

Stay open to opportunities.

“The best startups generally come from somebody needing to scratch an itch.” – Michael Arrington, Founder of TechCrunch

Ask any startup founder, and they’ll tell you that it’s not easy to walk away from a steady job and regular income. But if there’s an itch, sometimes you just have to scratch it. Deciding to leave my 30-year corporate career working for the likes of Accenture, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, H.H Ruler’s Court, Smart Dubai, Dubai Electricity& Water, and Takaful Emarat, carried both risks and rewards.

During my time as CEO of Takaful Emarat Insurance, I was tasked with redesigning an organization-wide digital transformation. We needed to not only successfully reinvent the company culture from the ground up but also understand our shortcomings and flaws. Working in the system, I realized that the way we look at insurance was outdated, and we needed some disruptive systems to change the landscape.

That’s how Algofy.ai was born. Using my technical background, including process automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, my vision is to enable customers to independently secure their financial futures without the usual hassle and frustrations. Algofy.ai is an insurtech aiming to disrupt the industry and put the power back in the hands of the consumer. It is a digital platform with digital channels for strategic partners that simplifies the buying processes and after-sale service.

As a customer-centric solution, it lets consumers independently select, monitor, and track their protection & investments (offered through our strategic partner Noor Takaful Family PJSC). Our consumers are also offered the opportunity to receive exercise rewards with the Apple Watch and Apple iPhone by meeting monthly challenges.

As part of the customer-centric, AI-driven ethos of Algofy.ai, the Bliss platform is designed from the ground up to operate in the digital space, our insurance partner is Noor Takaful Family PJSC, collectively we offer the most comprehensive product in the market with flexible terms, full visibility, easy cancellation, and freedom of choice. There’s no other product like it because we poured our heart and soul, thousands of engineering hours, into creating something the market wants instead of repackaging what’s already available.

But none of this happened overnight. It took months of hard work and sacrifice so that when we had our chance to impress investors, we were better, stronger, and more prepared than everyone else.

Stay committed

Looking back to the birth of Algofy.ai a year ago, believe me when I say that you can’t change things for the better without causing some level of disruption. Simultaneously, it pays to remember that opportunities often come disguised as disruptions.

Admittedly, the coronavirus pandemic has come as one of the most significant disruptions to markets in recent years. Still, even with economies in recession, coronavirus-fueled tech trends continue to dominate daily life. That means there won’t be any slowdown for startups. If you’re ready to seize the moment and put in blood, sweat, and tears, you may have a shot at doing some disrupting of your own.

Fadi Jawdat Hindi
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