For this week's Meet The Entrepreneur episode, we got to interview Mohammed Ihab, a judge at the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition, a freelance startup consultant, and an investment analyst at AUC angels. AUC angels is the first university-based angel investor network in the MENA region. They have been operating for two years and focus on investing in early-stage startups that have solid growth prospects.
To start off, we asked him about the common misconceptions that he hears when it comes to launching startups. “People think you need work experience in order to launch a successful venture,” he said. He explained that from the examples he has witnessed, he has reached the conclusion that “success in the startup world may not necessarily be contingent on one's business acumen.”
We also asked about his opinion on the most important traits needed to succeed as an entrepreneur. He shared that he believes that it's the ability to focus. He explained that even though it seems like a simple thing to implement, it's actually a difficult thing to do in this day and age. He also believes that resilience and patience are some of the most important traits of an entrepreneur. He did point out, though, that for the “patience route” to work, one must be willing to wait it out and make mistakes until one is able to see results. He also mentioned adaptability as an important entrepreneurial trait. He describes the ability to adapt to tough situations quickly as being “critical”.
“Startups who were able to adapt, especially during the pandemic outbreak, are the ones who were able to survive and, in a sense, thrive in the situation.” - Mohamed Ihab
Because of his role in AUC Angels, we also had to ask some questions regarding investors and what they tend to look for. Firstly, we wanted to know about a few things that investors look for in early-stage startups. He informed us that to a large extent, “it really comes down to the team and value proposition.” He explained that investors want to be confident that a startup’s team will be able to handle the adjusting and pivoting that in the startup world is needed to be done until a start-up is able to reach “a model that is actually scalable.” He described this idea of a good team as the combination of people who work well together and are also of a good calibre.
As for the essential skillsets that entrepreneurs should always be working to develop, Ihab stressed on the cruciality of good communication skills. He explained that good communication skills are not just important when raising rounds of investment, but also at several different points in one’s entrepreneurial journey.
“If you're not able to communicate your ideas to an investor in an efficient and eloquent manner, then you're really putting yourself at a disadvantage when it comes to your peers in the industry.” - Mohamed Ihab
We were also curious to know the sectors that interest investors in this period of time. To that, Ihab shared that the areas that many investors are gravitating towards at the moment are fintech, healthtech, and e-commerce. “Those were the three most funded sectors in the past year,” he added. Additionally, he shared his belief that remote working is something that is here to stay, which is why he is always interested in any ideas that facilitate it. He discussed the many benefits of a remote or hybrid model of business.
Finally, Ihab reminded anyone who has an idea that they believe in to not be discouraged by what someone might say. “It's really the market that decides. It's not a single person that can decide whether an idea could work or not.” He also reminded them of the fact that it is a process that takes time and requires both commitment and dedication.
For the full video, check out Entrepreneurs’ Society’s official social media accounts.