Last month, I was featured in Saudipreneurship, a free online magazine that aims to promote entrepreneurship among Saudis. This publication was launched right here in Saudi Arabia by Tariq Buhilaigah and Yousuf Jamjoom.
Several people requested an English translation of my interview. I am happy to offer it today:
Getting to Know Osama Natto
Meet Osama Bakur Natto: a business architect, entrepreneur, and man with a mission. He wants to build the new Saudi economy, with the intellectual force of the youth as its foundation. Three core aims encapsulate his vision:
- To create a billion-dollar start-up
- To build ten Saudi brands with international reach
- To foster 100 young male and female entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia
As well as working as a partner and board member at a number of companies, Osama collaborates continuously with his friends to launch fresh ventures—they establish a new business every year and a half. Projects have included App51, for mobile applications, and Shirkat Talbiat Al-Talabāt Al-Saudiyya, literally the “Saudi Order Fulfillment Company,” an infrastructure platform for electronic commerce in Saudi Arabia.
As a representative of Saudi entrepreneurs, Osama has rubbed shoulders with the world’s twenty biggest economies at three separate G20 summits. He attended in France in 2011, in Mexico in 2012, and in Russia in 2013, and is expected to represent the Kingdom at the 2014 summit in Australia as well.
Osama is currently heading a business accelerator program at Umm Al-Qura University, Makkah, aimed at creating bright thinkers who will create their own companies. He also represents the voice of young entrepreneurs at the Makkah Techno Valley Company, the entity responsible for building an SR2B science and technology park in Makkah.
- Born in Makkah in the year 1977 AD / 1397 Hijri
- Studied in Makkah
- Academic results very good over 12 years of study
- 1994 – 1995 worked for his father in an equipment shop
- Salary of 2,000 riyals for a period of about two years
- Graduated from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, with honors
- Decided to spend 5 years at one company
- Worked as a systems analyst at Procter & Gamble in Jeddah
- 1999 Was sent to their European headquarters
- 2001 Was chosen to start establishing the company in Dubai
- 2003 Moved from Dubai to Jeddah
- 2005 Left the company to devote himself to establishing his own business in Jeddah
As an innovator and pioneer, what are some of the most difficult moments you’ve been through on your journey—or that could possibly confront one of us?
You’ll face numerous hardships and difficulties. The most important thing is that you learn how to deal with them on an ongoing basis. Some of the toughest will be:
- A frequent lack of cash for personal expenses
- Your business getting close to bankruptcy and closure—more than once
- Disturbances in the team leading to a decline in output and forcing you to do the work yourself so that client projects are kept on course
- Complete disregard for your dreams and goals by the majority of those around you
Time is one factor that is critical to success. Osama, how you do you divide your time between new projects and the day-to-day hustle and bustle of your work?
90% of all that I do or participate in is scheduled in advance. I draw up a general schedule early in the year, and from there I start to plan on a quarterly and weekly basis. The people around me often grumble because they have to wait weeks for an appointment!
One day per week:
✔ In the office for meetings with project managers and leaders
Half an hour every day:
✔ Social networking
One or two hours every day:
✔ Creating content for my website, osamanatto.com
One day per month:
✔ Participating in an entrepreneurship-related gathering or other function
Every 6 months:
✔ A week’s holiday where I’m completely disconnected from the rest of the world on an island, at a faraway resort, or on a long cruise
One of Osama’s dreams is the advancement of today’s youth—that’s why he created the slogan “Generating Tomorrow’s Billionaires Today.” Osama, you get to look over plenty of new projects. Do the projects you encounter give you hope that this dream can be achieved?
What I work on every day… This dream is still in the making, because we’re lacking the most important elements needed to realize it:
- An effective, encouraging, and stimulating entrepreneurial environment;
- A legislative and legal environment that supports entrepreneurship;
- A funding and financial environment that serves entrepreneurship;
- Infrastructure that can keep pace with the types of entrepreneurial projects occurring;
- A society that is receptive to entrepreneurship and welcomes the idea of both male and female entrepreneurs; and
- Local skills that can keep pace with technological and commercial developments.
I decided, from 2011 onwards, that I would allot a big portion of my time to addressing these essential ‘ingredients,’ and I began working with the relevant authorities to bring them about. Without these ingredients, the dream cannot be achieved—regardless of the entrepreneurs’ efforts or the huge amounts of money that are pumped into entrepreneurship by supporting organizations.
With regard to the projects I see almost daily, 95% lack originality and creativity. They’re duplicates of previous concepts; the idea is ‘spent.’ The owners of these ideas could save themselves and me a good deal of time by doing a quick search on Google or on project platforms like Kickstarter.
You moved around a lot between different companies and places of work. Does this help young people to develop their entrepreneurial character in preparation for beginning their own projects?
Variety in the world of work is absolutely necessary; it expands your horizons.
Let’s say we want to establish a venture in Saudi Arabia. What are the basics?
The basics are not tied to one particular country. All budding entrepreneurs should study the laws and legislation of other countries as well as their own. Aside from that, here’s a quick summary:
- Come up with a creative idea: one that solves a real problem, will return a profit to the owner, and be beneficial to society
- Convert the idea into a variety of products and services. Prices should vary, should make the product easy to adapt, and should return a profit
- Form a customer base from segments of the population with a spending power and size that makes them financially attractive
- Form a commercial, organizational, and financial growth plan that is sustainable—that is, continuously expanding and resistant to external factors
- Establish a team whose personal aims align with those of the company founder
- Bring a culture of investment to your financial management. Manage financial resources effectively, in a way that focuses on the availability of cash and the growth of the company’s market value
What is a book that has inspired you and that you would recommend?
How to Make Big Money In Your Own Small Business by Jeffrey J. Fox. This was the first book I read from cover to cover in one sitting, and was the first book I bought after I decided to start my own business.