Category Archives: Start-ups

Hiring an HR Manager: How to Pick the Best Manager at Every Stage of the Start-Up Life Cycle

Hiring an HR Manager: How to Pick the Best Manager at Every Stage of the Start-Up Life Cycle

Photo courtesy of Mitch Bennett.

What advice do you have for human resources managers?

What important guidelines should an HR manager follow?

 

A professional acquaintance recently asked me these questions via LinkedIn. So, I would like to use this opportunity to talk about human resources mangers in my world: the start-up environment.

Before we begin, please understand that I am not the person to talk to about what it’s like to be an HR manager or to hire an HR manager for a big corporation. I’m a start-up guy.

Here are just a few people who are much better qualified to answer questions about corporate HR:

Instead, I will look at this topic from the perspective of someone hiring for a start-up. The information in this article is based on my own experiences, both from starting my own companies and from working with others to help them start theirs.

Finding the Perfect HR Manager at Each of the 5 Stages of a Start-Up

The most important point to understand is that your start-up will need different people at different stages, as summarized below.

1. The idea stage.
This is very beginning of your journey, when your business is a dream just starting to materialize.

The talent you need: Creative and innovative people that don’t have limitations.

The HR manager you need: Yourself. At the idea stage, you’ll be the one managing your team, including any hiring needed. If you can’t manage a team, don’t a start a company.

2. The start-up stage.
Your business now legally exists. Your products and/or services are in production and a few people are buying them. This is further than many self-proclaimed entrepreneurs get.

The talent you need: People you can depend on to get the job done. Efficiency is more important than creativity at this stage.

The HR manager you need: If you are organized, disciplined, and structured, you can remain the manager at this stage. Otherwise, pick a person from your team who is and make him or her the team leader. They will now be in charge of HR. Be sure to give this newly-created manager clear timelines and milestones.

3. The growth stage.
You are on your way to establishing a successful business, but more money means more problems. As revenues, customers, and profits increase, so do the number of issues your team has to deal with on a daily basis. Be prepared for your business to double in size overnight.

The talent you need: Flexible people who are willing to try every solution. Growth stage stars will be ready to experiment with growth avenues in terms of products, services, customers, geographical areas, and so on.

The HR manager you need: If you still have less than 30 employees, you probably don’t need an HR manager yet. Again, if you’re not suited to this position, you should pick a person from your team who is and put him or her in charge.

If you have more than 30 employees, then yes, you do need an HR manager. However, hiring an HR manager from a big company, corporation, or multinational is a bad move. A traditional HR manager is used to a stable workplace with clear policies, processes, and procedures. They know how to run the show, but not how to set it up. They will feel overwhelmed in a hectic start-up environment and quit.

I speak from experience. I hired an HR manager for one of my start-ups and paid him fairly, too. He still left.

The growth stage is crazy. You need someone who’s ready to start from scratch, including figuring out how to handle unmet manpower needs, train new people, set up the corresponding legal aspects, assess personnel, and take care of just about everything else that comes up.

4. The maturity stage.
Congratulations, you made it. You now have a successful company with a niche in the market and steady customers. Sales levels are manageable, true crises are rare, and you’re no longer running on coffee and prayers.

The talent you need: Steady, disciplined people who will take care of what you already have and, when possible, help you grow it.

The HR manager you need: You obviously need a good HR manager at this stage. If possible, keep the one from your growth stage. Depending on the size of the organization, you may want to promote him or her to Director.

If you hire externally, find an experienced, stable HR manager who has worked for a corporation or multinational. The kind of person who will usually join you is an HR manager who has had it with the corporate or multinational life. They want to become a bigger wheel in a small company rather than a smaller wheel in a big company, and you can give them that experience.

5. The transformation stage.
This is the stage where you want to make a major shift: a business line change, a merger, a sellout, or an acquisition. After all, failure is refusing to change.

The talent you need: Strategic thinkers that can examine the possibilities and evaluate the options in order to come up with a solution for maximizing returns. You need analysts, strategists, lawyers, and financial experts.

The HR manager you need: Again, find a seasoned HR manager who is fed up with big corporations and let him or her be the big fish in your small pond. Hiring an HR manager who can work well with consultants is also important here, as you will need at least one strategic consultant providing an extra pair of hands and eyes as you search for a new path.

I hope you have found this article helpful, whether you’re an entrepreneur or an HR manager considering your options.

If you have any topics you would like me to cover on future blog posts, or if you disagree and want to speak your mind, please leave a comment below.

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[Infographic] Why Start-Ups Don’t Get Funding in Saudi Arabia

If you have ever wondered why it’s so difficult for Saudi start-ups to find funding, this infographic is about to open your eyes. Based on one of my more controversial blog posts, Why Start-Ups Don’t Get Funding in Saudi Arabia, this infographic includes extra information on some of topics covered in that earlier article, all presented in a fun visual format.

The full text of the infographic is also available on this page for those who prefer text.

Infographic: Why Start-Ups Don't Get Funding in Saudi Arabia

Why Start-ups Don’t Get Funding in Saudi Arabia

There is a lot of money in Saudi Arabia… but most scalable start-ups still can’t get seed funding.

Why not?

1. Government and non-government business initiatives are aimed at micro-businesses, not start-ups.

Microbusiness characteristics:

  • 5 employees or fewer
  • Needs no more than about 40,000 to 50,000 USD (~150,000 to 188,000 SAR) in seed funding
  • No scalable business model

Scalable business model:

  • A design for the operation of a business that allows revenues to grow significantly faster than costs

Microbusinesses are a safe bet for creating self-employed people, such as your local:

  • Carpenter
  • Barber
  • Driver

But businesses with scalable models, while riskier, can create game-changing entrepreneurs, such as:

  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • Richard Branson
  • Steve Jobs

That’s why most efforts by government and non-government business initiatives go toward helping non-scalable small businesses: they create self-sufficient workers without stirring up the larger business world or requiring real risks from investors.

2. Banks help traditional midsize companies, leaving start-ups out.

Midsize business characteristics:

  • Up to 300 employees
  • Revenues between about 27 million to 133 million USD (~100 million to 500 million SAR)*
  • In a traditional Saudi area of business

*This revenue-based definition varies a lot depending on who you ask and what country you are in.

Traditional Saudi areas of business:

  • Real estate
  • Oil and gas
  • Construction
  • Other intensive, low-cost, manpower-based businesses

Banks see midsize companies in traditional areas as safe investments because they can meet strict loan requirements.

To receive a bank loan of about 5 million to 20 million USD (~19 million to 75 million SAR), you typically only need to do the following:
Show audited financial statements from your company
Provide valuable physical assets (like equipment) as collateral
Agree to assign proceeds from your contracts to the bank

However, if you are launching a new start-up, you probably:

Don’t have financial statements yet
Don’t have valuable assets (especially if you sell virtual products)
Don’t have any contracts that the bank can take a cut from yet

3. Very few groups are serving new companies that need between 50,000 and 3.9 million USD (~188,000 to 15 million SAR), like the typical start-up… and not all of them are truly helpful.

The Kafala Program
Lets you request a bank loan with the government backing you at 50%
Requires you to be in business for 3 years first
Requires financial statements
Requires proof of ongoing contracts
Requires substantial personal or business assets to back up your loan
Rate of the loan is high (12.5% with fees and expenses)

CONCLUSION: Not helpful for the average entrepreneur.

Wa’ed
Offers an interest-free loan with small administrative fees
Offers funding as an equity partner (as a loan alternative)
Continuously evolving
Run by highly competent people
Requires time-consuming training and paperwork

CONCLUSION: Helpful for entrepreneurs who need practice before making a big investment move, as long as they have enough free time.

Sirb
Links entrepreneurs with angel investors while drawing attention to entrepreneurship
4 out of 5 companies involved in first pitching event received letter of interest
 Offers a funding prize of ~66,000 USD (~250,000 SAR) to winner of the Sirb Award
Has not funded many entrepreneurs yet

CONCLUSION: Worth a try, but only time will tell if this program can scale up to the level Saudi Arabia needs.

Oqal
Links entrepreneurs to angel investors (mostly tech-friendly)
Growing and meeting with more entrepreneurs on a more frequent basis
Losing strong positioning due to poser investors (involved just for prestige)
Has not funded many entrepreneurs yet

CONCLUSION: Worth a try if you pitch at a city where you know members are serious angel investors, not socialites.

3. When will this situation change?

Since most angel investing is still done by the same big, conservative old families that control the commercial wealth in Saudi Arabia, the situation will only change when one of them invests in a start-up.

93% of Saudi investors prefer not to invest outside of the real estate sector.

4. What can entrepreneurs do?

We entrepreneurs must keep busy creating the knowledge economy that will support future innovation. Each one of our small successes will encourage the creation of new entrepreneurs.

Eventually, these small successes will become big successes, bringing one of the major Saudi businessmen to offer us funding. And one is all we need to begin changing our country.

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Dissecting a Winning Entrepreneurial Pitch: EFD (Early Fouling Detection for Membrane Systems)

This is the final article in my series on How KAUST’s Latest Seed Fund Winners Are Shaping the Future of Saudi Arabia, covering the last of the 4 winning pitches I heard at the December 2013 Seed Fund Gala.

As a recap, the previous 3 articles covered the following teams and topics:

  • Falcon Viz—using 3D scanning and modeling technology to map buildings and important sites
  • Nano Assembly—producing semiconductor particles called quantum dots of high quality at a low price
  • ROFix—adding a step before pre-treatment to predict membrane fouling at water desalination plants

The pitch I am covering today, presented by a team called EFD (Early Fouling Detection for Membrane Systems), also focuses on improving water desalination plants. However, EFD focuses on providing a window into membrane fouling rather than aiming to predict it before the pre-treatment phase. This team has made the first device that can monitor and characterize membrane fouling during the early stages of its occurrence within a reverse osmosis desalination plant.

If you’re not familiar with the technical terms above, don’t worry, because neither was I before writing this article. Keep reading to learn how reverse osmosis desalination and membrane fouling work, along with the benefits of EFD’s fouling detection system.

Image courtesy of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

Image courtesy of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

The Problem

More than 90% of the Earth’s water is seawater. According to UNESCO, protecting drinking water will be one of the most challenging problems of the coming decade.

Today, turning seawater into high-quality drinking water is difficult due to membrane fouling. Membrane fouling is a problem that occurs at water desalination plants that use a process called reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis removes small particles, such as sea salt particles, from water by making it pass through a filter called a membrane. The water itself can pass through the membrane, but the particles get trapped on the other side.

However, these particles gradually stick to the membrane itself, taking away its ability to filter water effectively. This is called membrane fouling and is the main cause of shutdowns and poor performance at water desalination plants. Types of membrane fouling including organic fouling (from non-living things), particulate fouling (from small bits of inorganic matter), and biofouling (from living things). All of these types of fouling result in increased maintenance and operational costs.

The Solution

The EFD team has developed a monitoring system that can detect, characterize, and alert plant personnel to fouling at the earliest stages.

How the Product Works

EFD’s system is installed parallel to a desalination plant’s existing equipment, acting as a “window” that allows plant monitors to see what is happening in real time.

The Technology
Within each desalination plant, EFD’s technology is designed to monitor different operational parameters, allowing plant operators to know what is happening on the surface and inside of each membrane.

The team is also developing a database that will store fouling parameters and give information regarding important values to plant operators, letting them know precisely what type of problem they are dealing with as it arises.

Where It Fits into the Market
EFD’s technology can be installed parallel to a desalination plant’s existing equipment, allowing it to fit into any reverse osmosis plant.

Patent Status
Unknown.

Benefits to Saudi Economy
As with ROFix’s project, EFD’s technology may improve the availability of potable water in Saudi Arabia by saving reverse osmosis desalination plants time and money.

Usages

The team’s technology is meant to boost efficiency at reverse osmosis water desalination plants by providing a “window” into the membranes used for filtration, allowing fouling to be caught early.

Features

  • Increases membrane lifetime by 20%
  • Decreases chemical costs by about 30%

Benefits

  • Saves time at desalination plants
  • Saves money at desalination plants
  • Saves desalination plant professionals the headache of frequent shut-downs

Market

Since some desalination plants are owned by corporations and some by the government, EFD will operate in the business-to-business and the business-to-government markets.

Competitive Landscape

Other technologies currently on the market cannot accurately predict membrane fouling, nor can they detect or characterize fouling during its early phases. Therefore, EFD is bringing a new offering to the landscape.

Team

Names and Profiles of Team Members

Credentials
Bucs is a Research Engineer at KAUST. His area of speciality is environmental engineering.

Dr. Hekkert is a professor at KAUST. He has more than 25 years of academic experience related to water desalination. Outside of academic life, he serves as CEO of Sensor Sense, a company that offers laser-based systems for gas measurements.

Dr. Stall is a Research Consultant at KAUST. He has performed years of microbiology-related postdoctoral research at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Delft University of Technology, and the University of Copenhagen.

Timeline

The team expects this project to take two years. In year one, they will focus on product development, bringing their demo unit up to the level of a commercial prototype. Next, to bring this commercial prototype to the level of a commercial product, the team will perform further testing at industrial plants, like KAUST’s Sea Water Reverse Osmosis Potable Water Treatment Plant, and eventually, other desalination plants throughout the area.

The focus will then be on marketing and business development. In the end, if everything goes as planned, EFD will incorporate their company.

Big-Picture Impact on the Saudi Environment

Again, as with the ROFix team’s project, the big impact is helping desalination plants produce drinking water cheaper and quicker than is now possible, improving quality of life for millions of Saudis along the way.

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Dissecting a Winning Entrepreneurial Pitch: ROFix (Reverse Osmosis Fouling Index) Analysis

In this article, I will continue my series on How KAUST’s Latest Seed Fund Winners Are Shaping the Future of Saudi Arabia by analyzing the third winning pitch I had the pleasure of hearing at the December 2013 Seed Fund Gala.

The first entrepreneurial team’s pitch covered a new 3D scanning and modeling system, while the second team covered an innovative method for producing quantum dots. The last two teams, however, focused on solutions for the same major problem: how to desalinate water more efficiently.

ROFix, the first team to cover the topic of desalination, has created a new type of device that can predict both when and why membrane fouling will occur within a reverse osmosis water desalination plant.

Image courtesy of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

Image courtesy of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

The Problem

About 50% of the seawater that Saudi desalination plants take in is converted into drinking water using a process called reverse osmosis.

Yeah, I didn’t really know what that meant either, so I looked it up. Here is a simple explanation:

Reverse osmosis is a way to remove little particles from water by forcing it through a filter called a membrane. The membrane lets the water pass through, but leaves the particles on the other side. So, at a desalination plant, sea salt particles get trapped on one side of the membrane, leaving (mostly) salt-free water on the other side.

Unfortunately, particles and other types of matter often get stuck to the membrane, which makes it less effective. This problem, called membrane fouling, causes desalination plants to perform poorly and suffer from frequent shutdowns.

Saudi Arabia is currently spending a billion dollars per year addressing the issue of membrane fouling in water desalination plants.

The Solution

ROFix has created a device that can predict when membrane fouling will occur and what type of fouling will occur, allowing desalination plant personnel to take action before the problem begins.

How the Product Works

ROFix’s device comes into play before seawater is pre-treated, identifying the water’s fouling index. The fouling index measures the quality of the water that will be passed through the membrane. If the water is of poor quality, and therefore, more likely to cause fouling, the device issues a warning to plant personnel.

The Technology
ROFix’s technology is unique in that it uses cross-flow filtration to move the water through the membrane. Cross-flow filtration lets water move tangentially over the surface of the membrane, allowing for accurate and timely prediction of when fouling will occur.

The team is currently developing software to accompany their existing hardware.

Where It Fits into the Market
Since ROFix’s technology adds an extra step to the desalination process prior to pre-treatment, it can simply be installed at desalination plants without significantly altering their process.

Patent Status
Unknown.

Benefits to Saudi Economy
ROFix’s technology could help improve the availability of high-quality drinking water in Saudi Arabia by saving desalination plants time and money.

Usages
ROFix’s technology is intended to identify the fouling index of seawater taken into a reverse osmosis desalination plant before it reaches the pre-treatment step, allowing fouling to be predicted early.

Features

  • Fully automated
  • Portable
  • Easy to operate

Benefits

  • Saves time at desalination plants
  • Saves money at desalination plants
  • Saves desalination plant professionals the headache of frequent shut-downs

Market

Since water desalination plants are either owned by businesses or the government, the ROFix team will be operating in the business-to-business and business-to-government markets.

Competitive Landscape

Competing technologies for predicting membrane fouling all employ dead-end filtration, which makes the water flow perpendicular to the membrane. Thus, by using a cross-flow filtration method, ROFix will be providing an alternative option not yet seen in the market.

Team

Names and Profiles of Team Members

Credentials
Dr. Ghaffour has earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Energy from INSA Lyon, along with both a Master of Science in Process Engineering and a Ph.D. in Membrane Separation Technology from the University of Montpellier. He is currently a Principal Research Scientist at KAUST. Dr. Ghaffour has over 20 years of experience in R&D and aquatic management.

Rachman holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the Bandung Institute of Technology and a Master of Science in Chemical and Biological Engineering from KAUST. He is now a Ph.D. Candidate​ at KAUST.

Al Ghamdi has earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from King Saud University and a Master of Science in Environmental Science and Engineering from KAUST. He is also a Ph.D. Candidate at KAUST.

Timeline

The ROFix team has already achieved reliable results in a lab setting using a proof of concept. They were able to predict precisely when fouling would occur, along with the type of fouling that would take place.

The team expects their project to be finished in two years. In the first year, they will work on further developing their prototype. Next, they will test this prototype at KAUST’s Sea Water Reverse Osmosis Potable Water Treatment Plant. If successful, they will test in different desalination plants in Jeddah and beyond.

Big-Picture Impact on the Saudi Economy       

The most obvious benefit is providing potable water to Saudi residents cheaper and faster than is currently possible. However, the team also emphasizes that their technology will pour funds into the economy through research and development expenditures and will create jobs within the field of desalination.

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Dissecting a Winning Entrepreneurial Pitch: Nano Assembly (Low-Cost & High-Quality Quantum Dots) Analysis

This article is the third in my series on How KAUST’s Latest Seed Fund Winners Are Shaping the Future of Saudi Arabia. As explained in the first post, 4 entrepreneurial teams won financing from the KAUST Seed Fund in December of 2013, and since I had the honor of hearing each team pitch at the Seed Fund Gala, I would like to share my perspective on these pitches.

Earlier this week, I analyzed the pitch presented by Falcon Viz, creators of a new aerial scanning and modeling system. In this post, I will take a look at the pitch that a team named Nano Assembly presented. The Nano Assembly team has discovered a method for creating quantum dots, which are semiconductor particles up to 10 nanometers in size, of high quality at a lower price than competitors offer.

Image courtesy of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

Image courtesy of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

The Problem

Quantum dots are expensive enough to limit their otherwise broad applicability.

The standard way to make these semiconductor particles is to heat a solution to a high temperature in a small flask and inject a special agent. However, the solution will cool down naturally, and manual operation cannot maintain the high temperature needed for efficient production.

One can scale production of quantum dots up by using a larger flask, but this does not produce quality results. One can also use a continuous-flow reactor to benefit from higher consistency and automatic operation, as well as production of quantum dots in different sizes, but this still does not produce high-quality quantum dots.

The Solution

The Nano Assembly team has found a new method for producing quantum dots consistently and at a significantly lower price than competitors.

How the Product Works

The optical and electrical properties of quantum dots depend on their size and type. Different sizes emit different colors and exhibit a different absorption spectrum. Quantum dots must be produced according to careful standards.

The Technology
Nano Assembly’s dual-stage servo control method allows the production of quantum dots without the broad peaks and troughs that come from other methods. The lower the absorption peak, the higher the quality of the quantum dots.

Where It Fits into the Market
The quantum dots produced by Nano Assembly can be used anywhere that more expensively-produced quantum dots are utilized, allowing competing offerings to be replaced.

Patent Status
The team has already filed for a patent and published their work in a high-impact journal.

Benefits to Saudi Economy
These “low-cost and high quality quantum dots” could allow tech products already popular in Saudi Arabia, such as mobile phones, to include more efficient displays while remaining inexpensive. The team’s affordable quantum dots could also allow more people access to high-quality medical imaging, and improve solar cell technology to allow effective harvest of one of Saudi Arabia’s greatest natural resources: sunlight.

Usages

In part due to their ability to produce a rainbow of bright colors efficiently, quantum dots are used in display technologies. Since quantum dots are so tiny, they can also move anywhere in the human body, making them useful in the field of medical imaging as replacements for fluorescence-based biosensors that use organic dyes. Quantum dots can also be used as the absorbing photovoltaic material in solar cells.

Features and Benefits of the Product

  • High quality relative to competitors’ quantum dots
  • Low cost relative to competitors’ quantum dots

Market

Since quantum dots are used to make other products, Nano Assembly would be operating in the business-to-business market, although applications in fields like solar power also leave the door open for business-to-government sales.

Competitive Landscape

Current methods for producing quantum dots include high-temperature dual injection synthesis, molecular seeding, and a variation of the high-temperature dual injection method that incorporates a continuous flow system.

Team

Names and Profiles of Team Members

Credentials
Dr. Pan has earned both a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science from Anhui Polytechnic University, along with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Science and Technology of China. He is now participating in a post-doctoral fellowship at KAUST. Within the Nano Assembly team, Dr. Pan is in charge of production.

El-Ballouli holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a Master of Science in Organic Chemistry from the American University of Beirut. She is currently a Ph.D. student at KAUST. Her primary area of interest is continuous-flow synthesis and size separation of quantum dots for assembly in solar cells. El-Ballouli is in charge of product testing for the team.

Dr. Bakr has earned a Bachelor of Science in Materials Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as well as both a Master of Science and Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Harvard University. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Principal Investigator at KAUST. Dr. Bakr acts as scientific adviser to the Nano Assembly team.

Dr. Sargent holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics from Queen’s University, along with a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering (Photonics) from the University of Toronto. He is the Vice Dean of Research for the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, a Professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE), and a KAUST Investigator. Dr. Sargent is the technique and business adviser for the team.

Timeline

Nano Assembly has already begun the process of incorporating their company. Their immediate task is to set up the production line that they have prepared, test it, and scale it up. They are expecting significant annual growth through 2017.

Big-Picture Impact on the Saudi Economy

The availability of high-quality quantum dots at a low price could help more tech-savvy companies and entrepreneurs enter the electronics, solar power, and medical imaging fields, among others. It could also help existing companies produce more cost-effective offerings within these fields. Either way, the end result would be a more technologically advanced and competitive Saudi Arabia.

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Dissecting a Winning Entrepreneurial Pitch: Falcon Viz (3D Scanning and Modeling) Analysis

As I discussed in my previous post, How KAUST’s Latest Seed Fund Winners Are Shaping the Future of Saudi Arabia, 4 entrepreneurial teams recently won financing from the KAUST Seed Fund, a product development funding mechanism run by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology that provides up to $200,000 over a span of 24 months.

Since I had the pleasure of hearing each team pitch at the latest Seed Fund Gala, I would like to share my point of view on these pitches. This will give you a look into what goes through an angel investor’s mind while listening to entrepreneurs present.

The first team pitch I would like to analyze is that of Falcon Viz, creators of a new aerial scanning and modeling system that offers accurate, high-resolution scans and complete 3D models through an automated, repeatable, and cost-effective process.

Team Falcon Viz

The Problem

City planners, industrial centers, construction companies, cultural heritage organizations, and real estate professionals can’t physically see the layout and structure of their most important assets. They need solutions for handling high-resolution surveying, 3D scanning, aerial mapping, and modeling.

However, the technologies on the market are too slow to provide real-time inspection of buildings, can’t generate a complete picture of each location, and do not provide adequate documentation of each area scanned.

The Solution

Falzon Viz provides a real-time scanning and modeling solution that offers complete documentation of any accessible area. With Falcon Viz, clients can benefit from highly accurate, high-resolution scans and complete 3D models.

How the Product Works

Falcon Viz uses copter drones to take photographs of sites, along with proprietary modeling software to create corresponding 3D models.

The Technology
The Falcon Viz team first sends multi-rotor copter drones on pre-determined flight paths to capture numerous high-resolution photos from different perspectives. Next, the team uses AerialSFM, their in-house 3D modeling software, to reconstruct the exact position of each camera, along with all of the positions in which photos were taken, and creates a sparse point cloud model of the area. Finally, the team processes all of the relevant data to create a complete 3D model.

Where It Fits into the Market
Falcon Viz may displace existing scanning and modeling technologies for property owners, land owners, and stewards of culturally important sites who prioritize speed, accuracy, detailed documentation, and cost-effectiveness.

Patent Status
Unknown.

Benefits to Saudi Economy
Locally, Falcon Viz could lead to more cost-effective construction, improved building security, and better-maintained buildings and sites of cultural importance.

Usages

Intended uses of Falcon Viz include scanning, modeling, and documenting landscapes, buildings, and areas relevant to cultural heritage. Thus, Falcon Viz aids the processes of planning, constructing, inspecting, maintaining, and protecting important areas.

Features
○ Proprietary 3D modeling software (Aerial SFM)
○ Non-obtrusive multirotor copter aerial drones
○ Production of orthophoto mosaics, digital terrain models, and 3D fly-through videos

Benefits
○ Real-time scanning to save time for clients
○ High accuracy, high-resolution scans for hassle-free documentation
○ Automated process is repeatable, allowing clients to update 3D models as desired
○ Cost-effective

Market

Falcon Viz’s technology serves the industrial, construction, real estate, and public sectors. Thus, it operates in the business-to-business and business-to-government arenas.

Competitive Landscape

Established technologies in this field include laser scanning, satellite imaging, and airborne photogrammetry.

Team

Names and Profiles of Team Members
Luca Passone
Mohamed Shalaby
Neil Smith

Credentials
Passone holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Kent, a Master of Science in High Performance Computing from KAUST, and is currently an Earth Science Ph.D. Candidate at KAUST. He has held employee and intern positions at IBM and worked as an IT Consultant for Detica (now BAE Systems Applied Intelligence).

Dr. Shalaby has earned a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science from the University of Alexandria, both in Mechanical Engineering. He also holds a Ph.D. in Technical Mathematics from Johannes Kepler University. Currently, he is a Senior Research Scientist at KAUST’s Visual Computing Center.

Dr. Smith holds a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California, San Diego. Many of his research interests involve applying technology to the field of archaeology. He works as a Research Scientist at KAUST’s Visual Computing Center.

Big-Picture Impact on the Saudi Economy

The team behind Falcon Viz describes their method as the solution for both preserving Saudi Arabia’s cultural heritage and allowing the Kingdom to develop quickly. Through scanning and modeling services, Falcon Viz can help ensure that historical sites are inspected and maintained, as well as contribute to the growth of the economy by aiding the planning and construction of new developments.

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How KAUST’s Latest Seed Fund Winners Are Shaping the Future of Saudi Arabia

Efficient water desalination. Affordable nanotechnology. Accurate 3D scanning. The winners of KAUST’s 2013 Seed Fund Fall Round are at the cutting edge of the technologies shaping Saudi Arabia’s future.

This article will briefly introduce the KAUST Seed Fund and summarize each of the projects presented by the 4 winning entrepreneurial teams.

Introduction to the KAUST Seed Fund

The KAUST Seed Fund is a product development funding mechanism run by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology that provides up to $200,000 over a period of 24 months to entrepreneurial teams. It helps bridge the gap found at the lab and patent stage of development, offering entrepreneurs support at their greatest time of need.

According to Amin M. Al-Shibani, the Vice President of Economic Development at KAUST, the KAUST Seed Fund has funded 21 projects in its first 6 rounds, creating 3 companies and 15 new jobs.

The 2013 Fall Round Winners

The high-impact projects behind KAUST’s 2013 Seed Fund Fall Round are as follows:

Falcon Viz
Falcon Viz is a new aerial scanning and modeling system that offers accurate, high-resolution scans and complete 3D models through an automated, repeatable, and cost-effective process.

Low-Cost & High-Quality Quantum Dots
As the name implies, the Low-Cost & High-Quality Quantum Dots team has discovered a method for creating quantum dots, which are semiconductor particles up to 10 nanometers in size, of high quality at a lower price than competitors can offer.

ROFix (Reverse Osmosis Fouling Index)
The team behind the ROFix project has created a new type of device that can predict both when and why membrane fouling will occur within a reverse osmosis water desalination plant.

EFD (Early Fouling Detection for Membrane Systems)
The team responsible for the EFD project has designed the first device that can monitor and characterize membrane fouling during the early stages of its occurrence within a reverse osmosis desalination plant.

As I have had the honor of being involved in KAUST’s VentureLab and Seed Fund initiatives in one way or another during this and past rounds, either as an invited judge, screener, mentor, guest speaker, or simply attending guest, I would like to share my thoughts on the pitches presented by the latest winners with you over the next few weeks.

Please check back for a detailed analysis of the Falcon Viz team’s pitch next, along with my personal opinion on it. I will be covering each pitch in a separate post because each one deserves a close look.

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Why Start-Ups Don’t Get Funding in Saudi Arabia

While there is a lot of money in Saudi Arabia, most scalable start-ups still can’t get seed funding. The money is there, but not to benefit us, the true entrepreneurs.

On the other hand, if you have a micro-business, usually one that requires you to personally run it, many government and non-government organizations will provide the funding you need to get started. Likewise, if you have a medium-sized company in a traditional industry, like manufacturing, banks will lend you millions of riyals.

Despite this, few organizations or groups provide funding to start-ups. Out of these few, fewer still actually help start-ups succeed.

What’s going on here? Why don’t most organizations that offer funding to newer businesses offer it to start-ups? Why are many of the organizations that do offer this funding not really helping? When will this situation change? And what can entrepreneurs like you and I do about it?

I’m glad you asked. In this article, I’m going to provide a simplified explanation of what is really going on in language that entrepreneurs like you and I can relate to. For the sake of simplicity, I’m not going to write much in terms of technical or financial details—if you are interested in that kind of in-depth information, you are welcome to book an appointment with me. But please read this article first to make sure you understand the basics.

Let’s start with the first question: why are more investors interested in micro-businesses than start-ups?

Saudi organizations like funding micro-businesses because they see it as charity work.

Micro-businesses are different from start-ups because they are usually not scalable. These are small businesses with few employees, usually no more than 5, that require small amounts of seed funding, usually no more than 40,000 USD (about 150,000 SAR).

Now, what does scalable mean? Having a scalable business model means your company’s revenues can grow significantly faster than the cost of running your business. Examples of costs include covering day-to-day expenses, buying necessary supplies, and hiring more team members.

So, for example, providing services is usually not scalable, since you have to keep hiring more team members to grow, which means your company costs more money to run. On the other hand, a business model that revolves around selling apps is scalable, because after your team makes a batch of apps, the cost of selling them is low, and you don’t need to keep hiring people to make sure these apps reach customers. Of course, creating a set of new apps tends to be riskier than offering a reliable service that you already know people will buy.

Do you see why it’s natural for most efforts by government and non-government business initiatives to go toward helping non-scalable small businesses? Micro-businesses create self-employed workers who don’t need outside support, but also don’t require big risks from investors.

And all these micro-businesses need is micro-financing, grants, and loans up to 50,000 USD, so that’s what these organizations provide. They see helping micro-enterprises as social work or charity, not really business.

Meanwhile, banks like helping medium-sized companies in traditional areas because they are safe bets.

Medium-sized businesses are usually defined as those with a few hundred employees. In Saudi Arabia, most medium-sized businesses are in traditional fields, like construction or manufacturing.

Saudi banks provide financing of about 5 to 20 million USD (approximately 20 to 75 million SAR) each to these midsize companies. Banks see these companies as safe investments because they make loan requirements so tough that only established businesses in traditional areas can hope to meet them.

For example, let’s say you have a construction business and are seeking bank financing. You only have to do 3 things to receive it. First, you have to show audited financial statements from your company. You also have to provide assets, such as equipment, as collateral. That way, if you fail, the bank can at least sell your equipment. Finally, you have to agree to assign proceeds from your contracts to the bank. If you do this, you will get funding.

However, if you are trying to launch a start-up, you probably won’t be able to do any of these things. A new company doesn’t have any financial statements yet. And if your company is based on something like developing online content, you won’t have valuable assets, either. Your assets will just be made up of hard drives and other computer equipment, which probably won’t be valued at more than 50,000 USD. Likewise, if you are trying to launch a new social media website or app, you might not have contracts that the bank can take a cut from.

So, banks prefer traditional businesses because they are a safer investment than start-ups.

Very few groups are helping companies that need between $50,000 and $3.9 million.

Today, Saudi Arabia has hardly any institutions that finance companies needing between $50,000 and $3.9 million in investment. Thousands of entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia, including me, have fallen through this gap and struggled to find funding.

Banks don’t want to help us because we’re too small for them. It takes a lot of headaches to help us, and our failure rate is higher than the companies they already work with. Government and non-governmental organizations don’t want to help us because any one of us may end up as the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg and start making the business world riskier for everyone. They prefer to focus on small businesses, creating self-employed people that don’t need their support, but also don’t challenge them.

Very few people in Saudi Arabia are actually willing to take the risks involved in creating the next big entrepreneurial superstar. They may say they are, but their actions don’t reflect it.

Now, a few programs aimed at this neglected segment are finally appearing—but not all of them are truly helping entrepreneurs.

In the past 5 years, new programs have stepped forward to provide seed funding, including Kafala, Wa’ed, and even some angel investment networks. But are they helping create an entrepreneurial ecosystem?

Let’s talk about each one:

The Kafala Program

Under the Kafala program, you can apply for a bank loan and the government will back it for you, guaranteeing it at 50%. My friends encouraged me to go into this program, but after spending months preparing all of the needed paperwork, I decided not to continue with Kafala. If you look at the details of this program, it’s not something that will help the typical entrepreneur.

First of all, you have to be in business for at least 3 years to qualify. You must show financial statements, proof of ongoing contracts and ongoing accounts receivable, and prove that you have substantial personal or business assets to back up your loan. On top of that, the rate of the loan is very expensive. Kafala says it is 9%, but when you add up all the fees and related expenses, the real rate is 12.5%!

Once I realized these things, I pulled out of the program. But, my friends went ahead and received financing from Kafala. They have since had issues with the program, with one friend actually closing down his company. So, while Kafala makes loans available, I don’t think their program is really helping entrepreneurs.

Wa’ed

Wa’ed is a venture capital fund that offers different financing options. You can either get a no-interest loan, which comes with small administrative fees of just a few percentages, or have Wa’ed fund you as an equity partner.

Personally, when I went into the Wa’ed program, I found it very tedious. At that time, you had to go through enough training to basically make you an MBA graduate without the degree. Many entrepreneurs just don’t have time to fill in that much paperwork and attend that much training.

Since then, Wa’ed has gone through a transition, including restructuring their funding process. I don’t think they have made their program easier yet, but they are continuously evolving, and I see a bright future ahead of them.

So, if you have the time, I actually highly recommend this program. It’s one of the best training programs I have seen, and it’s run by very competent people. If you are getting ready to make a big investment move, participating in the Wa’ed program is a safe way to practice first.

SIRB

The newest development is an angel investment network called SIRB, established under BADIR, a technology incubator program launched by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). Five companies participated in their first pitching event, and 4 of these received a letter of interest from angel investors.

This past March, SIRB also launched a program called Sirb Award, a new type of competition offering about 66,000 USD (about 250,000 SAR) in start-up funding as a prize for the winner. The contestants are filtered through different rounds of the competition, with the second round requiring each entrepreneur to participate in detailed workshops to develop their business model.

Since then, SIRB has completed a full award cycle in a flashy event attended by the who’s who of Jeddah. Seven finalists made their presentations, and the winners received funding. We have yet to see, however, how SIRB will move from an organizer of award and pitching events to a real player in Saudi Arabia’s business ecosystem.

Oqal

Oqal is an unlicensed, private network of angel investors who first started coming together as friends about once a week to meet with entrepreneurs seeking seed funding. At first, this group mostly made small investments in technology projects. Lately, Oqal has been growing, and has begun meeting with more and more entrepreneurs on a frequent basis.

Unfortunately, Oqal has begun losing its strong name and positioning along the way. The chapters established in new cities have not maintained the same quality of members as in the original Oqal network. I have seen Oqal members who are far from investment and entrepreneurship, and I personally know that some of them do not have the kind of money for these investments. Maybe they see Oqal membership as a prestigious social status symbol, but that’s not what it is meant to be.

I hope that Oqal will go back to their original plan and focus on serious members so it can maintain its brand image and strong positioning for a long time.

How did the situation get this way, and why isn’t anything changing?

While new organizations aimed at entrepreneurs are appearing, most angel investing is still done by the big old families controlling the commercial wealth in Saudi Arabia, and these families are very conservative. This means they will only invest in what they know, which is mainly real estate. An unpublished survey showed that 93% of investors preferred not to make investments outside of this area. That leaves only 7% willing to invest in IT, medicine, and every other field. When an entrepreneur presents them with a nice new business idea and model outside of their traditional areas, they generally say no to it.

I know because I was that entrepreneur, pitching to the biggest investors in Saudi Arabia. Big investors love me and they love my business plans. They even invite me into their homes—I have literary discussed investment plans on their kitchen tables!

But when it comes time to put down 5 to 10 million riyals, they always say they better stick with what they know best: real estate. I sat with one of these angel investors recently and he said, “look, I am not going to put my money in a company until I’m guaranteed that I will get it back.” This cautious way of thinking only leads to traditional investments.

In other countries, businesspeople invest in new companies as a way of testing ideas and seeing what works in the market. The goal is hitting the big time. In Saudi Arabia, businesspeople won’t invest unless they see a proven business model and customers already in the pipeline. The goal is staying safe. But when no one takes risks, nothing changes.

I found funding in spite of this environment, but I had to take my own route.

After realizing the traditional path was closed off to me, I used “the three Fs” to get funding: family, friends, and fools. That’s how I put together enough money to fund the businesses I first created.

I have also gotten funding and even interest-free loans from customers. I was able to finance the business that my team and I are starting now through a combination of our own funds and advance payments from customers. We started pre-selling 6 or 7 months before launch, and through the goodwill of our trusting customers, we were able to finance a significant part of the operation. For other projects, I have actually gone to customers who I was on good terms with and asked them for financing. They were nice enough to loan me money interest-free.

Now, for that same business, I approached 7 or 8 different financial institutions for funding, including Kafala and Wa’ed, but I couldn’t make any progress with them. And that’s with money in the bank, customers in the pipeline, and the business ready to go. The fact that my new company sells mobile applications is scary to cautious investors, who aren’t used to betting on a product they can’t see or touch.

In short, I had to find different paths to financing. The money is there, but the people sitting on it are not aware of new market dynamics, knowledge-based economies, or intellectual property businesses that don’t need physical assets.

Saudi Arabia will eventually embrace riskier investments—but someone has to get the ball rolling.

Changes are coming, but gradually. Two years ago, no one would have thought that there would be two angel investment networks in Saudi Arabia. Today, we have one in Riyadh and one in Jeddah. The one is Riyadh has already made a few investments. The one in Jeddah hasn’t yet, at least at the time this article was published, but they are seeing entrepreneurs and attending pitching events.

Since part of my mission is to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Saudi Arabia, I will make sure that I work with programs like these, or at least make recommendations on how to provide something that we really need in this economy.

I think that once the ball gets rolling on innovative investing in Saudi Arabia, it will progress very quickly. Saudis like to copy each other, so all it will really take is for one big, traditional businessman to invest outside of traditional industries. Others will follow.

What can we, the entrepreneurs, do until then?

Until the rich investors catch up to us, we entrepreneurs must keep busy creating the knowledge economy that will support future innovation. Every small success in this creative economy, from launching a profitable mobile app to starting a popular Arabic blog, brings us one step closer to showing everyone that we really are shaping the future. Every small success encourages the creation of new entrepreneurs.

Eventually, these small successes will become big successes, bringing one of the big Saudi businessmen to offer us funding. And one is all we need.

If you need help launching your start-up, book an appointment with me.

My team and I have worked hard to create new start-ups, launching one new business every 18 months on average—and that average is now being reduced to just over 1 year. I have also been meeting about 2 to 3 young entrepreneurs per week, offering guidance to help them succeed.

Please submit your idea or plan through one of the forms on OsamaNatto.com/contact today so we can get started as soon as possible.

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[Infographic] 4 Tough Questions to Ask Yourself Before Launching a Start-Up in Saudi Arabia

If you’re thinking about launching a start-up, asking yourself just four questions right now could save you years of struggling later. I covered this topic in detail in my last article, 4 Tough Questions to Ask Yourself Before Launching a Start-Up in Saudi Arabia. Now this article has been adapted into an infographic, with extra information on topics like trending potential start-up locations added in. The full text of the infographic is also available on this page for those who prefer text.

Please see the text version below if you are having trouble viewing this image.

4 Tough Questions to Ask Yourself Before Launching a Start-Up in Saudi Arabia

Starting a company anywhere is difficult, but as a Saudi entrepreneur, you will need to deal with special issues. Be sure you can answer the 4 questions in this infographic before you launch your start-up.

1. Is your business model scalable?

Scalable business model: A design that lets your company grow without having to keep hiring more people, and keeps growth ahead of expenses.

Ask yourself:

  • Will your business stop growing if you stop hiring more team members?
  • Will you need to grow your resources at the same rate as your business growth rate?

If you answered “yes” to both of those questions, your business model is not really scalable. It will be difficult for your company to grow no matter how hard you work.

To Do: Decide whether you want to launch a classic small business or a true start-up. If you want to launch a start-up, keep working on your business model until you have a plan for growing without always pouring in more resources and team members.

2. Do you have access to the infrastructure your start-up needs to be successful?

Infrastructure: The everyday services and facilities you need to have in place for your business to work. This can include high-speed Internet access, physical highways, or an online payment system.

The facts…

Saudi Arabia currently has the following gaps in infrastructure:

  • No affordable, local online payment system
  • Outdated commercial laws set up with construction and trading businesses in mind, not service-based businesses
  • Obsolete intellectual property laws

To Do: Make a list of all of the types of infrastructure your start-up will need to be successful. Research each item to figure out whether it is available to you in Saudi Arabia or not. If not, is it available in nearby countries and accessible to you? Or is there a way you can adapt your business model to work with missing infrastructure while still remaining scalable?

3. Will you be able to finance your business without using traditional funding channels?

Traditional options for financing: Ways of getting funding, such as applying for bank loans, that don’t work for most Saudi start-ups.

The facts…

Banks that offer small business loans: don’t offer enough money for scalable start-ups

Governmental entrepreneurship organizations: don’t offer enough money for scalable start-ups

Banks that fund big corporations: have financial requirements most start-ups can’t meet

Venture capital funds: are helpful, but focus more on companies in the growth stage, not the start-up or early stage

Angel investors: are helpful, but very reluctant to invest in intangible assets
To Do: Perfect your business model and pitch. Once those are 100% ready, seek funding from venture capital funds and angel investors.

4. Is Saudi Arabia really the best country from which to launch your start-up?

Saudi Arabia is a good consumption market, but often not a good base for an innovative start-up business. This is due to issues like gaps in infrastructure and lack of trust in local brands.

The facts…

Dubai Internet City—Free economic zone: easy to set up there, but can be expensive, and might make it harder to reach U.S. and European markets

Amman, Jordan—Easy to set up a business, easy to access from Saudi Arabia, availability of affordable talents

Istanbul, Turkey—Good infrastructure available and easy access to European markets, but can be expensive due to currency fluctuations

Berlin, Germany—Low cost of operations and inexpensive access to talented professionals, but dealing with different taxation system can be complicated

To Do: Consider different countries, both inside and outside of the MENA region, as possible sites for your headquarters. You can still serve Saudi customers by maintaining a strong local market presence in Saudi Arabia. If you decide you want your headquarters to be in Saudi Arabia, make sure you have sound business reasons for making this choice.

Most of what determines whether your start-up will succeed or fail happens before you even launch. The extra time you spend now designing a scalable business model, making sure you have access to needed infrastructure, finding alternative sources of funding, and carefully planning where you will set up your headquarters can save you years of headaches later.

Big dreams require big plans.

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Start-Up Funding: Fueling Up Your Car

Business owners, would you ask someone for fuel money if your car wasn’t built yet? Oh, and would you start driving without a map and no idea where you were going? These may seem like stupid questions, but if you replace “car” with “company” and “fuel money” with “funding,” then you have the exact type of behavior that a lot of start-up owners are displaying right now.

In this article, I’m going to cover where a lot of entrepreneurs take wrong turns while seeking funding for start-ups.

Let’s use a simple car as a metaphor.
Every car needs to be engineered to suit the manner in which it will be driven, right? For example, it needs an engine that suits the size and purpose of the car. It also needs fuel to operate. Finally, the car needs a driver, and the driver needs a map.

When you and a group of people are forming a start-up, your company is like a car that’s being built. You’ll need to bring together all of the items in the paragraph above: a solid core concept to power it, funding to fuel it, a management team to drive it, and a business plan to map your course.

Now, your crew might finish the car yourselves, or you might have to hire someone to else to help, either paying him directly or letting him own a piece of the car—meaning distributing equity in the company. Either way, when you finish up, you’ll have a new challenge ahead of you: buying fuel to either test the car or start your journey.

Funding is to start-ups what fuel is to cars.
When you build a company or new product, meaning a prototype, you’re going to need operating cash to actually run it, just like you need fuel to operate a car. Operating cash, also known as operating capital or working capital, refers to the cash you need to start running the company you built. You can build a whole company out of sweat equity, but you can’t operate the company without cash.

Trust me on this one. I’ve created six companies so far and am continually creating new ones, with an average of two new companies per year. I know for a fact you can build a company without cash, but you can’t operate it without cash.

Anyone got fuel money?
So, sooner or later, you’ll need to seek more funding for your start-up, just like you need to keep buying fuel throughout a journey to keep your car going.

Now, you might need to buy more fuel because the engine you built consumes a lot—in the context of a company, that means your company is inefficient and isn’t using money effectively. Or, it could be because where you are now is still so far away from your goal that you need more fuel to reach the destination, maybe because you took a wrong turn. For a start-up, that would mean you didn’t plan your company’s path to success well enough. Another possibility is that your car has a leak, which translates to uncontrolled expenses in a business setting.

In any case, since you need fuel money, you’re going to visit the guys that can provide it: investors.

Picking travel buddies (AKA: investors).
When you choose travel buddies, you (hopefully) don’t pick just anyone with fuel money, but people who match up with your own plans for the trip. Would you like someone to just give you money and not tag along on your journey? Or, would you prefer a travel buddy who follows you in his own car? Maybe you’d prefer someone to ride with you the entire way, checking the map every few miles and keeping you on track?

Deciding the kind of travel partner you want is an important decision you need to make early on. In a business setting, after your investors give you fuel money, they will become your new travel partners.

Now, when an investor buys you fuel, he might just give you the money. Or, he might say, “Here’s the fuel money—I’ll drive my own car and meet you at the end point.” Another possibility is that he’ll say, “Here’s the fuel, and I also want to ride with you guys so we can overcome all the obstacles together.”

The point is that different investors are interested in different levels of involvement with start-ups, from handing over fuel money to riding up front, and that’s something you have to consider when you ask for working capital. You’re in charge, so pick the travel buddies that suit you.

Don’t ask for fuel money if your car isn’t built yet!
If your car isn’t built yet or you don’t have the right engine, buying fuel should be the least of your concerns. When you bring investors in to fuel your start-up, consider why you actually need the money.

Do you just need money to buy fuel for a car that has already been tested and proven to work so you can drive it from point A to point B? Or, do you need money to fix the car or continue building it? This is really important!

Young entrepreneurs get often confused about why they need money and end up saying things like “We need the money to operate,” when they actually need money for the wrong reasons—like fixing the car. If you just built the car and it’s already broken, that means you built it wrong, meaning there are serious problems with your business model. Another reason you might need money is because the car is taking longer to build and costing more than you planned for, another business planning issue that needs to be addressed before seeking additional funding.

Building a car with the right specs and getting fuel for it isn’t the whole battle, either.
Even if you build a car with the right engine and get enough fuel money to fill up the tank, that’s only half the battle. You could have the best car in the world, one that’s built for the environment you’re going to drive it in and suited for the purpose for which it was built, but still run into problems along your journey.

For example, if you have all the fuel you need, but your car doesn’t run efficiently, the fuel will burn so fast that you’ll always be running near empty. You’ll be the company with great funding that’s still always broke. You can keep burning through the fuel and asking investors for more fuel money, but you’re still not going to make progress.

If you don’t have a good driver, you just might crash.
I see this in start-ups all the time: they have the wrong people operating the company. The fact is the people who build the car need a different skill set than the people who drive the car.

There are a lot of start-ups that I see driving in circles because the people who built it don’t know how to drive it, or if they do know, they don’t have a map and have no idea where they’re going. If you drive a car without a map or run a business without a business plan, it doesn’t matter how much fuel you have.

Bottom line: get your ride in shape before asking for fuel money.
It doesn’t matter if you have all the cash in the world available to operate your company if you don’t have the right management team, the right goals, and the right plan, because you will not succeed without these elements. This is just like having an ocean of fuel available for a car with no driver, no destination, and no road map—it won’t help.

So, before you invite investors to check out your company, make sure your company is operating well. This means having the right product or service, having the right people available to run the company, knowing exactly where you’re going, and knowing exactly how you’re going to get there.

That’s the right time to go and ask investors to fuel your operations. Otherwise, you might as well be splashing buckets of fuel on a junkyard car.

So, are you ready to fuel up?
If your car is ready to fuel up, submit your business plan through the easy online form on my main site and let’s get this road trip started.

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