Adam Hedengren
Last updated: 14 May, 2015

Women entrepreneurs in focus when #YMEstartup touches down in Riyadh

On 5 May, Your Middle East’s regional roadshow #YMEstartup finally arrived in the Saudi capital. An impressive crowd gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel for a few hours of inspirational chats on the successes and (important) failures of life as an entrepreneur.

“Many guests testified to the importance of finding your own way and building a strong, genuine relationship with your advisors and investors,” noted #YMEstartup host Aurore Belfrage. 


First out was HRH Princess Reema, who shared stories on the challenges she faced when recruiting family and friends to her business. You would think friends would be the best partners but too often money and confusion in the decision-making process gets in the way of long friendships.


“It’s tough. The audience and I were impressed by her candid story about learning her business as she went along. I for one am grateful to again be reminded of the importance of really thinking through and understanding your supply chain management,” Belfrage added in a blog post after the event.


The serial entrepreneur Dany Farha of BECO had a lot of interesting nuggets to share; first, Dany urged us all to learn from his mistakes and find a monopolistic market opportunity. Second, as an investor, he values a tenacious entrepreneur. Dany will say NO within 60 seconds of a pitch and then it’s up to us, the entrepreneur(s), to keep the conversation going. Basically, it all comes down to the entrepreneur’s ability to tweak, improve and pivot.


As the evening progressed, Leena Khalil, the co-founder of MumzWorld, made an interesting analogy to raising kids: kids and team alike need to know what the values and main goals are so the ship runs smoothly even when you’re not present to make decisions.

Amal Dokhan from Kaust Accelerator Program elegantly guided the entrepreneurs in the art of storytelling. Also on the show was Ahmed Alfi, Chariman of Sawari Capital, who came from Cairo to coach the Saudi-based entrepreneurs. “Ideas are open source, execution is proprietary”.


Alfi reminded the crowd of the importance of understanding the audience: investors are somewhat lazy and impatient and want to get to the point in a pitch… so connect emotionally – quickly – and show them your model, the addressable audience and your estimated conversion rate. Give investors numbers, i.e. do the calculation for them.

Motto of the evening? If you don’t build your dream someone else will hire you to build theirs.


Best news we received, by far, came a few days ago when the following tweet reached our followers:


Special thanks to our supportive friends at Alwaleed Philanthropies. Mona, Abir and Lamia – you are a huge inspiration. Super sponsors!

And big thanks to the Swedish foreign office for embracing a new terminology: “Crazy”, “Naïve” and “Geeky”.