Starting a business is a lingering goal in the minds of ambitious individuals and disgruntled employees. But many people never take a step towards pursuing their dreams, leading to frustrations and regrets. I honestly can’t blame them (or you, if that’s how you feel). Creating a business is intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before, have experience with failed businesses, or don’t see yourself as a “business person”. “I’m an engineer”… “I’m an artist”… “I’m an employee”… these labels can hold you back and limit your vision of seeing yourself as a successful business owner. And without a vision, it’s hard to make much progress.
‘But Where Do I Begin?’
“The longest part of the journey is said to be the passing of the gate.”
~ Marcus Terentius Varro, Roman scholar
Those who have business ideas often struggle to figure out where to get started, especially when businesses have so many moving parts. I’ve spoken to aspiring entrepreneurs who worry about marketing before they have a product, or work on a product before speaking to potential customers, or speak to potential customers without knowing how to ask the right questions.
It’s painful to see great ideas die because their originators didn’t know how to bring them to life. Not only do they suffer, but the world misses out on the value they can bring to our lives. Imagine the world without cars or airplanes or smartphones. Imagine the world without telephones or WhatsApp or Talabat. You are interacting with man-made products 100 percent of your time. Even if you decide to live in the jungle, you’re bound to wear clothes others have made or use tools to make your life in the jungle easier (and your chances for survival higher).
Whatever you want to build. Whatever problem you wish to solve. The world will be a better place if you work on your ideas instead of just thinking about them. And that’s why Sirdab Lab came to exist.
In early 2014, I attended the Benchmark Forum, organized by YourAOK. While there, I met Mona Al-Mukhaizeem, who had an interest in starting an accelerator program to support tech startups improve their chances for success. Mona had just returned from San Francisco, having witnessed what a thriving startup climate looks like and personally helped in establishing Alchemist Accelerator in Silicon Valley.
We exchanged ideas about fostering a startup ecosystem and creating a community of entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses (or joining businesses that channel their passions and appreciate their talents). We spoke about the fragmentation of the entrepreneurial community, where designers, developers, and business people had their own separate events and none were benefiting from the insights and potential collaboration opportunities between each other.
Mona asked me to be her cofounder in turning Sirdab Lab into a reality. I agreed to join as I strongly believed in the importance of ecosystems creating startup successes, and wanted to be a part of the economic change Kuwait was witnessing (in 2016, the need for an entrepreneurial ecosystem and the diversification of Kuwait’s economy is ever greater).
Abdullah Alsayer, founder of MrBabu.com, who Mona met during the Thukhur leadership program became our third cofounder. Abdullah Al-Husainan, developer of Kuwait Prayer Times app, was our technical backbone and Ghalia Faraj, a startup enthusiast with experience working with startups in Silicon Valley, became our community manager and our voice on social media.
With that core team, and the overflowing support from community members, Sirdab Lab became a reality. The initial goal of Sirdab Lab was to help build a community, without waiting for others (public or private) to pave the way. Having frequent events where like-minded individuals can meet, exchange ideas, and inspire one another was our first target to bringing the community together.
Why Community Matters
Sure you can learn a lot from watching YouTube videos, and there are plenty of video courses that teach the technical skills of building apps and running startups. But can you do everything on your own? Knowledge is one thing, but collaborative effort, getting feedback from others, finding potential partners, and having doors open for you require personal connections and human interactions. (It’s also good for your mental and physical health, but that’s for another article)
Since starting Sirdab Lab, we’ve helped connect startup founders with cofounders to help build their startups, talents to join their startups, and clients to use their services. We’ve hosted a number of events to educate the community on the importance of the lean startup methodology, as well as a wide spectrum of topics relevant to business owners and creators, from idea creation to registering a patent.
We deliver workshops to teach technical skills such as using Photoshop, Android development, and User Experience (UX) design. Our 3-week Startup Bootcamp helps founders turn their ideas into viable businesses (and one of our Bootcamp graduates went on to win the MIT Pan Arab Enterprise competition. More on that in another article). Our monthly Startup Grind events host well-known and successful entrepreneurs for an evening of knowledge-sharing and inspiration. Some attendees have had their understanding of business change entirely after attending one of our Startup Grind events.
‘If it’s Perfect, it’s Too Late’
Not everything we do works the way we want it to, and that’s OK. Trying to get everything perfect from the get-go usually means lots of planning but little to no execution. Being comfortable with making mistakes and proceeding anyway is essential to any business, and it’s a mindset we try to spread by applying it ourselves.
I will be using this column to cover business-related topics, advice on how to run a tech startup, as well as showcase established and emerging startups. If you have any topic in mind that you’d like me to cover or have a startup you want me to feature, don’t hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking forward to helping you become the next big startup.