3 Lessons from 100+ Early-Stage Startups

Tune into our latest webinar session between MAGNiTT's Community Manager, Noor Salama, and COO MENA & Russia of Rainmaking, Abe Seksek to learn about the most valuable takeaways from 100+ early-stage startups. 

Check out the full discussion, and watch the Webinar below:

They explored several topics, including:

What the components of a successful pitch deck are

Abe says the first slide should be what the problem is, the second is the solution, and the third is what differentiates you from others in the same space. The market and competitors come after this and then the focus should be on the team, the founder/s, and who is helping you. The final slide should then be the ask. Abe says that you need to ask what you want this presentation to do and where do you want it to take you. 

What product-market fit is

Abe believes it is the validation of your value hypothesis or what you are trying to prove. Once you have proved that the problem you are pitching exists, that’s when you have found a product-market fit. 

When you are a startup, you may have lots of ideas, but when you do have an idea, you need to define it, and once you define it, you have to prove that point, and that is product-market fit.

How to know if you have product-market fit

Abe highlights that you need to go out there, do your research, create one, two, or three hypotheses that you want to address, and from there, you can then create survey questions. He states not to send a survey of 30-50 questions and try not to send them to your family. You need to find who you want to target and send it out to them. You also should conduct 10-15 interviews maximum in order to validate the high-level hypothesis. Noor believes you need to do this to understand how they work, so that you can reverse engineer your product in order for it to makes sense for your ideal customer's pain points.

He also advises to not fall into the trap of believing that you need to build 5 products or 5 features to launch as this is a very long process and may never get done.

Noor continues and states that it is about understanding your users, being empathetic, and designing for them.

Abe states that he goes by the 40% rule unwritten rule - if you're in a SaaS business and 40% of your users say that they can't live without your product or service, that means you’ve hit product-market fit.

What the top 3 myths are that are important for entrepreneurs to be aware of

1. If you have a market fit in one market, you'll have it in another - this is not the case, if you have a fit in Dubai, you might not in Abu-Dhabi depending on the population. Every market needs to be worked on from the ground up, and you need to localise your offering.

2. Once you achieve product-market fit, you can't lose it - this is incorrect as you need to constantly have conversations and constantly stay on top. You have to work twice as hard to maintain your spot. 

3. Once you have product-market fit, you don’t have to worry about competition - again, this is untrue as you now have become the bullseye, you are now playing offence and defence, which is a tougher game.

Examples of differentiators

Price, variety, convenience, customer sales, and more.

A guide to building out your first team and culture

Abe states that an early-stage startup, it's all about the differentiator and the team; the team Is very important. You need to ask, does the team complement each other? Are they on the same wavelength? You need people to ground you too. Abe mentions that he always likes to see advisors in the team slide; even if you get a few hours a month with an advisor, it's very valuable.

You need to attract people who speak the same language e.g. startups may not have that much money so they may be unable to attract talent when it comes to money purposes at the early-stage. Therefore, you need to look for people who are self-driven and self-motivated. Noor believes that you need to look for people who are driven by the vision and believe in what you are building. They are hard to find, but you shouldn’t settle.

Abe emphasises two things with regards to culture: 1. The only constant is change - this can be a change of procedures, product, market etc. And you should always expect a pivot (almost all startups he has worked with have pivoted at some point) 2. 'Culture eats strategy for breakfast' – this is important as people are breathing the values, and believe in the vision, they feel ownership, and are working towards goals and not tasks.

Other topics included, how to think creatively about the ask and how to present it, how to compensate advisors, where to invest as a new investor, and much more.


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2019 was a productive year for EdTech in MENA, as the industry witnessed more deals (29) and total funding ($20M) than any previous year. Access more data and trends in our new 2019 MENA Education Venture Investment Report.