Former investment banker turned entrepreneur Philip Bahoshy says that the right regulatory framework is critical to thriving entrepreneurship
MAGNiTT, the online platform launched by Iraqi-British entrepreneur Philip Bahoshy, mirrors many of the aspects of offline life in Dubai’s bubbling start-up scene.
As one of the MENA region’s main hubs for technology and entrepreneurship, Dubai has been attracting all kinds of entrepreneurs, investors, experts, mentors, and corporate leaders, encouraging their linkages and interconnections to foster innovation.
However, despite the city’s buzzing and vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem, many new business owners often fail to make meaningful connections with reliable funders or obtain vital advice from experienced mentors – a situation described by Bahoshy as “start-ups struggling in isolation.”
A business opportunity arising from this gap in the market might not have caught the eye of a less careful observer, but Bahoshy, a former investment banker at Oliver Wyman and Barclays Wealth, was looking for a fresh start after earning an MBA from INSEAD.
MAGNiTT is a go-to online platform for MENA entrepreneurs, allowing start-up founders to connect to local incubators and accelerators as well as venture capital and angel funds, make use of discounts and special service offerings, enhance their skills with more than 550 learning tools available on the platform, and find and hire talent.
“MAGNiTT looks to take out the loneliness for entrepreneurs by bringing both sides of the market place online, making it easier for stakeholders to navigate through the developing MENA ecosystem,” says Bahoshy.
“Ecosystem stakeholders, such as investors, mentors and corporates, are now able to filter through over 1,200 start-ups from across the MENA region. Using curated filters they can select criteria, including location, industry, start-up stage, and some specific requirements, such as legal, marketing, business development, if needed.
“Once filtered, they are able to review the chosen start-up’s profile where they get a high level overview of the product, see statistics on the start-up’s performance, including the number of followers and which institutions they are connected with, and then they can meet the team and take the conversation forward.”
MAGNiTT data revealed that 58 percent of start-ups listed on the platform highlighted the need for mentorship, 56 percent looked for marketing support while 26 percent needed legal support.
When asked to advise early-stage entrepreneurs, Bahoshy says: “Always focus on finding a strong founding team. Do not be afraid to split equity because 50 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing. This is the first thing that investors look at when investing.
“Also, look to get a board of advisors early on. They will be key to providing legitimacy to your product, act as a sounding board for your business development and, ultimately, be the most likely to introduce you to potential investors.
“Remember to ask for advice when seeking investment and only ask for investment after people have given feedback. Most important is to give them skin in the game – giving equity to advisors makes them very interested in your success.
“However, listen, but do not react. I have learnt that feedback is the most useful source of support for any start-up. At the same time, it can also become overbearing. Avoid the urge to react to each piece of feedback you receive. Internalise the feedback, let it settle in, and then work out how to use it. Too many entrepreneurs feel the need to immediately defend or react to advice.”
Having facilitated successful knowledge sharing sessions between Dubai start-ups El Grocer and Yalla Parking and the CAREEM team, Bahoshy explains that cooperation between corporations and young businesses is one of the keys to further development of the local ecosystem, adding that adopting entrepreneurship-friendly regulations remains critical.
“This will help ease the burden on early-stage start-ups by facilitating their cheaper incorporation and enabling entrepreneurs to hire talent with more lenient visa restrictions. Lastly, it is important to incentivise angel investment by de-risking early-stage investments.”