Step Conference started out as a series of workshops and small gatherings. And over 10 years it gradually became one of the biggest tech festivals for startups in Dubai. Startups all over the MENA region attend Step to exhibit their ideas and attract new investors and network with those in their industry.
Step hosts 4 different stages; they call each stage a track. Each track is focused on offering workshops, sessions and networking opportunities in a particular domain.
The different tracks we attended were startups, digital media, fintech, and future tech.
We spent 2 days interacting with tech startup founders, marketing heads and VCs all across the MENA and here are a few takeaways we feel are worth sharing.
Step Conference Dubai 2022 takeaways
1. Dubai will be the tech hub in MENA
Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, the Minister of State for Entrepreneurship explained how Dubai has evolved over 10 years in the tech space. He has seen a massive change from the time they conducted the first Step Conference to date.
Dubai has always been a land filled with natural resources and most of the revenue comes from it. The state now focuses on creating tech startups as another source of revenue for the country.
The Expo 2020 has been a major shift for tech businesses on multiple fronts. He said the government actively supports entrepreneurs with setting up workspaces, cutting down the taxes, collaborating with the banks, making loans easily accessible and attracting potential investors.
So if you ask us, we’d say Dubai is the one place you either need to visit, work out of, or base your startup at to get access to some of the best brains across the world. We’re personally looking forward to getting connected with the tech startups in Dubai.
If you’re one and reading this article, let’s connect on LinkedIn.
2. Twitter Spaces will hook users just like Reel does for Instagram
Joelle Yazbeck, the partner manager at Twitter MENA, explained how Spaces will keep the users hooked to the platform. Spaces is a new way to have live audio conversations on Twitter.
Instagram rolled out Reels in 2020, creating a platform for creators to be more creative and increase their organic reach on the platform. Twitter plans on making Spaces the same. They have increased the organic reach on Spaces and encouraged users to create original content.
The secret to going viral on Twitter in 2022 is by using Twitter Spaces. Spaces will also help users to monetize easily in the future.
3. Buy NFTs that are backed by a utility
NFT is the new talk of the town. NFT experts highlighted the importance of buying an NFT that’s backed by a utility.
Rami Kadi, the international Lebanese-American fashion designer sells his apparel designs as NFTs. He focuses on creating NFTs that are based on emotions.
For instance, if a client buys a wedding dress he sells them the same NFT design as well. Because a lot of people when buying wedding dresses have thought of gifting the same to their kids on their wedding. NFT plays a major role by keeping a track of the time and the day when the dress was purchased. He said the demand for an NFT is created by the people using it.
Amrita Sethi, the first NFT artist in the UAE, highlighted the importance of understanding the blockchain and cryptocurrency before buying or selling an NFT. Not all artists would be aware of how Blockchain works but that shouldn’t be the reason for them not creating NFTs.
So educate yourself before minting, buying or selling NFTs.
4. E-commerce businesses can boost their sales with Podcast
Basim Dawood said e-commerce brands need to educate themselves on how podcasts can go a long way in bringing them sales. Many brands don’t understand how a podcast is related to an e-commerce business.
Basim recorded a podcast with an e-commerce brand where the brand spoke about its culture, its team, and its love for customers. The brand saw massive sales coming in and after conducting a survey they realised it was through a podcast they recorded with him long back.
If you’re an e-commerce store looking to record a podcast, check out Content Kettle.
5. Don’t be bullish on Metaverse without understanding it
Vishal Badiani, the creative strategy lead at Snap Inc, said no one knows what Metaverse is going to look like. It could be the next big thing or just another hype. Brands shouldn’t get into the FOMO of not being present on the Metaverse because it’s not defined yet.
There is a virtual shopping experience that’s created on Snapchat. How often do brands think of hopping on it? Metaverse is no different, in fact, it would take ages for all your potential buyers to be on the platform.
He mentioned that you should create a space in the Metaverse but expecting sales out of it right away, may not be a good idea. Instead, you can focus on creating a virtual experience on Snapchat where there are already 293 million daily active users already.
Well, we had a chance to speak to Vishal in person, we asked how B2B SaaS businesses can be a part of the Metaverse, he answered that Metaverse is more relevant to e-commerce businesses because they can create an experience with their products.
B2B businesses need to figure out how they can create an experience of things they sell. He asked to look out for strategies Google, IBM and Microsoft have been using in the Metaverse.
6. Focus on hiring a specialist even though it comes at a higher cost
Christian Eid, the founder of Nobueno, said if you’re an early-stage start-up your focus should be on hiring a specialist rather than a generalist. Tech startups in Dubai had a challenge in building teams in the past. Because most of the tech graduates flew to New York or London for better tech jobs. But that’s not the case anymore, the country is attracting tech talents from all across the globe.
When recruiters couldn’t find specialists, they would hire generalists by evaluating them based on their character and conduct. This slowed down the growth speed of startups.
If you’re a startup looking for content marketing specialists, we’d love to connect. Reach out to us here.
7. Be humble and willing to upskill
We really liked the way Paul Misener, VP at Amazon introduced himself. He said he came from a small company called Amazon.
Tip 1 – Multitasking and supporting your teammates can help you grow 10X faster.
For instance, if an engineer understands the legalisation aspects of a company, they can take some time out and do it on their own instead of relying on a lawyer.
Tip 2 – Read a lot and be willing to learn. Start a blog page, write about your brand and take the help of friends and family to promote. Make a few press releases and attract people.
Tip 3 – Think twice or thrice before making a decision, the smaller mistakes are the ones that become a root cause for bigger ones.
Tip 4 – Don’t be afraid to learn stuff you don’t know. Say yes to things that come your way. Spend your weekends learning about them and upskill. For instance, if you’re new to organic and content marketing, follow us here.
8. Money gives you speed to scale
Issa Aghabi, the founder at Access Bridge Ventures, explained how raising funds can help you grow 10X faster. The difference between a bootstrapped and a funded startup is that a funded startup has all the money to grow at a rapid speed.
The bootstrap startup might struggle to scale. Funds give you the ability to hire the best talents, resources and devices.
When asked, what does a VC look for in the founder before investing, Issa Aghabi replied the founder shouldn’t be running the startup as a side hustle along with a full-time job, he/she should be totally in it without having a secured job, that’s where the true entrepreneurship lies.
A funded startup also gets exposure to other investors and new networks.
But before you do get into investments, we recommend evaluating your current status with the Growth Tracker from Kanagawa.
9. Don’t raise funds unless and until you need them
There was a hot debate on whether a startup should be bootstrapped or raise funds. We were impressed by Chaymae Samir’s thoughts on bootstrapping.
Chaymae Samir shared her story on how she started Made By Sunday without raising even a single penny. Her secret to success was to offer the best products and give customers more than what they expected.
Her focus was to build relationships with customers rather than looking for investors. She built a strong community of loyal customers.
She said raising funds shouldn’t be a concern when you’re starting out. Focus on what should be given to customers to win them for a lifetime. Once you have that in place, investors will get attracted just like bees on honey.
10. Build a culture and stick to it
Fouad Jeryes, the Co-founder at Maqsam shared his thoughts on having a culture in the start-up. He explained how it helps to keep the entire team on the same page. The start-up culture should be treated as a playbook when you’re planning on expanding or growing your business.
For instance, if you’re just getting started and your core principle is to be as lean as possible, you need to encourage evaluating every move accordingly. If you see an employee suggesting to change the PCs to new ones, you can consider their suggestion but at the same time, you need to look back at what your core principles are. If the work can be managed on the current PCs then it wouldn’t make sense to spend on newer ones.
But instead, if someone suggests putting in a coffee machine, you may take a different stance. It’s still doable considering how it will affect the efficiency of employees.
We had a lot of new lessons and exposure to budding startups in MENA. We are likely to implement these learnings to shape our team and working patterns.
If you’re a B2B SaaS startup looking for content marketing experts to help you grow organically in an ever-expanding digital landscape, reach out to us here.