Zaid Jawad is no stranger to startups. After exiting Zawya (where he was a co-founder), he joins in co-founding HBT Ventures, with RoundMenu and Laimoon as separate teams incubated within HBT, and later even worked with both teams for about a year. Talk about an overachiever, right? Currently, he is focusing solely on RoundMenu (an online F&B ordering and booking platform), sharing his knowledge and background to understand consumer behaviors and its variations within and across different industries: “The behavior of a jobseeker is very different from the behavior of a shopper.”
With a revenue model of receiving compensation from their partners (restaurants), their platform spans UAE, Riyadh, Jeddah, Cairo and Beirut, adapting to a country’s –and sometimes each city’s- particular needs. To stand out in a saturated market, RoundMenu prioritizes their social discovery features, as well as the ability to make an online reservation or quick call for their delivery. Jawad’s advice is to keep in mind that the digital landscape is a constant state of change, and what’s important is to modify and adapt to stay abreast of changes. “It’s important to observe the shift in user behavior as they adopt new concepts, and pivot your business quickly to absorb the impact.” Describing entrepreneurs as passionate, persistent and collaborative, Jawad says that of primary importance is team goal alignment and focus.
Working with HBT Ventures, an incubation platform in MENA, what would you say is the region’s biggest challenge for entrepreneurs?
An idea without execution is just a dream, and execution without the right team is a nightmare! I think finding the right partners who share your vision and passion, and have the experience and skills to execute is a challenge in the region.
What do you look for in a team?
When building a startup team, it’s important to hire people who understand or have experienced the problem you are trying to solve with your product. This is a natural motivator, and they will work hard to help you build the right solution.
What’s your tip for working with co-founders in your startup?
Aside from sharing your vision and is trustworthy, I think a good co-founder should be someone who will continues to find holes in the startup. It is not helpful to have a co-founder who agrees with everything you say- you need someone who is always challenging your ideas and concepts to see if they hold their ground. At the other extreme, you don’t want someone who challenges you for the sake of argument over every little thing.
What are your top three tips for an entrepreneur to start a business?
Firstly, ask yourself “what problem I am trying to solve?” Secondly, build a prototype and then try to break it. Finally, study the local market user behavior.
What do you think of MENA’s tech startup scene?
The number of startups is growing very fast in the MENA region, with more and more funding support coming from governments and VCs. The local infrastructure and logistics are very strong in the GCC, and this is an essential ingredient for any business. The Internet and mobile user penetration is very high, and the consumers are becoming more accustom to e-commerce. I think all the essential conditions for a healthy ecosystem are there, but there is a lack of innovation and localization from the entrepreneurs, we see a lot of “copy-paste” of concepts from the west.
What device or apps do you often use?
Apart from RoundMenu, I use news apps like Flipboard, BBC and TechCrunch to keep up-to-date with current affairs. I frequently switch between Android and iOS mobile devices to try and learn from their user interface.