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If you count yourself as one among the code challenged and find it a struggle to sift through what appears to be lines of gibberish to make modifications to your website, Dubai-based web design product ShortPoint may be your answer. Driven by his passion for web designing, having helped “hundreds of people” go live with their websites since he was just 16 years old, ShortPoint’s founder and CEO Sami AlSayyed felt that the tedious process of revamping web pages needed an intervention. This led to ShortPoint, a “cheat code” of sorts for websites- a tool, which when added to existing content management systems and web platforms, could renovate them without having to rewrite lines of code. Compatible with platforms like SharePoint, Office 365, Azure Cloud and others, ShortPoint enables web design features and components that can be used by a user with zero knowledge of coding. Co-founded by Sami Al- Sayyed, Anas Nakawa, Sergii Shekhovtsov and Ala Albatayneh, ShortPoint is now a team of nine, supported by a “large” network of partners and product evangelists.
Headquartered in Dubai, with additional offices in Amman, Jordan and Lviv, Ukraine, the company’s current focus is on developing features that would supplement the user experience– a factor they consider imperative in emerging cloud platforms. Having sold the product to schools, universities, large corporates, startups and others, ShortPoint has been operating a revenue-generating model since October 2015 and even counts over ten governmental entities as customers. While the technology is patent pending, the team confesses to have adopted aggressive sales strategies and selling the product early on, to benefit by customer feedback. This head-on sales strategy also seems to have worked for the upstart: “[We] did a lot of crash meetings here in our area, which means, you drive in your car, spot a logo for a company, park and just dive inside, and show them your product by force. It worked many times,” says AlSayyed.
More relentless than this is the startup’s fundraising journey, a textbook lesson of sorts for entrepreneurs on the importance of perseverance for building a company. After starting operations with US$100,000 from their incubator partner Dubai Technology Entrepreneurship Centre (DTEC) in March 2015 (which by itself was a “very long and hard” process), the co-founders then raised pre-Series A over the course of a year, following “almost 100 meetings and pitches.” Ultimately, the startup raised $370,000 from existing investor DTEC, and new patrons Tjdeed Technology in February 2016. Recounting the fundraising process, AlSayyed says that it was a huge learning experience that helped them understand that scouting for investors needs to begin much earlier than raising funds. “The process will take not less than six months, and you should start as early as possible,” he notes.
Making things more difficult for ShortPoint was the technical element of the product. “We are presenting a very technical idea, and to make it even more challenging, our model is B2B- which was a challenge for me, personally, to pitch and sell.” AlSayyed says. What helped the startup make headway in raising funds was the co-founders’ acceptance of the fact that one must keep testing their pitch and keep it flexible to accommodate feedback. “Your audience should understand easily what you do and the problem you are solving in a very straightforward and fun way,” AlSayyed explains. Offering a piece of advice to entrepreneurs looking to raise funds, the resolute entrepreneur says that it’s also critical for a startup to do their own diligence on investors and focus on those who have prior investments in the sector. He considers the timing to be the key when it comes to VC money: “Do not pitch to VCs if you are still at the idea stage or very early stage. Most VCs want proof that you are growing; it means monthly sales, user acquisition, and a curve to show a monthly increase.”
Despite the strong competition and crowded web design market that the startup is pitted against, ShortPoint is confident that the quality of results it offers and compatibility with numerous platforms give it an edge. The startup has set its sights on reaching a stage where anyone from any background will have no difficulty using their product and will require just “a few minutes” to get acquainted with the design. “We have the technology and we know how to make money out of it,” AlSayyed says. “The only remaining part is to make it user-friendly, and very comfortable to use.”
THE ROAD AHEAD
Over the course of this year, ShortPoint plans to use the funds from the latest raise to grow their team, improve the quality of the product, open new distribution channels to help reach more customers, and start marketing campaigns aiming to reach 500,000 users by the end of 2016, with 20 Fortune 500 customers.
Sami AlSayyed, founder and CEO,ShortPoint
“If it is easy, everybody will do it. Do not ever give up or stop. The biggest lessons you will get, is when you fail and make mistakes. Try to spot your mistakes, and think why they happened and attempt to avoid making the same mistake again. Identify the user need then propose a solution.”
“The rule is ‘90% fair to customers - 10% profitable to your company.’ This is what you should keep in mind while setting the price for your product or service.”
ON THE RIGHT TIME TO LAUNCH
“Remember that if you launched a perfect product, you launched too late. Your first launch will never be your final product. In most cases, you will change it entirely. Launch as soon as possible to get feedback. Launch smart, and do not be afraid of getting noticed or someone stealing your idea.”
ON STUDYING THE COMPETITION
“Know your competitors so well that you even know how much money they are making. You should find an opponent, even if your idea is unique. If there is no competitor, then ask yourself and find an answer to this question: why hasn’t anybody thought about this before? Your response needs to be logical and substantial.”