MENA Startups Community Platform MAGNiTT.Com Raises US$1 Million In Seed Funding
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MAGNiTT.com, an intelligence platform and a startup directory connecting entrepreneurs and investors in MENA, has closed a fundraise of “close to US$1 million” in a seed round led by 500 Startups along with other regional VCs and angel investors including Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP), KISP Ventures, Financial Horizon Group, and iNet. Stating that the funding will help accelerate the development of MAGNiTT’s platform and expansion plans both regionally and across emerging markets, founder and CEO Philip Bahoshy notes that the focus will be “on building the data base, data analytics, and research capabilities of the online site.” Further, the “startup for startups” also intends to grow its tech team to help enhance user experience. MAGNiTT’s data-rich platform provides users insights on MENA’s startup ecosystem on a subscription model, and enables direct connections between entrepreneurs and investors.
Bahoshy says MAGNiTT emerged from his observation of how the region’s entrepreneurs often “struggle in isolation,” and hopes to create lasting connections between investors, corporates, job seekers, and others. MAGNiTT does so by aggregating and featuring updates from the MENA startup ecosystem, by creating a dedicated job board for startups to post new roles for their company, and through their new MAGNiTT application process, which can be used by startups for interactions with investors, conferences, accelerators and various stakeholders, without having to resubmit information each time. Sharif El-Badawi, Partner at 500 Startups agrees. “At the heart of understanding an industry or building a nascent, fast evolving ecosystem, is knowing who the actors are and the activity taking place. Accurate data and objective transparency for startups, investors and enablers was almost non-existent before MAGNiTT. Now, it is the defacto source for researchers and reporters within and outside the MENA region,” El-Badawi said in a statement.
Bahoshy also emphasizes that on the importance of good legal support for startups, offering a shout-out to Support Legal, an enterprise “instrumental in advising and helping” them with the fundraise. “They can answer questions on terms, help structuring conversations, and also allow you to push back when things don’t sound right. Having a good legal team can provide you much needed confidence when speaking to investors,” he says. As for the path we can expect the platform to take, going ahead, the entrepreneur makes it clear that MAGNiTT’s focus would be on data access and data analytics. “As such, we will continue to enhance and improve that proposition [data analysis] based on the needs and requirements of our clients,” he says. “This will include further research and reporting as well as technological enhancements including APIs, export functionality, and notifications for them to better access what they are looking for, to name a few.”
Philip Bahoshy, founder and CEO, MAGNiTT
1. Based on your current experience, what are your three top tips for MENA's aspiring entrepreneurs who strive to catch the attention of and seal deals with investors?
“[Firstly], practice makes perfect. Imagine you are a singer or athlete; nothing replaces practice and repetition. Know your story and vision and be just as passionate telling it the next time you meet an investor, as you were when you first pitched your idea. Learn to adapt the story based on feedback from investors, see how they react and develop the rhetoric. Practice, practice, practice. [Second], accept and expect rejection! It’s part of the exercise. It is natural to get upset but important not to get downbeat. Keep yourself going and stay positive but learn from your meetings where investors declined by understanding what needs to change. [Third], always keep investors updated on your progress, especially those that might have said no. Fundraising will take months to close. During that period your product will evolve, your numbers will change, and you will continue to progress. Just because an investor said no at the beginning of the fundraise process, over time if you are making progress and keeping them updated, they may change their mind and close out your round.”
2. What are your key takeaways from your business journey to date, and from growing MAGNiTT?
1. Always listen “Listen to your customers and develop your product accordingly. MAGNiTT pivoted multiple times over its journey from launch to SEED. It is important to stay nimble and adapt the product based on what users are looking for and need. Don’t overly rely on adding continual features. There was a period where we kept adding new features without knowing if they worked. I remember a statement from Sam Altman, founder of Y Combinator: much better to create a product that a small number of people love rather than a large number of people like.”
2. Power of data “If you have data, share it! While MAGNiTT had a huge amount of data underlying the platform, nobody knew about it initially. We went on to create and share the information to our users and community visually, and our first infographic basically defined what our proposition has moved on to become today. Users, investors and the wider public finally understood what it was that MAGNiTT was.”
3. Don’t do it alone. “Get help. Bootstrapping a startup can be painful and difficult. But there is no reason to do it alone. While a few attempts at getting co-founders were unsuccessful, I thank my advisory board who have been helpful in shaping the MAGNiTT proposition. Being able to share ideas and get feedback from people outside of the day to day really strengthened my vision and as a result the platform.”
4. Hire and mentor interns “Over the years I have had great support from interns using Interns.me. There is a whole group of ambitious and hungry graduates seeking experience and work. It is a win-win from both sides, they get to learn from a founder who is starting up and you are able to capitalize on their energy and skill set. I thank all of them for their support to getting MAGNiTT to where it is today.”