Interview with Ali Al-Salim, Co-Founder at Arkan Partners

JUNE 13, 2017

“The great feature of in5 is that companies here are

curated and handpicked. As a result, I’d argue that our

ecosystem comprises higher potential entrepreneurs

than some others where it’s all about renting out space.

in5 also supports its members’ further development with

workshops, talks and of course, mentors.”

Ali Al-Salim, Co-Founder, Arkan Partners

Questions:

How long have you been supporting in5 startups?

It’s been around a year now, since I joined the in5 steering committee. It’s gone fast but I am proud to see the growth trajectory of our members!

What is one game-changing lesson that each aspiring entrepreneur should know?

I think entrepreneurs frequently get too wrapped up in the product instead of really understanding the customer pain-points they are trying to address. Don’t just speak to your customers, listen to them.

As a mentor to some of the region’s top startups, what is your recipe for identifying high-potential entrepreneurs?

The most significant component I look for is the people behind the idea. A great team with an average idea can always pivot, evolve or change their idea – and in part, that is the role of us, mentors, to step in, provide guidance and help the team respond to opportunities, adapt to the challenges and grow in the process.

What is one feature or advantage that makes in5 stand out as an enabler of innovation?

The great feature of in5 is that companies here are curated and handpicked. As a result, I’d argue that our ecosystem comprises higher potential entrepreneurs than some others where it’s all about renting out space. in5 also supports its members’ further development with workshops, talks and of course, mentors.

What makes Dubai region’s entrepreneurial capital? How can entrepreneurs at in5 contribute to Dubai’s growth?

Dubai has an entrepreneurial heritage – take pearl diving and sea trade as an example. It has become a global hub that could be called truly aspirational. Across MENA, Dubai has emerged as the biggest success story – as a result, it attracts the best talent from a pool of over 300 million people in the region, and that doesn’t even include India or its neighbours. Dubai strikes a great balance between quality of life, security, rule of law and modern infrastructure. Entrepreneurs at in5 are contributing to Dubai’s growth just by learning, experimenting and building things, even if they don’t always result in commercial success. The process itself, and the lessons learnt, are furthering the work of the community.

What are the some of the in5 start-ups that you have mentored?

I’ve met with several startups, including EZ Hire, Boxit and Yalla Parking.

Are there any words of wisdom you would like to share with in5 startups?

Having seen around 100 pitches so far, I’d highlight two areas that I’d like to see entrepreneurs focus more on when pitching. The first is customer validation. Understanding the pain-points that a customer has through interviews and questionnaires; I’d like to see more tangible assessments of the problem. The second is the path to market. Entrepreneurs spend more time on the product and how it functions than how they’re going to get customers to use their product. Clever ways to acquire customers are crucial to any startup’s success.