Founded by Hussein Attar and Mohammed AlZahrani in 2013, Sawerly is a Saudi-based online marketplace that connects photographers with potential clients. The idea behind the service came to co-founder Mohammed AlZahrani after hearing someone pitch a similar concept during a hackathon pitch at Startup Weekend Jeddah. Soon after, both founders connected and eventually narrowed down their focus to helping companies and individuals that struggle to find talented photographers.
Ever since they launched, the startup has been disrupting the photography market with a platform that benefits both parties, offering a superior experience in selecting talented photographers and videographers
Still in its early stages, Hussein Attar pitched their idea at Arabnet Riyadh’s Ideathon in 2013. Listen to his full pitch here. Sawerly’s founders will also be present at this year’s Arabnet Riyadh, taking place in December, where they will be sharing their entrepreneurial journey at Sawalif Riyadiya.
In a candid interview, co-founder Hussein Attar provided us with a few insights on entrepreneurship and shared his journey as an entrepreneur, which should serve as an inspiration to those who wish to achieve similar success.
How do you define success, and why do you think Sawerly has become such a success?
I believe success for a marketplace startup, such as Sawerly, is reaching the point where suppliers rely on your business for their livelihood. As for Sawerly, with a few photographers making about 10K SAR a month through our platform so far, it is safe to say that our startup is still at the beginning of its journey towards success.
What kind of culture exists in your organization, and how did you establish it?
In the company we have built, we follow a “get things done no matter where you are” kind of culture. With employees today desiring freedom at work, we have established a culture that allows them to find a balance that works for our company all while being productive in their work. We also make sure to always be accessible to our employees when they need assistance.
What challenges did you face in your journey?
When we first started Sawerly, the entrepreneurship ecosystem was a nascent one in Saudi Arabia and still lacked with regards to a few key aspects, such as funding, a talent pool, and governmental support. However, this past year has witnessed significant improvement in these areas. Investors and VCs are now eager to invest in startups; Misk, SAFCSP, and other institutes are training and producing new talents in programming, marketing, and other needed specialities; and Monshaat, Saudi Venture Capital, along with the Ministry of Trade are supporting tech startups by changing regulations and creating co-investment programs.
What entrepreneurial tricks have you discovered to keep you focused and productive in your busy day-to-day schedule?
Setting short term goals, dividing them into weekly or daily tasks is a strategy I follow that has always kept me motivated to continue doing what I do. There is nothing better than the feeling I get from clicking on the “complete” button, giving me the drive I need to move forward. However, being an entrepreneur yields many distractions that might arise, yet it is important in such cases to know how to manage them and to delegate tasks among my team.
When it comes to being an entrepreneur, do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula for success?
To build a successful startup, I believe any entrepreneur should be able to choose the right team, manage their cash flow, and take good care of their customers. Doing these 3 things right will give you a higher probability of growing a successful startup. As they build their startup, entrepreneurs should also know when to refuse or postpone something based on its timeliness and prominence.
What piece of advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
I’ve seen many inspiring entrepreneurs with great ideas, yet, they usually just plan and don’t actually realize their ideas either because they get distracted, lose motivation, or get surpassed by another entrepreneur. My advice to those aspiring entrepreneurs would be to just start their startup and adapt to any change that might arise along the way. The key thing about entrepreneurship is the ability to be agile and adapt to new ideas and situations easily while minimizing or eliminating bureaucracy. It is a space that stimulates innovation and excitement.
What are the future plans for Sawerly in terms of scaling and expansion?
We have recently set up a shop in the UAE in the hopes of positioning Sawerly as the go-to place for all photography solutions and to prepare for Dubai Expo 2020, which will include international companies and delegates. Additionally, we intend to expand our B2B offerings to reach ecommerce stores by offering them with catalog photographers for their items and food photographers for delivery apps. Our recent partnership with Silkroad Images will allow photographers to sell their photos through our platform.