Mix N’ Mentor Bahrain was a one day event organized by Wamda in partnership with Tamkeen, Bahrain Development Bank and Tenmou to bring together promising entrepreneurs with industry experts and investors. Held on the 11th of May at the Al Jasra Business and Professional Women’s Club, it brought together an eclectic mix of entrepreneurs, mentors and industry experts from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and UAE to share their experiences and advice in a casual, high energy setting.
Event Day Highlights
It was attended by more than 100 entrepreneurs who had the unique opportunity to meet, engage and discuss specific start up challenges with industry experts and investors. The event commenced with inspirational talks and stories from Sheikh Hisham Al Khalifa of Bahrain Development Bank, Yousif Ali from Tamkeen and Francis of PayPal. Sheikh Hisham narrated an interesting story on how historically Bahrain was an entrepreneur’s paradise and everybody was an entrepreneur or worked for an entrepreneur, but with banking, oil and other sectors taking center stage, entrepreneurship was side-lined but it remains within every Bahraini’s DNA and it should be nurtured and brought forth.
Soon after the opening address, entrepreneurs and mentors were divided into breakout groups of 10, based on their skills and challenges. Each group attended 3 sessions, each tackling specific entrepreneurial challenges. Mentors and entrepreneurs in each group were rotated for each session to ensure maximum diversity. Mentors ranged from a wide array of industry experts and investors to serial entrepreneurs.
The first session
Session 1 addressed Team Building. With mentors like Ms. Amy Morgan of Unisono and Mr. Mazin Al Shehabi of Mazin Computer Centre leading discussions, insightful and immediately actionable advice was doled out to entrepreneur’s questions ranging from “When to hire the first employee?” to “What are the best approaches for employee retention?”. The mentors stressed on the importance of reference checks and contracts prior to employing staff and being aware of government and other programs available to support start up recruitment.
The Second Session
Session 2 discussed the various Funding Options available to entrepreneurs. Mr. Hasan Heider, CEO of Tenmou, emphasized the importance of identifying the right funding option. Mentors discussed with the entrepreneurs the various funding options ranging from loans and angel investors to equity in detail. The benefits of having angel investors who would succeed and fail with you, have vested interest in making you succeed and benefits of less pressure with regard to cash flow as opposed to a loan were discussed.
This was followed by lunch, which was an extravagant authentic Bahraini affair that gave the mentors and entrepreneurs the perfect casual setting to relax and mingle.
The Third Session
The afternoon session had a detailed look at the key role of Customer Development in making or breaking a startup. Mentors discussed Customer Development specific to the MENA region, how to increase and retain customers and how to develop a niche for your startup. Social Media and word of mouth as being key ways to get in touch with customers were mentioned. Need for creating sub-products from your existing product or service line targeting smaller customers was highlighted. Ms. Deena Al Ansari of The Mobile Spa encouraged entrepreneurs to constantly innovate and not rely only on price point to maintain market advantage.
The Fireside Chat
After the sessions, a panel of entrepreneurs including Ahmed Husain of Reload and Hasan Heider of Tenmou engaged with the audience and shared their own stories in what was labeled as a Fireside Chat. The event was concluded with the Wamda organizers listing key tips to take back from the event:
– Think Big, Start Small
– Build a Strong Team
– Get Great Mentor/s
– Be Flexible and Adapt
– Don’t overestimate yourself
– Build relationship with Investors
– Launch and fine tune as you go
Whether you were just starting up, trying to scale or looking for an exit, The event provided a unique opportunity to bounce ideas off of peers and industry leaders you wouldn’t be able to interact with elsewhere.