In the dynamic landscape of global entrepreneurship, few regions have garnered as much attention and excitement as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This vast and diverse area, known for its rich history and cultural tapestry, is increasingly becoming recognized for something else entirely: its thriving entrepreneurial scene. The MENA region is now perceived as a fertile ground for innovation, investment, and growth.
Join us with Abdulrahman AlJiffry as we gain insight from his decade-long experience in the world of entrepreneurship.
500 Global: Jiffry, thank you so much for joining us today. We are so excited for this!
Jiffry: Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
500 Global: To start, How long have you been part of the entrepreneurial community?
Jiffry: It’s been almost a decade, I started by working in institutions and then investing personally before I joined 500 Global more recently. I’m less nicer now as a result of the “Angel experience”. So, I don’t know why they call it Angel investing, but it’s definitely a much faster learning experience.
500 Global: It sounds like you’ve had quite a journey! What was the biggest challenge of the “Angel experience” and how did it shape the investor you are today?
Jiffry: One challenge that stands out is dealing with valuations from founders. Over time, I’ve learned to communicate better, explaining the investor’s perspective and the importance of balanced valuations.
500 Global: Communication truly is key. Shifting gears, could you share a key takeaway from your time as an angel investor?
Jiffry: I’ve improved my ability to communicate the investor experience to them [founders] — helping them understand how investors react to certain offers, what seems fair, and how to make adjustments in the future to appeal to fellow investors. So I’ve become a lot more familiar with what investors are comfortable with and how founders can navigate these discussions more effectively. And, it’s given me a newfound appreciation for founders who excel in meticulous follow-ups, maintaining pristine document trails, and sharing updates. For instance, I’m impressed by founders who use a consistent email headline, making it incredibly easy for me to search for their history of updates and compare them against last year’s targets. This level of attention to detail stands out to me.
500 Global: Attention to detail is indeed crucial in this field. Speaking of which, what’s a common mistake you’ve observed entrepreneurs making?
Jiffry: Probably being too influenced by the current climate, entrepreneurs are hyper-aware of what’s happening now. They’re too distracted by what’s sexy. “So if AI is sexy, then I’ll do AI. If valuations are really good, then I’ll assume that it will continue to be so.” Eventually, they neglect the less glamorous but essential aspects of their business. It’s vital for founders to recognize the significance of maintaining their focus on fundamentals and not getting too caught up in the hype.
500 Global: What would you say is your favorite thing about the entrepreneurial community?
Jiffry: There’s a real desire to combat different viewpoints and come to the best solutions. I think startups thrive off that energy and I think the best investors also feed off it. So, it’s always been a debate of ideas. It is where there’s always this hunger to answer that question, answer the next question. To me, there is never a dull moment.
Prioritize effectiveness over trends. Sometimes, the coolest solutions might not be the most effective.”
Partner, 500 Global
500 Global: A hunger for knowledge and growth is a powerful driving force. Now, tell us about a personality trait or drive in founders that resonates most with you.
Jiffry: I have a love-hate relationship with founders who are uncompromising. Their determination to pursue their vision wholeheartedly is both admirable and, at times, challenging. It is a double-edged sword – while it can lead to inflexibility, it can also cause miracles. So, that’s my favorite one.
500 Global: What do you find most rewarding about working closely with founders either now through 500 Global or back then as an angel investor?
Jiffry: The most rewarding aspect is the opportunity to interact with a diverse array of incredible entrepreneurs daily. Guiding and challenging them, helping them navigate the ups and downs. Making sure they’re balanced when they’re feeling great, so they don’t get overconfident. I need to pick them up when they’re feeling insecure and they think things aren’t going well because they didn’t get the validation they expected from peers or investors. I get to witness their transformation over the years which is immensely rewarding.
500 Global: That sounds incredibly fulfilling. On the flip side, what is your least favorite part?
Jiffry: Having to say “No” so much. You will fall in love with the founders, but mathematically you’re going to say more No’s than Yes’s. There are founders I’ve known for years who I love and respect, as friends and colleagues, but couldn’t invest in because it wasn’t the right time, it wasn’t the right fund, it wasn’t the right area or just things didn’t align. That’s probably the most daunting part.
500 Global: Let’s wrap this up on a high note, what piece of advice would you give to all the founders out there?
Jiffry: My advice to founders is to prioritize effectiveness over trends. Sometimes, the coolest solutions might not be the most effective. Striving for a balanced blend of innovation and practicality often yields the best results. Sometimes it’s not necessarily about chasing the next big thing but about focusing on building something that stands the test of time.
500 Global: Sound advice, Jiffry. Thank you for sharing valuable insights and experiences with us today. It’s been a pleasure having this conversation.
Jiffry: Thank you for having me. The pleasure is mine.