Advice & Pointers

Advice & Pointers

On: 2013-04-18 14:32:20 | Guest: Sami Shalabi

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Basel: what advice and pointers to give to entrepreneurs in MENA?

Sami: What advice? First, if you have an idea, just do it. Don't wait for investors, don't wait for them, just go build a first prototype. It'll help you learn if you actually have something that's worth pursuing, because it's just so cheap, so quick, especially if you're doing tech stuff. And don't try to think that you need investment too early. You need to build your product, build your team before you go out and trying to raise money, et cetera. Don't waste your time on a business plan. A lot of people say, "Oh, you need to write a business plan." Don't waste your time, because ninety percent of the times, the first business plan is not worth the paper it's written on, because it's so incorrect. It's more important to have a working prototype and some resemblance of where you want to head, because the reality is that once you actually validate . . . the focus will ultimately change. 
The second thing is, this is kind of my rule: Do something that you'll actually use. Most of the start-ups is, basically solving, my problem. I'm very [inaudible 37:42]. As a result, because you're a user of your own creation, you keep improving it. Because you know, what, you are a user. And you start enhancing it in ways as opposed to going out and doing market research, et cetera. There's a term we have, you need to eat your own dog food. That's kind of an American term. Probably doesn't translate well in the Middle East. 

About the Guest:

Sami Shalabi is a software inventor and entrepreneur. He has 10+ years of experience building world class software at both small and large business environments. A highly creative hands-on, energetic, people-oriented leader with proven ability to quickly build innovative results-oriented teams. His strong technical, interpersonal, and business skills are equally effective with customers and partners as with employees.

Sami has been working at Google, Inc since October 2007 as a Member of Technical Staff. At Google, he co-founded Google Friend Connect, a service that allows site owners to easily add social features to their site. He is now leading the engineering team and the service is now being using on millions of sites around the world.


Sami joined Google after they acquired Zingku, a company he co-founded in 2006. Zingku was a venture backed software company that built a variety of multi-channel (mobile, IM, and web) consumers services. At Zingku, Sami single-handedly architected and coded the product that lead to their first funding round. Post funding, he lead the development of Zingku’s entire platform and product line. The products included (a mobile social network), (promotion and merchandising for musicians and artists), and (multichannel interest sharing).


Prior to Zingku, Sami had architecture and leadership responsibilities for a number of products at Lotus, Iris Associates, and IBM. These include Lotus Domino (web search), Lotus Quickplace (server and developer platform), WebSphere Portal (composite applications), WebSphere Application Server (plugin architecture), and Lotus Connections (activities). While at IBM he frequently spoke at conferences.


Sami has a strong track record of innovation. He has over 30 patents and has been awarded the 2009 MIT ASO Young Professional Award.


Sami received his SB, and ME from MIT, where he did research at the MIT Media Lab, MIT IS, and the MIT Computer Graphics Group. 

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