As a Saudi young optimist with big dreams to improve things around me, I started my entrepreneurial journey when I was studying my bachelor degree in the United States. In my free time I always read stories about successful ventures; how they started, what challenges it faced, and most Importantly what made them succeed. Then I started to surround myself with people who share similar interests. One of the people I met in the rowing team was thinking about an idea to start and approached me.
The two of us started a platform called classDOX that revolves around class notes and students buying and sharing them. Through my college years we experienced outsourcing, market research, legal structuring, testing, business planning, and being mentored. Despite of going a long way we haven't really took off. Nevertheless, it was an opportunity that taught me many lessons in starting a business.
In my last semester of college I was researching the different routes that one can take after college. I applied to many jobs and higher education programs. Moreover, I applied to an accelerator program that help startups launch their ideas through a unique process. I had this appetite for entrepreneurship, therefore I wanted to explore how can I go to the next level. As the end of the semester started approaching. I had all my options ready to choose from; a job offer, a masters program acceptance, and an accelerator program opportunity.
I took classDOX and joined the i2 fellowship accelerator program. Dr Hayat Sindi founded i2 with the goal to initiate a healthy ecosystem in the Middle East and it was designed with the world top partners. The program had twelve fellows from the Arab World and the program was divided into four parts with breaks in between them. The first part started off with spending five weeks in Harvard iLab; full of workshops and ventures local visits to open our eyes and minds. The second part was a training course in Dubai with PWC. The third part was attending Poptech conference for Science and Social Innovation in Maine as well as visiting National Geographic headquarters in Washington DC. The fourth and last part was presenting our ideas in Four Seasons Riyadh in front of investors, educators, and entrepreneurs.
Through the i2 journey the idea have transformed from classDOX to 7arf. 7arf will be a platform for practical online courses in Arabic. Since my presentation that was given in February 2014 many challenges have been faced. The biggest challenge is finding the right team who is talented and willing to sacrifice pay when starting. The other main challenge is the right business model. With the current infrastructure, consumer awareness, and lack of role models; many startups are struggling to take off. Nevertheless, through my short time in the entrepreneurial community in Saudi I witnessed lots of improvements. There is more competitions, office spaces, media outlets, events, and workshops.
At this stage I am still in the development phases. I am working on finding the right partners to finalize the plan and start testing. The testing phase will include making two courses and measure the impact. Each course will be a series of videos that will be uploaded on YouTube and learners’ engagement will be held in Social Media. We will provide media kit for advertisers who are interested to sponsor educational content as part of their Social Responsibility. The instructors who will teach the course will be selected based on their practical experience. The courses will include Digital Marketing, Writing Skills, Design, and many more. It will a challenging journey and I look forward to face it and help create this beneficial impact.