Interview with Step Feed: We talked to a lebanese entrepreneur about fintech startups and success

In recent years, Arab entrepreneurs have been shaking up the world of business with innovative ideas that are slowly transforming life as we know it.

One of the region’s most successful businessmen is French-Lebanese Karl Naim. The young entrepreneur is a startup mentor, angel investor, and the co-founder and CEO of ChefXChange.

His dive into the startup ecosystem began when he “got bitten by the Entrepreneurial bug” after finishing his MBA and gaining some international and professional experience in the investment industry.

“My co-founder and I both left our comfortable finance jobs and took the plunge in 2014,” Naim tells StepFeed, talking about the life-altering move of building his own startup, ChefXChange.

The 35-year-old has been an avid cook since the age of 18 and a huge fan of the outdoors. He used to host friends over for meals – which partly explains the idea behind his startup.

Marc Washington, co-founder, and Naim were “early adopters of Airbnb and hosting guests in our respective flats.” This is when the two “decided to replicate the sharing economy and marketplace model for the culinary world.”

“Our vision was to democratize the private chef service and to become the online destination for Culinary Experiences. What started as an idea and joke over a Halloween dinner, turned into a full-fledged business that generated over USD1M in revenues, created thousands of jobs and opportunities for Chefs, and served up tens of thousands of meals,” Naim explains to us.

ChefXChange, as the name suggests, connects chefs to foodies “looking for an exclusive culinary experience in the comfort of their home or desired venue.”

Nothing comes for free or without sleepless nights, as all industries have hidden obstacles that take you by surprise like Bowser’s minions in Super Mario.

“As a corporate, you are often shielded from many obstacles that are being dealt with at the higher echelons or by other specialized teams, may they be regulatory, hiring, geo political, macro environment. This is a luxury you don’t have as a startup founder,” Naim says.

“You immediately find yourself at the center of everything, having to deal with a lot of issues/mishaps on a daily basis, more often than not being reactive vs proactive: team hiring and retention of talent, regulatory issues, suppliers not paying you, an investor pulling out on you at the last minute, cash flow issues, you name it,” he continues.

Some striking words used by Naim during our interview with him were “Do not be afraid to surround yourself by people smarter than you, that have different domain expertise.” He doesn’t differentiate between employees and advisors, as he sees value in each person. “You will learn from them, and most importantly you will be challenged,” he emphasizes.

A balanced life is of major importance to the Paris-born businessman, and he has a lot of insights to share when it comes to that.

As for his expansive mentorship to numerous startups, we asked for his top pieces of advice for the region’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

“I have 6 advices to give. Perseverance, Perseverance, Perseverance. Be hungry for customer feedback. Doing more with less. VCs can be dysfunctional and have their own problems. Transparency matters. Empower.”

The young Lebanese man is far from reclining his chair, as the future is too close, too hot.

StartechEUS (pronounced like Spartacus), which was founded by Alexandre Harkous, a FinTech serial entrepreneur, is a “one-stop shop” FinTech Hub that builds companies and aims at being FinTech’s home in the Levant with its offices based in Beirut Digital District (BDD).

Explaining how it will work, Naim says it will focus “on starting and sustaining efforts to deliver innovative solutions to the global finance communities, from the concept stage, while assisting and mentoring throughout their entire life cycle, leading to a successful exit in international commercialization.”

The three pillars of StartechEUS, as Naim stated towards the end of the interview, are as follows:

Pillar 1 – STARTECHEUS FINHUB: “Entrepreneurs all-in-one environment”

“StartechEUS FinHub is the value creation engine within StartechEUS. We provide the insight, connections and diligence needed to unlock and accelerate value for our portfolio companies and partners.”

Pillar 2 – STARTECHEUS TECHNOLOGY ACADEMY: “Best practices and know how training Academy”

We provide our entrepreneurs with up-to-date focused training sessions from industry experts, corporate leaders, and academic partners in order to transfer some of the best practices, tools, and resources available out there for our startups to develop and scale in such a competitive global market.”

Pillar 3 – STARTECHEUS FINNOVATION FUND:

“We invest both directly and indirectly in our start-ups, nurture and monitor our portfolio companies and create value to our LPs Private and institutional Funding capacity.”

To find out more about StartechEUS, visit the project’s website.

Find the original piece on Stepfeed here.

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