14 lessons from The great Entrepreneur Samih Toukan


14 lessons from The great Entrepreneur Samih Toukan

Samih Toukan is best known as the Founder and chairman of Jabbar Internet group

Co-founder of Souq (Which was acquired by Amazon)
Co-founder of Maktoob (Which was acquired by Yahoo)

He will give us today 14 lessons of gold, so you need to read closely and it would be much more efficient if you took notes, trust me with this one.


1-Lesson One: [Not taking any risks is a risk]

Samih Says:

"In a way, the riskiest thing in business is not taking any risks"

--> He said this because when he started Maktoob (which is the Arabic version of Hotmail) , the internet contribution was so low that everyone considered him crazy for risking everything for a very few thousand that use the internet, and it was considered a hell of a risk, but after a couple of years Maktoob was a massive success and was sold to Yahoo.


2- Lesson Two: [The wrong decision could be better than staying where you are]

Samih says:

"This is a message for entrepreneurs: sometimes you need to just go for things and take that risk, sometimes you make the wrong decision, but if you don't take that risk you may not survive."


3-Lesson Three: [It's not only about the capital]

Samih Says:

"Regardless of how much money you have, you need to manage your cash flow so carefully. In business, you have ups and downs, and there are cycles. You need to plan very well. You don't need to start spending money you just raised, just like you cannot run before you walk"

Most entrepreneurs start spending all the money early when they raise some, and that is totally incorrect, if you don't budget well and manage your cash flow, it won't matter how much money you have.


Lesson Four: [The wealthier isn't necessarily the more successful]

Really most entrepreneurs think that if a similar startup has much more funds than they do, that they're behind or out of the competition, but that isn't true at all, and here's the evidence.

When Samih started his project, a similar startup was running also, it was called Arabia Online, and was funded by the famous wealthy man "Waleed Bin Talal"

So you have Arabia Online which was funded by 22 Million dollars, and on the other hand, Maktoob which has just raised 2 million dollars, so which do you think succeeded in the end?

Oddly enough, Maktoob succeeded which has raised 2 million dollars, and Arabia online has spent almost all of its money and went out of business, isn't this really crazy????


Lesson Five: [Focus on what really matters]

You really should be curious, why the startup that had 22 million dollars go out of business, and the other one which has raised just 2 million dollars was a massive success and was acquired by Yahoo?

That is because they took 2 different approaches, Arabia Online wanted to make the perfect platform, a platform that has news, games, search engine, and pretty everything, so they didn't have a base they didn't have a core mission, unlike Maktoob which only focused on the mail service as their core role, then started building further after they got the main mission done and had many users.

That's why trying to build the "perfect" platform/company/service isn't always a good idea


Lesson Six: [Intention sets direction]

Samih Says:

"The intention sets the direction you'll be moving into"

He only says this because when he started out, he had no idea what he is going to do, but he only wanted do something that is going to be beneficial for Arab internet users, and that is how he got into founding Maktoob.


Lesson Seven: [Vision > Financial gain]

Samih Says:

"The vision should always be much bigger than the financial gain, saying I want to make money or I want to be a millionaire is not a vision"

You should have a clear vision and a dream that you want to come true, same as Bill Gates had a clear vision and mission:

"A computer on every desk and in every home."

He also says:"Your purpose should always be on making a difference"


Lesson Eight: [Build what you're passionate about]

Samih says that:

"if you work in something you're not passionate or convinced about, you're not going to produce good results".

That's why you should put money away, and focus on what you are passionate about, seek passion, not financial gains.


Lesson Nine: [Don't be scared of failure]

Samih Says:

"The lesson for the youth is not to be scared of failure; rather embrace it.

Whenever you fail, you should get up and be determined to learn the reasons you failed. How can you try again? Eventually, you'll succeed"


Lesson Ten: [Team = Family]

Samih says on creating teams:
"Make your team feel that they're a part of the company and that they own the company"

That is really true and accurate, if you treat your team as just "employees", they'll work as ones, if you treat them like they own the company, they'll work as if they do own it.


Lesson Eleven: [Complementary Parnterships]

Samih Says:
"If you think about it that way, in terms of the relationship being complementary, I think you will succeed in your partnership"

Samih was more on the risk-taking side, unlike his partner Hossam who was more on the wiser and calmer side, so it's very important to have complementary partnerships because maybe if they're both risk-takers, they could over risk and fail, and if they were both not taking any risks, they'd also fail.

Also, a partner could be so professional when it comes to the business side and the other when it comes to the technical side, that way they could get great results, unlike if they were both business professionals only or technically professionals only.

But at the same time, you should be sharing the same vision for your company


Lesson Twelve: [Know when to try, when to leave]

Sometimes you need to stick to your idea, and sometimes you shouldn't, and one could tell you when to do what, but we could try simplifying and dividing it into:

1-Ideas that need time: Like for example Maktoob when the Arab internet users were very little, so the idea was great, it just needed time so that more Arabs become internet users.

2-Ideas that time won't make any better: and this could be an idea that the market didn't respond positively to, an idea which may be as an idea seemed intelligent but in real life proved to be a failure or an idea that doesn't solve a problem and therefore has no demand.

It's so important to stick to your idea when you have a vision.

Samih Says:

"At the same time, if you see that something is not working and consuming a lot of money and has a little or no upside, you must decide that if that is something you need to put your ego aside, close it down and say:
"I failed in this" then move to the next one"

Samih follows:

"At one point or another you will need to do that; We've done it with many projects"

--->He also says:

"On the other hand, you cannot give up too early on projects because they need time"

So the bottom line is, you don't want to spend much time on a project that was proved to be a failure, neither give up on a project that needs more time, or another try.


Lesson Thirteen: [It's about creating an impact]

Samih Says:

"If Maktoob&Souq didn't create an impact, didn't solve problems, and didn't generate investments in the region, he wouldn't consider them as successful, no matter how much money they generated."

It's easy to get tricked by money, but we should know that at the end of the day, real success is creating a great impact that maybe will live longer than you'll do.


Lesson Fourteen: [Giving Back]

After you've thankfully succeeded, you should really give back, as a way of being grateful for everything that made you what you are today.

Giving back has many ways, it could be by mentoring other startups and young entrepreneurs,or maybe giving out money for people who need it, Samih says that they have done free mentoring and that they will continue to sit on advisory boards and give them some of their hours, he says:

"We don't want them to repeat the same mistakes we made, and we don't want them to fail"


I hope this was helpful, inspiring, and motivating, and I really hope that you've learned something valuable from this article.

I wish you great success in your life, and thanks for your precious time.

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