By Sami Malas
TL;DR: Interning at BECO was a great experience from which I took three life lessons; the size of the team is not nearly as important as the quality of the members in it, criteria are important to outline and stick to, and keeping all the members of a team on the same page is imperative.
This past month I have been fortunate enough to intern at BECO Capital. I spent a majority of my life in Dubai where I attended the American School of Dubai through middle and high school, but last year I moved to California to attend Claremont McKenna College. It took me leaving Dubai and coming back to realise how large the startup ecosystem in the region was. Interning at BECO provided me with a lens with which to view the exciting and ever-growing startup space in the MENA region.
Upon arriving at BECO I was introduced to the portfolio companies and researched markets for other potential investments. This past month I got a grasp of what it is like to work in the VC space in the region. From the experience I took away three main lessons:
1. The power of a team is not in size but in the quality of the team members
BECO Capital has a small team with three partners, two associates, a recently added investment analyst, marketing and communications director, operations and compliance manager, two assistants (and me for a month). The core team that analyses and works on deal flow is 5 strong, and recently expanded to 6 (7 if you count me). I know VCs are usually small but did not expect them to be this small. Regardless of size, BECO Capital works like a well-oiled machine grinding through incoming deals while simultaneously working on active deals. Each member works tirelessly to make BECO Capital what it is and each member truly cares about the work they do. The meetings and daily interactions showed me how close-knit the team is, functioning more like a family than colleagues.
2. Outline criteria, then stick to them
In one of my training sessions with Sorusch and Yousef, I was taught the four key investment criteria that BECO looks at for all incoming deals. Throughout the month, I noticed these pillars playing a key role in rejecting or moving forward with deals. These pillars are team, scalability, defensibility and the ability for the product to leapfrog its competitors. The pillars lead to questions that the team often asks themselves:
- “Would I follow this team into war?”
- “How large is the market?”
- “How defensible is this product?”
- “How transformational is this product?”
If and only if these questions are appropriately vetted does the team move forward with a deal.
3. Ensure the team stays on the same page
The first day I arrived I sat in on a deal flow meeting in which the team debriefed on potential and existing deals. Between taking in all the information and attempting to memorise names, I quickly came to realise the importance of this weekly meeting. Alignment in any company is crucial and mismatch of internal information can be detrimental to a company’s growth and progress. Whether sharing articles that pertain to deals or the market, or being updated on analytics and deals, the BECO team is consistently looking for ways to ensure that the team is on the same page. The introduction of a marketing and communications director has not only been essential in maintaining internal cohesion but also in educating the region about BECO ongoings and trends through channels like the recently released BECO Blowdown newsletter. The final big takeaway that the past month at BECO has left me with was the importance of keeping all the members of a team on the same page.
Although my time at BECO was relatively short, it has left me with lessons not only applicable to every workplace but to life. As I continue to navigate university and different workplaces, these lessons will help me in my journey.