By Zeyad Al Mudhaf, MBA student and BECO Capital summer intern
I’m really grateful to the BECO team for hosting me this summer. My internship flew by and I really did enjoy every minute. It was nice to be back home in Dubai during my break from business school, be around family and old friends, and work with a bright bunch of people who are supporting growing businesses in our region. This summer internship was really about 3 main things for me:
- Work on things that you are most interested in
Sure, an Investment Associate at BECO will have a few core tenets to their role: diligence on potential deals, working with existing portfolio companies on their growth, and ideally connecting the firm to a broader network than it initially had, etc. During this internship, I decided to pull together several different elements that I thought would be valuable for a VC firm and structured them into what effectively became “my role” for the summer. This wouldn’t have been possible without BECO’s culture of encouraging an entrepreneurial (pardon the pun) spirit to the role.
I came in with curiosity about a couple of sectors and what their potential could be within the region: drones, autonomous vehicles, blockchain, etc. After reading up on each of them, I became pretty bullish on how I think blockchain will play out globally and in the GCC, and as a result put together a report on its potential, key investment trends, and applicability to the GCC. The primary reason for that was to get myself up to speed on a nascent technology that I knew nothing about, and to contribute a knowledge piece to the team at BECO and anyone else who may be interested.
I like building dashboards. In Excel. With my headphones on and a mug of coffee not too far away. I secretly believe this is my equivalent of being a programmer – or the closest I’ll get. I also feel smug when Dana (BECO’s Tech Lead) looks over and sees colorful cells and 4-line formulas that are actually way simpler than her 1000-tab terminal with 50 font colors written in God knows what coding language. Amir suggested I work with Bayzat – one of BECO’s portfolio companies which is disrupting both the insurance and HR platform spaces – to define a customer success function within the company. I got excited and built a model that would capture the most granular customer usage data and relay the most necessary information to the management team in a clean way. I found an area where my excitement about building Excel dashboards would come in handy. No clutter, no manual work, no time wasted on processes, just efficiency and clarity on what’s happening within one sliver of a business.
This is the role I packaged together for myself at BECO this summer. Blockchain and Bayzat’s customer success. The key takeaway from this for me was that you need to work with people who will let you focus on your strengths and interests, and work on meaningful projects that build on them. At least at BECO.
- People, people, people
My first role was at a company with around 350,000 employees at the time, and hundreds in each of the offices I worked in. My second was with one which had around 12,000 employees and about 350 in the Dubai office. At BECO, I was with a team of 9; 12 including interns. I had ample opportunity to find “my people” in my previous jobs. That approach doesn’t work with a small firm. Every single person in the office needs to be one of your people. At BECO, that’s how I felt. An open-door policy, and an open plan seating area where we bounce ideas off each other, stare awkwardly at colleagues’ monitors while they’re coding, argue over whether to have a healthy or disastrous lunch, or gather around funny cat posts on Instagram mean that you can work and spend your day in an environment that understands you. It means that you may want to sit in the majlis and read for half an hour about the latest tech trends, that you work best with your headphones on, or that you want on the spot input from one of the partner’s on something you’re working on.
My true enjoyment at BECO would not have been possible if I didn’t feel that I truly got on with every single person in the office, including Precious – Dona’s adorable daughter – when she came in for a visit and setup her toys in the majlis.
- What job does your milkshake do for you?
While working with Talal Bayaa, CEO of Bayzat, on trying to define customer success, he told me the story of Clayton Christensen’s “Jobs to be Done” Theory. McDonalds were trying to boost the sales of their milkshakes but they wouldn’t budge. Christensen’s firm noticed that customers bought milkshakes mainly in the early morning and after 4:30pm. They interviewed everyone and asked them, “what’s the job this milkshake does for you?”. To quote the article, “there’s a job that arises in the lives of some people sometimes that causes them to hire a milkshake to get the job done.” What was that job? The answer for those who came in in the morning was that it was a companion on their long, boring drive to work, it only required one hand to consume and left one hand free for driving, it lasted the length of the drive, and it kept them full until the late morning. There is a second order purpose to every action or product – the real job it does for us.
The reason Talal told me this story is so I can think about ways to understand and capture what Bayzat’s customers’ real job is when they use the platform (e.g. introverted HR managers may prefer to communicate less and instead use a platform). The reason I’m sharing this story is that I learned at BECO, which is the analogous milkshake in my story, that in order to bring the best of yourself at work and even personally, you need to know what job an opportunity does for you. For me, BECO’s job done is that it gave me my first step into VC in my region, where I can work with awesome people and try to support really innovative startups, while living in the city I call home and being around family and friends.
Thank you, BECO, for a great summer.
P.S. McDonalds made tweaks that directly improved how well the milkshake got this job done for its customers, e.g. putting machines by the door and allowing customers to buy milkshakes with prepaid cards and be on their way without having to wait in line. This led to a 7x jump in sales. You can read the full story here.