I had a chance to spend a couple of days at the Oasis offices during my recent visit to Jordan and I must say the atmosphere was very exciting, you could feel the energy of all the young startups and entrepreneurs. I was also lucky enough to get a chance to sit down and have a chat with Khaled Sadeddin, Chief Coach & VP of Operation at Oasis500. Khaled runs the day to day activities and from what I saw he was a very popular guy, he was in and out of meetings and had a full schedule with the all the startups providing advice and suggestions on how to resolve certain issues they were facing.
Oasis500 is an early stage and seed investment company supported by the King Abdullah II Fund based in Amman, Jordan. When I asked Khaled why it was called Oasis500 he explained “the name came about because the MENA region is like a desert when it comes to raising early stage seed capital, the conditions are very harsh and challenging, for entrepreneurs its similar to a desert and we are the Oasis in the middle of this desert that can make that path easier for ambitious young people.”
Oasis plans to setup and support 500 startup companies in Jordan within 5 years, for a small country such as Jordan, 500 companies should shock the system and hopefully create more job opportunities and entice the younger generations to pursue their dreams and goals.
They accept any interested applicants with ideas related to the ICT, digital media and mobile applications industries. Once the application is reviewed and accepted they request a meeting with the entrepreneur and have a chat with him/her. And according to Khaled “80% of the decision whether the entrepreneur is accepted to enroll in Oasis500 is based on the personality and not at all related to the idea!” The main point was that the idea no matter how brilliant it is, might change with time in order for it to succeed, however the personality will not. They look for individuals who are passionate, take risks and most importantly committed for the long haul because it is definitely a rough path for anybody to endure.
After the interview the entrepreneur will be eligible to enter the six day bootcamp training. This is where Oasis500 gives there “Survival Kit”, this is basically a crash course in all aspects that a startup requires, they cover financials, business, marketing, presentation and pitching skills.
After the bootcamp training, accepted startups enter a three month incubation period where their main aim is to increase the value of their startup. And its this part where they gain the most, because other than the daily coaching given by the Oasis500 staff they will provide entrepreneurs with very valuable mentorship through their extensive network of mentors which include (to name a few):
1. Fadi Ghandour (@fadig)
2. Samih Toukan (@samihtoukan)
3. Maher Kaddoura
4. Reem Khoury
5. Majied Qasem
Just to give you an idea of how many applicants are accepted, in one of their waves they had 300 applicants and only 32 were accepted. Their sixth and latest wave had approximately 600 applicants.
Khaled claims that with Oasis500 startups have an increased survivability chance of 50%, he then gave an example of one of their incubated companies that was running for a couple of years prior to joining Oasis500 without really generating huge gains or profits and within one year of joining they managed to triple their profits. This was due to the structure and mentorship gained.
I then asked Khaled what was in it for Oasis500 when they accept a startup, and basically they get 10% of the company and provide the startup with 10,000 Jordanian Dinars (approx. 52,000 AED). However he mentioned that the company’s worth would be around the 220,000 JOD because they factor in the training and mentorship and other running costs which is estimated at 12,000 JOD/year which brings up the entire investments to 22,000 JOD.
At the time of the meeting Oasis500 had 24 incubated companies which are:
- Curlstone Studios
- Wheels Express
- Al Hudhud
- Al Nassah
- Arabia Weddings
- Shroom Studios / Elementum Game
- Aqar Estate
- Progressive Generation
Oasis500 is currently focusing on Jordan, however with the great potential of success they look to replicate the same model in different countries across the MENA region including Eypgt, Tunis and Qatar. Khaled did mention that of course in countries such as Egypt they will require to incubate more than 500 companies to have the same “shock value” they aim to achieve.
For entrepreneurs looking to start working on their initiatives Khaled had the following tips:
- Its no walk in the park, its a lot of hard work, but very rewarding
- You have to believe, be passionate and motivated
- Get a partner, friends don’t always make the best partners, this is very important. Its crucial that you have the right partner
- The model of your initiative has to work
- Be practical
I personally like to thank Khaled for his time and wish him and Oasis the best of luck.