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  • Obediah Ayton

Winning at StartUp fundraising here with UAE Family Office

Are you wondering how to build relationships with Arab Investors? Winning at startup fundraising here in the Middle East is all about building relationships with investors. How do you do it?


In fact, building relationships with a variety of investors here in the Middle East won’t just pave the way to winning in round after round of raising funds, it will open the doors to a great exit and resources, and will make navigating everyday business easier. Especially when it comes to working with your board of directors.





Start Early

The best path to getting funded, and on the best terms is to start building relationships with investors far before you need them. This is equally true from angel investors and friends to fund your pre-seed round through strategics and private equity funds in a series D Round.


Many have found attending great colleges one of the best ways to build this network early. It is some of the best value they have gained from the university. At a minimum, you want to be building strategic relationships for at least 12 months in advance. Even earlier than that is better.


So, if you are still brainstorming a startup now, and may not launch or need funding for another year or two, this is the time to begin prioritising meeting and nurturing connections with angle investors, founders of start up accelerators, Government accelerator hubs and fundraising firms or consultants.


Do What You Say In The Arab Culture

No matter what it is, do what you say. The number one problem facing Arab Family Offices is finding entrepreneurs they can trust and who will deliver. Not just for being confident in returning their own money, but for protecting their own credibility and relationships if they refer you to others. So, whether it is meeting up for three hour coffee meetings, sending them a casual update, or taking the next step in your venture, do what you say. They’ll notice.


Add Value To The Family Group First

Don’t sell. Focus on them and their family business. Find a way to offer and give them value long before you have an ask. This is how you’ll earn their trust and friendship. Just make sure you are doing it authentically. Focus the conversation on them, and listen. What are they passionate about? What pain are they dealing with? What pleasure do they seek? How can you add value to their life and business? Don’t give to get. Just give. Even if that feeling of helping someone else is all you get, it is more than worth it.


Get To Know Them Outside The Formal Kandora

Get to know Arab investors as people and business professionals, over time and in a variety of situations. Investor-founder relationships are definitely like a marriage. People can be vastly different from casual dating to moving in together and getting married. It can be totally different when you are together every day, up in each others’ business, are going through the daily grind, and so on. There is no way you can grasp this with a couple of dates where both sides are putting on their best front.


Do coffee, do dinners, go to golf together, see each other in a business atmosphere. How do they treat others? How do they react when there is friction? What details of their personality and ways of operating good really grind on you after 10 years together?


Celebrate Together

Arab Family Offices are a lot like cofounders. They should make the highs twice as high, and the lows only half as low. Strengthen your relationship by celebrating things together. Maybe it is a game, a small milestone in their or your business. Or maybe it is their birthday or their kids’ birthday or a holiday or special event.


Champion Hard Things Together

It’s not in the easy times that the strongest relationships are forged. It is in the toughest times. The truth is that most days of being a startup entrepreneur are going to be tough. So, you had better make sure you can work well together through them, and as a team.


Many say that team-building exercises are too fluffy and not as important as being in the business trenches together. Yet, in order to get to that point, it can help to champion hard things together. It can be small fun wins and challenges. What passions do you share? Go learn to ride a camel in the desert for the weekend. Or climb a mountain in Hatta, participate in an Dubai endurance race, go camping and build a fire in the desert (without lighter and lighter fluid), eat local food with your hands, or brainstorm hard projects together over Shisha.

You’ll forge a new level of bond in the Arab Culture, and see how well you do as a team when things aren’t easy.


Send Regular Updates On Whatsapp, Even If You Get No Response

It’s not always easy or practical to do all of the above, especially with many different Arab Families. Especially not when you are laser-focused on building the basic foundation of a startup or are managing a hyper-growth company to scale to the next level.


At a minimum, you should be sending regular investor updates. These are typically in the form of corporate emails. Though, you can go outside the box to send warmer and more personal updates too. You can use mail, social media (the best being Linkedin or Whatsapp), and other methods.


Remember The Most Important Data

Remember that the most important word to anyone is their own name. Remember names here in the Middle East. Remember important key dates [Ramadan] and other names. Their spouse and kids, their anniversaries, and more.

Get Warmer Introductions

Getting started connecting with Arab Family Offices can be challenging. Especially, breaking through from the expectation you are just selling them to their guard being down and willing to build a real relationship. Getting warm introductions from people they already trust can make all the difference here. Who do you know that knows investors?


Remember that storytelling plays a key role in fundraising and you will need capital to scale things up. This is being able to capture the essence of the business in 8 to 10 slides.


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