By Deepthi Nair Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) One of the top women in business in the UAE reflects upon her success and offers advice for other women in entrepreneurship. One note, choose the right partners!
The lack of focus will sound the death knell for start-ups. Entrepreneurs must specialize in one service or product and focus solely on that, says Jesse Downs, managing director and co-founder of Phidar Advisory, a real estate advisory firm in the UAE.
She speaks from experience. Her firm, established in 2013, provides granular research to enable data-driven decisions in real estate investment and development in the UAE.
Phidar Advisory is backed by nine other co-founders. "I've been incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by a distinguished and diverse group of partners, who provide both the funding, but, perhaps more importantly, insight and mentorship. Through their insight, I've learned about business, local market dynamics and the regional culture," she adds.
Downs cannot overemphasize the importance of choosing the right partners when you embark on a business venture. "Choose your partners wisely. You'll probably be spending a significant amount of time with this group or, at least, they will have a significant impact on the materialization of your vision and strategy," she says.
This property expert affirms the need for entrepreneurs to have a clear vision from the outset. "But, don't be afraid to refine it as you grow and learn. Admit your mistakes and embrace failure. Fear of failure hinders market evolution. The only way to progress is to acknowledge and learn from mistakes," she suggests.
Self-belief and the ability to listen to people who matter are also vital for any aspiring entrepreneur. "Know yourself. We can never see the world objectively because we are imbued with our own filters, so the best way to proceed is to know your biases, so you can account for them in your decision making."
So, what sparked the idea to create an advisory firm for the UAE property market? Fast-growing emerging markets, especially opaque markets are tricky, says Downs.
"The research conducted in developed markets often cannot be done in markets, like Dubai, because there is limited data available and the data provided often lacks consistency, depth and validation. We saw an opportunity in investing resources in proprietary research gathering and analysis."
On how the advisory will be a game changer in the market, she says it will educate, inform and empower stakeholders to make better decisions.
"We hope we are contributing to the maturation of the real estate development and investment markets in Dubai. Ultimately, this maturation process will be associated with reduced risk and volatility as well as the development of buildings that the city's residents need."
What the concept stands for We wonder what the word 'Phidar' stands for. Phi is the golden ratio and can be interpreted as rational proportionality. Dar is the Arabic word for house. So, the idea is the house of rational proportionality or balance. Funded by shareholder equity, Phidar Advisory has four full-time employees with additional support through outsourcing and interns.
Commending the entrepreneurial energy in the UAE's start-up scene, Downs, however, feels most SMEs are focusing all their energies on creating new concepts in traditional sectors such as trade, retail, food and beverage, entertainment, etc. "I'd like to see this evolve to the next stage of technology companies."
Downs extols the need for SMEs to have an online presence, be it in the form of a website or social media presence. "Content is king. We create content and interactive tools to drive our audience to our website. In the future, I think we can use social media more effectively to drive traffic there."
Outlining the challenges faced by start-ups in the UAE, she cites the prohibitive costs as the biggest impediment.
"Licensing costs and the requirement to rent an office are a considerable barrier to entry. For example, in the US, the business licence usually costs less than Dh1,000 per year. Here, licensing costs are approximately 10 to 25 times that or more, depending on the jurisdiction. Office rents add approximately Dh90,000 onto the annual operational price tag. This model works great for medium to large sized companies, especially considering the tax-free environment, but, it creates a considerable barrier for start-ups," she elaborates.