“Funding always depends on so many things; it depends on situation, it depends on what access you have as a founding team.”

~Muhammad Chbib

A seasoned entrepreneur and business leader, Muhammad Chbib has been integral in the inception, strategic development and operation of several organizations in Europe and the MENA region since the late 1990s.

After graduating in 1998 Muhammad started up his first Internet startup in Munich/Germany. From 2004 to early 2011, Muhammad led McKinsey & Company’s client service teams, where he served various Fortune 500 companies in the online, financial and telecommunications sectors, both in the Middle East and Europe.

In 2011, Muhammad moved to Dubai to take the entrepreneurial plunge with Sukar.com, an online fashion platform, which was acquired by MENA’s biggest online marketplace Souq.com in 2012.

From April 2015 until August 2018, Muhammad led the Online Unit of Saudi travel giant Al Tayyar Group, developing the company’s technology arm in the online travel space. This business unit generated close to USD 1 billion total sales within three years only, catapulting its two online travel agency brands, tajawal and Almosafer, to become regional leaders.

After exiting Al Tayyar’s Online Unit Muhammad is working on launching a platform targeting Muslim Consumers worldwide, to offer an exciting user experience in booking Hajj & Umrah travels.

Fluent in Arabic, German, English and French, Muhammad is German of Syrian descent. His upbringing and professional experience in multinational organizations has seen him successfully develop brands to large cross-nation audiences.

Enjoy the show!

Posted on January 29, 2019

Recording Note: Since the original recording Manal.com has pivoted to offer bespoke travel opportunities targeting Muslim travelers globally.

Show Notes:

  • 01:30 – On being born and raised in Germany

  • 02:30 – Accepting his first job offer straight after University

  • 03:00 – Joining his true job after university 8 weeks later…

  • 04:00 – His first startup – an exploration into the copycat startup model of Rocket Internet

  • 05:00 – Attending an industry conference as a speaker with just 2 slides prepared

  • 06:00 – On defining success for his first startup and the journey

  • 07:45 – His souvenir from his first startup (which he maintains to this day)

  • 09:00 – How his consulting for startups and corporates lead him to Dubai in 2003

  • 10:30 – The six years with McKinsey

  • 11:15 – His takeaways from working at McKinsey

  • 12:45 – How health issues lead him back to the startup life

  • 14:30 – On maintaining relationships when talents join and exit

  • 15:45 – LinkedIn’s role in matchmaking the investor to the entrepreneur

  • 16:30 – His time at Sukar.com

  • 18:30 – Exiting to Souq.com then launching Desado

  • 19:30 – The difficulty of marketing local designer brand vs. well-known brands in the region and the pivot

  • 21:30 – Difficulty finding investors in the region at the time

  • 23:00 – Having foreign investors leading the investment round

  • 25:15 – Difficulties faced when originally setting up a startup legal structure at that time

  • 28:30 – The corporate-backed venture approach to startups at Tajawal

  • 33:30 – Bringing his tech co-founder with him for the next startup

  • 35:00 – The startup experience and environment even with corporate backing

  • 37:15 – AlMosafer, Tajawal and the strategic business unit

  • 40:00 – On funding factors and access to funding

  • 43:30 – Muhammad outlines his next upcoming venture

  • 45:30 – “When you have four children, there is no switching off”

  • 48:00 – Power naps and brain waves

  • 48:30 – On role models and setting entrepreneurial examples

  • 51:30 – The importance of routines with children and coffee

  • 53:45 – His daily work routines

  • 55:15 – The only book he’s ever gifted

  • 56:00 – Being self-reflective

  • 56:30 – Understanding we have limited time

  • 57:00 – Arabs are not victims and it’s important not to think in those terms

  • 57:30 – Importance of teaching children to code



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