Welcome to our latest installment of the “Global Expert Interview Series” with Alexandre Katrangi, Co-Founder & Partner, Licorne Gulf, Investment Holding & Capital Raising Firm.
Alexandre is a highly respected business expert in the Middle East and Africa, with a wealth of experience in the field of geopolitics, geostrategy, governmental relations, economics, and local practices. With an extensive international network, he has exclusive local relationships with key players in the region and provides valuable advice and insights to blue-chip financial institutions, private investors, large conglomerates, market intelligence companies, politicians, diplomats; and several Members of the Gulf countries’ Royal Families. Alexandre has worked with renowned companies like Vitol, Halliburton, EDF, Socar, Bashneft, Thomson, Natixis, and Blackstone over the past 23 years, and was previously an associate of Ambassador Omar Zeidan, who is a thought leader in the Middle East and Arabian Peninsula for over three decades.
In this interview, Alex shares his perspective on what it takes for a startup to succeed, what he would have done differently when he first started, insights about business partnerships, customer acquisition techniques that most people overlook, web3, and more.
Stay tuned as we continue to explore the intersection of growth marketing and brand building in our Global Expert Interview Series and hear more from established global founders, industry leaders, and investors.
Julia Ager, Founder, Jus Agency
#GlobalInterviewSeries #AlexandreKatrangi #MiddleEast #Africa #BusinessExpert
Hello Alex! Thank you for joining us. Tell us a little bit about your background.
I grew up between France and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East where I was exposed to different cultures, work, and ways of communication.
I grew up between these two countries, and I completed my studies in France and the US. I lived in Africa for ten years, then I went back returned to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar. Now, I am splitting my time between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and when I’m in Europe, between Geneva, Switzerland, and Paris. I also spend a lot of time in New York.
You’ve helped many successful startups in the Middle East and Africa through your boutique investment firm. What exactly do you look at when you’re looking to invest in a company?
We look for fintech, health tech, food tech, agritech, metaverse, web3, and other technology companies. It’s not always about looking at the data and metrics. The first criteria is to look at the person behind the company.
When we meet with a client, especially if it’s a startup, there are basic requirements things that are important to us – it’s their attitude, background, narrative storytelling and what drives them, their dream.
Some of the people that we’ve met in the past have an amazing idea or technology that they had patented, but when the person speaks, nobody understands the vision.
You should understand the person in the first five minutes. The way the person speaks, dresses, looks, thinks, and explains his story, motivation, business model, idea, and market. Some founders create a super nice app but what will be the scalability? How many people will be able to download, understand and then keep using it?
When it comes to Web3, what are some of the business models that are attracting you right now?
We have three clients in the Web3 Metaverse, and they are all in sports and luxury. Our conclusion was we are not going to make fast money in the space but we know that if we are not in the web3 space within ten years we’ve lost the game and we will be completely out of the market.
As usual, some will win, and some will fail.
What could you have done a little bit differently when you started your business?if you were starting all over again?
Being an entrepreneur is about making decisions and taking action. Some of the mistakes I made personally in the past were down to hesitation. In the end, you realize that time flies and you have to make decisions. it’s better to do something which will lead you to a wrong situation than not to do it at all. When you read the biography of some of the best businessmen in the world, they all say I failed 50 companies before getting my billions. When you have a startup, it’s better to take action quickly, and to fail within six months then rebound into a new project than fail after one year or two years. It’s better to go to the next level, scale up, move, and take decisions. Don’t stay passive or wait for other opportunities to compare, because things change.
Do you have any insights about business partnerships and building effective teams?
80% of the failure of the startup comes from misunderstandings between partners or associates.
We always recommend to our clients that when you have a startup and then start to have difficulties with communication; try to find an immediate solution. It’s like a relationship. If it doesn’t work from the beginning, don’t lose time because it’s not going to work in a few months or even years.
Team building also includes constitution and the formation of a company. When you’re starting a startup and you already have twelve partners, to onboard twelve people around the table with not all will have the same idea, and the same vision can be difficult. That’s why I recommend keeping a lean team to start with.
What’s your best advice for businesses when it comes to operations?
I would say at the beginning, you need good internal communication. I’m not very familiar with all the new apps and systems that help with the flow of the company, because you can spend 70% of your time on devices the computer and then you don’t have time to focus on acquiring new clients, partners, investors, and customers.
Spend most of your time outdoors, meeting clients, creating opportunities, and penetrating markets. I’ve seen in the past some of our startup clients clients’ startups, spending 50% of their time with weekly reporting, and weekly charts. It’s fine. But it’s time-consuming. When you are a startup, as soon as your processes, and product work, focus your time on acquiring new clients, partners, and investors.
Don’t lose time in this internal process because it will have a negative effect. I recall one of the companies we had in Saudi Arabia, were using an ERP for the management of all the employee processes, but it was a nightmare. The employee would need to input every decision into the ERP then it would go to another department for approval and then the approval goes to a third party for approval. So in the end it was ridiculous!
What should businesses focus on after building a brand and what are some of the best customer acquisition techniques that most people overlook?
I advise startups to hire a third-party agency to be in charge of their marketing promotion focusing on social media and professional exposure with a goal of talent and client acquisition. If you are not an expert, you will waste your time trying to use it and you will end up looking unprofessional. so work with experts to get you started.
What’s the best piece of advice given to you?
The first and the best advice I received from some mentors was to know what you want and what you are ready to sacrifice. Sacrifice, I would say, is the most important ingredient for startups. Creating a startup, it’s not an easy exercise. If you want to start a company, know that it’s going to consume 99% of your time.
When I started some of my companies, I made a lot of sacrifices, traveling night and day, and sleeping in airports, because I had to meet people face to face. Be sure of what you know and always be ready. Always be well-presented, speak well, be nice, humble, and gentle to people.
When you are working with a startup or a smaller business if you were to recommend something for them to invest $1,000 or $10k in, what would you recommend for them to focus on and put that money into?
In terms of business growth, if you have 1000, or 10,000, definitely digital marketing, then go to exhibitions, go to conferences, meet people, and build your network. Business is based on network building. The people you meet can be the lead to either new investors or clients.
You can contact Alexandre Katrangi via his LinkedIn.
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