Hashem Montasser, Founder of the The Lighthouse Restaurant & Concept Store in Dubai Design District, is a raconteur who avidly follows the work of arts, culture, technology and, of course, food. In a series of conversations aimed at introducing its audience to the Middle East’s entrepreneurial landscape, Hashem asks his guests about their life journeys, inspirations, successes and failures and everything in-between. New episodes available every second Wednesday.
“Food is an open ended problem, we’ll never perfect it.” Amir Allam, Founder of Egypt’s biggest food discovery platform Elmenus on his obsession with problem solving & how he will meet his biggest challenge yet - building Elmenus to scale.
On this week’s episode, Hashem caught up with Amir Allam, a fellow Egyptian and graduate of the infamous DEO, the German school in Cairo. Amir Allam is the Founder of Elmenus, an F&B marketplace boasting digital menus & delivery for over 6000 restaurants across Egypt. Founded just days shy of the Egyptian revolution back in 2011, Elmenus is now—10 years on—Egypt’s biggest food discovery and ordering platform and looking to expand beyond its shores. Hashem and Amir compared the experience of being a solo founder vs co-founder and got to the bottom of why Amir credits his engineering mindset for his entrepreneurial ethos. They also review the latest in Egypt’s lightning-pace food trends (including the beach as a delivery location), the challenges of talent acquisition, and reveal one of Amir’s favorite aspects of being immersed in foodtech.
“Investors look for traction and Founder’s pedigree.” Ramy Adeeb shares his journey from computer science to building his own venture capital firm, 1984 Ventures
As fellow Egyptians and graduates of Harvard College in the 90s, Hashem and Ramy Adeeb initially shared a similar path that led them from Cairo to Cambridge, Massachusetts. We caught up with Ramy this week via Zoom in Silicon Valley to follow his journey from young computer programmer writing software at age 12 to his pivot from startup to venture capital and back again. During the height of the Egyptian revolution of 2011, Ramy Adeeb founded his first startup, Snip.it, whose aim was to simplify news and article sharing and was later acquired by Yahoo! Now the founder and general partner of venture capital firm 1984 Ventures, Ramy shares his views on the challenges of building an investment firm and reveals the two main ingredients investors look for in startup founders.
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Ramy Adeeb on Twitter
“Success in design means finding a good recipe and dreaming big.” Design wunderkinder David & Nicolas on 10 years as a successful brand and what makes their partnership click.
Hashem is joined this week— via Zoom call from Milan— by David & Nicolas, the Milan/Beirut-based design duo whose retro-futurist work is featured in the acclaimed Nilufar Gallery and Carpenters Workshop Gallery. Hashem and David/Nicolas discuss their fixation on time as a “marker” and how it affects their designs; the hybridity of their identities; the aesthetic influences of growing up in a Franco-Lebanese home; and how the duo met in McDonald’s Beirut of all places! We’re also introduced to parallels that Hashem finds between David/Nicolas— personal friends and creative partners— and his own dynamic with The Lighthouse Co-Founder, Hany Bassiouny.
“Investing is about proving a thesis.” Feras Jalbout on the nascent investing culture in the region, crypto currencies and launching his trading app Baraka
In today’s episode, Hashem caught up with Feras Jalbout, founder of fintech app Baraka. A UAE-based platform, Baraka’s motto is empowering the investor and encouraging broader financial literacy among millennials and Gen Z’s in the Middle East. Hashem and Feras also discussed his pivot from private wealth management to launching Baraka, the future of crypto currencies, and Feras’ dress code tip for increasing efficiency.
“Barbeque is an analogue experience.” Hattem Mattar on the subtle science of live fire cuisine and why he finally made the jump to a full time gig
Welcome back, listeners! In our first episode post-summer, host Hashem Montasser caught up with Hattem Mattar, founder of The Mattar Farm for specialty artisanal smoked meat, brisket and third culture barbecues. Hashem and Hattem chatted about the hybridity of his upbringing; life as a father of two young children; and what finally pushed him to turn The Mattar Farm from side gig to main gig. Hashem and Hattem also delved into the subtle science of live fire cuisine and why Hattem does not see The Mattar Farm as a scalable business...for now.
“Nothing is more important than the founder.” Khaled Talhouni on his journey from venture capital to supporting startups with Nuwa Capital
This week we dive into the world of venture capital and startup investing as Hashem catches up with Khaled Talhouni, Founder and Managing Director of Nuwa Capital, a Dubai/Riyadh-based investment platform he set up with partners Stephanie Nour Prince and Sarah Abu Risheh. Hashem and Khaled discuss his journey in the early days of venture investing in Dubai and why he prefers investing in a startup rather than operating one. Khaled shares his views on identity politics and the startup ecosystem in the Middle East vs. Silicon Valley. Hashem and Khaled also talk about what goes into supporting a startup and why the founder is the most important part of the equation.
A glimpse into the Careem mafia
Why software is eating the world
A breath of fresh air
These are interesting, free flowing, and honest conversations about art and culture in the Arab world. A niche subject perhaps, but quite accessible to the curious novice while managing to hold the interest of those with a little more exposure.
Reviewing the host/interviewer
Hashem is a natural conversationalist with a healthy curiosity and the occasional probing in pursuit of the essence of the story.
Deeply rooted in the oral traditions of storytelling in the region, you’ll find fluidity to the interview, and when a Segway is warranted, Hashem will add his narration/editorial note.