Tuba Tereki: My Intention Is to Grow Ten Companies to Financial Stardom in Ten Years
An Entrepreneur, Mentor, Investor, Speaker, and 'Passionista' for Human Endeavor, Tuba Tereki learnt to code at 11 years old and graduated from high school at 16. Growing up in Saudi Arabia, she has been unfazed by cultural or societal views being a young woman; working as an international business consultant and bringing many new initiatives to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Thanks so much for allowing us to interview you, Tuba. We are so impressed with your extensive experience and the work you do in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and International with start-ups. Dubai has a very entrepreneurial job market, yet we aren’t as established as Silicon Valley. Where do you see lots of entrepreneurs falling short?
I think most of the start-ups are copy models of some existing business model trying to get localized. Silicon Valley was founded on the basis of defence industry and all the patents and hard core technologies that branched out from it. To have the government as a buyer was crucial to kick it off. It is not a repeatable model and we should focus on the strengths of our region’s needs, and any business that solves a key problem with innovation will not necessarily find a market unless it serves the actual needs of customers who are willing to pay for it. Building a business in Dubai just because a similar one exists elsewhere is a lost cause. We need original deep tech led entrepreneurial companies that are original solutions.
You are a huge supporter of women proactively driving their careers through education, which we love. What professions do you advise more women to become educated in?
Definitely Venture Capital, Fund Management, Commercialization, Digital Media, Computer Science AI and all types of VR.
You talk about the importance of building a ‘heat map’ as you would do with any new website, but as a crucial step for establishing your company. Explain to us this concept.
I believe that those that go into tech start-ups are far too fascinated about their websites and far less about their practical market research. Just like you would carry out a heat map to check the validity of the function and design of one’s website, you should do so for your business model. Check that all the components are to talking of the target clients, may it be partners or customers. You need to gauge their key interests and engage them offline too.
Growing up in Saudi Arabia, did you feel pressure from cultural or age barriers when you were embarking on your career? With the new law passed that enables women to drive, has there been any other changes?
Yes of course but then women at any level of their career receive pressure anywhere in the world especially if they are in tech or project management. As for the impact of driving, I am sure it will be great to see them drive to take care of themselves and we will see the impact after the law is in effect after June..
We are interested to hear more about the female entrepreneurs you work with, and what are some characteristics they share?
Well majority of them want to work for themselves after several years of having worked for companies and they come up with an idea that solves a real problem that they are passionate about. They certainly have more drive and organization skills that allows their teams to excel. However, I notice two key elements that are mostly missing, the way they tackle consumer engagement, and the way they handle their cash flow. When they are laser-focused they somehow miss those two critically important components of their business and most investors notice it immediately. The majority are fast learners and gather up information and skills to see themselves through but the best teams are a mix of both female and male.
You find the fact that they don’t have an e-sport championship for women ‘mystical.’ How can we support these women?
Yes, with so many great female players out there, why we don’t have regional e-sport championships is beyond me. I truly believe that if such an event was held most of the players would come out and face the daylight clearly showing us the potential. I know any gamers event here in Saudi at least half the crowd is female players but they are far too shy to showcase their skills.
Not only are you a business-savvy woman, you are also a mother of 4! As someone who started coding at the age of 11, are your girls interested in tech as well? How can we support children and their learning?
I have tried with my own kids, they don’t mind building tiny robots that carry their things around but they aren’t into hard-core programming. Programming is a skill set of true patience and we are raising our generation with all the mobile tools away from that. But Minecraft is a great start for them and so is code.org for them to develop their own apps. My daughters spend whole weekends in Minecraft and my 9-year-old is better than the elders as younger ones learn faster. We have to keep in mind in the coming years coding will be as regular as using Microsoft word in the workplace.
You are focused on scaling ten start-ups as a focus right now to turnovers of 10 billion – an impressive feat. What do you look for in starts ups to support?
Yes, this is a program I am currently working on building called the TENX and it is for the companies of the region. I believe in the theory of the one-mile dash, if one can break it others will follow. So my intention is to grow ten companies to financial stardom in ten years. The companies would have had at least a two year run of healthy progress and are at the scale-up stage for us to consider them. Now, working on the partnerships to see this through.
We think it’s important to reach for the top, and not settle for the ‘status quo.’ What has been the biggest career learning of your life to date?
Simply put as the grand master Steve Jobs said “Think Different”. I always had a knack for finding better alternatives that improved a company’s operations in whichever sector with the logic and system design skills complemented by hours of reading on innovation daily. Even if you are in executive management, finding the power to speak up wasn’t easy though, it took courage and years of communication development as to how to address the mostly male management without agitating them. Once they figure out you are useful, they don’t give you up..
Tuba Terekli is an international business consultant with focus on developments in 57 countries in addition to her roles as the Co-founder and MD of Lead Angels and Co-founder of Qotuf Al Riyadah Development Company, the first Private Entrepreneurship Foundation in Saudi Arabia. She has further established the First Accelerator in Saudi Arabia Flat6LabsJeddah, is the Country Host for Global Entrepreneurship Week in Saudi, The Host for The Creative Business Cup Saudi among many other initiatives that she has brought to the entrepreneurial ecosystem since 2011.