We sat with Areije Al Shakar, Senior Vice President, Head of the Development Services Division at Bahrain Development Bank (BDB) and most recently as Fund Manager for the Al Waha venture Capital Fund of Funds- the first active fund of funds out of the GCC.
After the start of her career in investment banking, Areije found her passion for entrepreneurship eight years ago when she joined BDB. During this period, she has been called one of the industry’s steadiest and most reliable leaders. Areije spends much of her time coaching and mentoring not only entrepreneurs but the team she leads at BDB.
On Areije’s role leading Al Waha VC fund, and advice for entrepreneurs seeking financial backups
I’ve have been working in development and with entrepreneurs for the past eight years, so I’ve seen the growth in Bahrain ‘s support towards the eco-system and its entrepreneurs
What’s exciting about leading Al Waha VC fund is definitely being able to see the full term of the circle from investing into a startup to watching it grow and ultimately bring back funding. Now I’m part of a new initiative whereby I know that we work with great entrepreneurs to build and grow great initiatives.
If you really believe in something, you need to be sure that when you go out and present it to someone and that you’re clear about what you want to do, I think that’s extremely important. Don’t get discouraged if someone doesn’t get your idea, but instead try to push through and find somebody that might be able to see from your point of view.
As investors or coaches, our job is to help guide you to take that idea forward and maybe help formulate the scenario, but not to actually formulate the idea— so you need to be well prepared to present it. And it doesn’t matter which stage you’re at— even if you’re at the early stage and it’s just an idea, you have to ultimately understand how do to manage it or commercialize it.
Another thing I would say is that some entrepreneurs don’t do as much research as they should. This region has various mentors and the BDB Rowad network is just one of them. Entrepreneurs should actively go after and try to get investors to give them their time.
That being said, when you do connect with investors prepare yourself well. You are more likely to get support and guidance if you approach investors while prepared. So don’t be shy to ask them to connect you to a certain market or person. As a mentor I would appreciate this and this is what I’m here to do, is to help support and get what you need.
On the key attributes which makes great entrepreneurs
The key attributes which I see are continuous determination, curiosity and hunger . You can be passionate about your idea, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to create a company or succeed in a company. It’s that hunger that will take you far, there will be a lot of roadblocks that will come in your way and if you’re not hungry to create that solution or that path, it’s very easy to give up. So that hunger and determination and discipline are needed to continue because there are going to be days where you will be faced with challenges and if you’re not disciplined enough to push through then I think you’re not ready.
On the last three books she read, and which one is her all-time favorite
I am currently reading a book that my husband recommended to me which is Sapiens. And the other book which I read lately was “How the gut is your second brain”.
My favorite book which I loved even before entering the entrepreneurship industry, is called The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand and ironically that book has been recommended to people who really want to learn about entrepreneurship.
On saving for the future, and preparing for retirement
I think what really is special about Wahed is that for somebody who actually doesn’t even know how to save and invest, Wahed makes it easy for them to set money aside every month and just forget about it, and if they are able to withdraw and use their money at any time.
One thing that has stopped me from investing was money accessibility. I would ask myself what if I need that money? Sometimes you’re not even able to take it out or there are saving programs that the banks offer you for like certain types of benefits, where they give you a retirement plan but even then you really don’t have immediate access to your money, so you could be saving month on month from your salary and then when you need to take it out to buy a car or to have to send your kid off to college there are all these barriers where you know you actually have to retire from the company to then be able to take your money.