Getting hold of Salwa Katkhuda proved to be very challenging. One day she’s in Dubai, the other in New York, the following in Beirut. It took a while, but we finally did the interview. eniGma’s Omnia Zaied talks to Katkhuda of Oasis500 about what it takes to be an entrepreneur in the Middle East.
My first encounter with Katkhuda was during one of Oasis500’s boot camps. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Oasis500, it is the first seed and early stage investment company in the Middle East focused on IT investment. The company provides young entrepreneurs with financial and technical support and mentorship. Providing all these services depends to a large extent on Katkhuda’s many talents and expertise.
She is not just beautiful, smart, and experienced, she is adamant on making you get your act together and making something out of your ideas, if you prove to be worthy of her time. A bachelor’s degree in finance from McGill University in Montreal and an MBA from the London Business School give her the credibility to do so. “Right after college I worked in strategy consulting in London for two years then I went back to Jordan. I worked in investment banking for a while before establishing my own business, a recreational gym for children,” she recalls.
It was during that time that she decided to go back to finance, joining the founding team of Oasis500 with Dr. Usama Fayyad, Executive Chairman of Oasis500, a rather inspiring man himself. “It was Dr. Usama who convinced me to delegate the responsibilities of my own startup to my partners and join him as a founding team member back in 2010. At that time I was finishing my MBA and was excited to find a new challenge. Oasis sounded like a great opportunity at the time,” says Katkhuda.
Oasis500 was the right place for Katkhuda to apply everything she’d learnt and to pass on her extensive knowledge, something she not only enjoys but is also incredibly good at. Since 2010 she has assisted about 1300 entrepreneurs and helped invest in 61 startups. “My role in Oasis500 begins with training potential entrepreneurs in building and understanding their financial statements. I am also responsible for filtering and selecting companies that go through the training and ultimately for investing in the ones that fit our criteria as a fund,” she says. Yet once the investment decision is taken, her role doesn’t stop there. She, along with the team, take chosen entrepreneurs through a 100-day acceleration plan where they coach companies on setting strategic milestones and on refining their investment pitches to enable them to raise additional funding.
It all seems a bit too complicated but the ease with which Katkhuda does it all makes you feel this is exactly what she was born to do. She is confident as she explains her thoughts, coaches, and accompanies entrepreneurs through the different phases and helps them raise funds from all over the globe.