For the Perfect Pitch, “Do your homework" says DFDF CEO, Sharif El-Badawi

For the Perfect Pitch, “Do your homework" says DFDF CEO, Sharif El-Badawi

By Nazmia Nassereddine, 17 March 2024

The Perfect Pitch Podcast is a captivating series recently launched by Lucidity Insights designed for entrepreneurs and startup founders seeking expert advice on how best to start their fundraising process and pitch their business ideas successfully to venture capitalists. This podcast stands out for its in-depth discussions with seasoned investors and industry leaders in the Middle East and Africa region who share their insights on what makes a business pitch resonate and how startups can navigate the challenging waters of fundraising and approaching venture capitalists.

In the inaugural episode of the Perfect Pitch Podcast, the host and Chief Content Officer, Erika Welch, sits down with Sharif El-Badawi, CEO of Dubai Future District Fund (DFDF). For those of you unfamiliar with DFDF, it’s not just another investment fund, but a strategic effort aiming to cement Dubai as a global nexus for future industries and innovation. Backed by the Dubai government with a commitment of over 1 billion AED (US $300 million), DFDF is an evergreen investment fund that invests in both Venture Capital firms and Startups in Dubai and across the region. DFDF is a critical component of Dubai’s broader vision to cultivate an ecosystem of technological excellence and innovation-driven entrepreneurship.

Sharif's career began at AdMob before it was acquired by Google in 2009 for US $750 million in stock. After the acquisition, he led performance advertising strategies for North America’s largest clients and later served as Partner Lead to VCs and startups, helping integrate Google's resources with burgeoning tech companies. Later, Sharif was Founding Manager Partner at Plus Venture Capital and Managing Partner at 500 Global for their MENA outfit. 500 Global is a venture capital firm with over $2.7B in Assets Under Management that invests early in founders building fast-growing technology companies. Between the two, he has invested in over 150 companies across 15 countries within the MENAPT region.

As an investor with operational experience founding several companies himself, Sharif brings to this podcast and our listeners an inside scoop on investment in MENA and beyond, offering priceless insights for founders eager to know what investors are looking for in a pitch.

Know the Language of Your Industry

During the podcast, Sharif unpacks the layers of what it takes to make a business pitch beyond ‘good enough’, to something really great. The "perfect pitch" goes beyond the problem-solution narrative that most founders target; it's about demonstrating understanding of the pain point through data and showing that your solution is viable and potentially leading in the market.

“Are you using the vocabulary of the specific sector you're targeting?” he asks. “Investors need to hear the metrics of your business model in that initial pitch,” says Sharif. In Fintech, he explains that it's transaction or take-rate based. If it's commerce, he says he expects to hear about your funnel, basket size, and churn rates? He speaks into how important it is for investors to hear you, as the founder, speak the language of a business person in that field.

"It becomes very clear from the first pitch whether people know what they're talking about," says Sharif.

Is Your Startup a VC-Backable Business?

Scalability and traction are non-negotiable to Sharif. He looks for evidence that a startup can not only sustain but also amplify its profitability as it scales, which for investors involves scrutinizing the business model, technology robustness, and market scalability. Effective traction shows that the startup has nailed the three pillars: team synergy, product development, and market capture.

He advises startups to present robust growth figures, customer testimonials, and adaptability to market feedback in their pitches. This approach not only reflects the startup's current market position but also reassures investors like Sharif of its potential for sustained growth and success.

Sharif also speaks into the reality that Venture Capital firms also have to fundraise themselves, and have their own investors that they have to report back to. He explains, in detail, the returns that they are looking to make off of startups that they back. Ultimately, they are looking to back various startups that have the potential to become unicorns, and provide a 10-20X return on investment. At minimum, the average startup must return 4X to keep the fund healthy and robust. He talks about the many startups that exist out there that may be profitable and interesting, but simply don’t have the growth trajectory to interest venture capitalists.

Do Your Homework!

Ever wonder why some pitches fail? Sharif didn't shy away from discussing the common pitfalls in pitching to investors and what some of his biggest pet peeves are. The key misstep, in his view, is poor preparation.

“Understanding your investor’s focus, aligning with their portfolio—these are musts,” he notes, stressing the importance of meticulous preparation not just for your pitch but the entire operational strategy. Failure in these basic tasks is often a red flag about a startup’s overall strategic alignment and operational execution. He also stresses that founders should understand which investors are the best fit for their stage of development and industry and tailor their pitches accordingly.

"I expect them to do their homework before they come to the table, for their own good. If you can't do the qualification on your investors, how do I trust that you're qualifying the people you're hiring, that you're qualifying the potential go-to-market strategy and what customers are the right customers?"

Timeless Advice for Founders

Think beyond the typical quick exit strategy. Don’t be afraid to challenge the common startup mindset that focuses on rapid exits and funding rounds,” warns Sharif, stressing the importance of building a sustainable, long-term business and the strategic thinking required to achieve enduring success. Establishing a business that endures beyond the buzz of initial launches requires a deep commitment to long-term vision and strategic planning, and fundraising is an integral part of your strategic toolkit for building a sustainable business.

In this episode, Sharif reflects on his experience teaching fundraising, drawing a compelling analogy between successful sales strategies and effective fundraising efforts. Both require a deep understanding of the target audience, precise messaging, and strategic planning to achieve the desired outcome. In sales, this might mean understanding customer pain-points and tailoring product benefits directly to meet those needs. In fundraising, it translates into articulating a clear vision and value proposition that aligns with the interests and goals of potential investors. Think of fundraising not just as asking for money but as an opportunity to expand your company’s reach through partnerships fostered by your pitches.

Another strong tip he provided was to “take the time necessary to self-reflect and assess your own readiness and positioning relative to the market demands and investor expectations.” Doing this double-check for the perfect balance between external research and personal reflection will allow you, as a founder, to navigate the challenging waters of entrepreneurship with confidence and precision.

This was such a podcast that was full of insights and nuggets of wisdom. You can tune-in to the full podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts. The series is called, “The Perfect Pitch” by Lucidity Insights. You can get the full story, watch or listen to the podcast at or find the Lucidity Insights Podcast on Spotify, Youtube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you stream your podcasts.

You can find this episode and more from the Perfect Pitch Podcast at:


- YouTube

- Spotify

- Apple Podcasts

Related Report

Dubai's Venture Capital Ecosystem

There are 749 scale-ups that have raised over US $1 million in fundraising in the Middle East and North Africa region; collectively raising over US $19.5 billion, cumulatively, as of December 2022. Over 40% of these scale-ups call Dubai home.

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