"Building from zero to a million is harder than running a billion-dollar company,” says Noor Sweid at Global Ventures

"Building from zero to a million is harder than running a billion-dollar company,” says Noor Sweid at Global Ventures

By Nazmia Nassereddine, 24 March 2024

Lucidity Insights was back with another episode of The Perfect Pitch podcast, this time featuring Noor Sweid, Founding and Managing Partner of Dubai-based Global Ventures. When you first hear Noor's voice in this episode, you can't help but be drawn into her compelling narrative, having charted a path for herself from strategy consultant to venture capitalist covering the Middle East and Africa.

Noor began her career as a strategy consultant, first working with Biopharma clients at Accenture, and later in government projects in the Middle East - before fate would have her accept a role at her father’s interior contracting company, Depa Group. Equipped with an MBA from MIT, she came in to support Depa Group’s global expansion and subsequent IPO, first listing on the London Stock Exchange and later on NASDAQ Dubai. By the time she left the Group, Depa was operating in 22 markets around the world.

During her tenure at Depa Group, Noor spoke about how challenging it was moving from Boston to Dubai in the late 2000’s with nowhere to go to practice yoga, for her preferred mental wellness regimen.  She recalls missing the tranquility and balance that yoga had brought to her life back in Boston. "It really kept me sane," she says, "especially living such a high-speed life."

It’s hard to imagine a time when yoga studios were absent in Dubai, as the city is teeming with them today, but at that time “there was nothing,” she explains. And that is precisely when we first catch a glimpse of Noor’s entrepreneurial drive.  She then went on to establish one of Dubai's first chain of yoga studios, Zen Yoga. "I woke up one Friday morning and thought, 'That's wonderful, I'm going to create a yoga studio!... ‘How hard could it be, right?” She paused, and then confessed with a laugh, "I was very, very wrong.”

What seemed like a straightforward project quickly became a full-fledged business challenge, as Noor had to bring in properly trained yoga teachers from the US to Dubai and help her transform a former gym into a tranquil yoga haven in the heart of Dubai. As Zen Yoga grew, so did the complexities. "It wasn't reducing stress as was originally intended,” she says. “Instead, it was creating stress for me," Noor recalls. The growth and stress soon led her to sell the studio to a private equity firm, a decision that came unexpectedly but Noor affirms was a pivotal learning experience in her career.

"Was I actively looking for that exit? No, it came to me, but I mean, I think most really good things that happen in life tend to fall out of the sky, right? So to just be open enough and be curious enough to explore the opportunities, I think that's key and fundamental," she says.

The establishment of Zen Yoga as one of the largest chains of yoga and pilates studios in the Middle East was about spotting a glaring gap in the market and daring to fill it, Noor reveals in the episode, giving listeners a masterclass in identifying opportunities and boldly seizing them. For anyone looking to blend their passions with practicality, and for millennials eager to make their mark, Noor's journey is an affirmation that with the right blend of passion, foresight, and resilience, it's possible to craft not just a business, but a lifestyle movement.

Noor’s experiences in the startup ecosystem of Dubai culminated in a stark realization: access to capital was pivotal for entrepreneurial growth, yet profoundly lacking in the Middle East at the time. This insight led her to angel investing and subsequently, to the establishment of Global Ventures in 2018. At Global Ventures, Noor leverages her vast experiences to support growth-stage firms, focusing on creating systemic impacts and fostering sustainable innovation.

I loved listening to this episode, because it’s clear you’re sitting down with one of MENA’s top venture capitalists and one of the World's Top Women in Tech – as recognized by Forbes, to give listeners the inside scoop on what it really takes to thrive in today's rapidly evolving tech landscape.

Here are just a handful of insights I gleaned from this episode with Noor Sweid, Founding and Managing Partner at Global Ventures:

1. Understanding the Ecosystem

One of the most striking insights Noor offers in the podcast is about the integral role that governments play in nurturing the entrepreneurial ecosystem, especially in regions like the Middle East. Many new founders may not fully appreciate how government policies and support can be foundational rather than just supplementary. Throughout the discussion, Noor advises founders in MENA to challenge the often Western-centric narrative of tech entrepreneurship, and really appreciate how government policies and support can be pivotal for any startup aiming to navigate or expand in such dynamic markets like Dubai and Riyadh. She also explains how it’s not that different from Europe or the US, where governments and institutions are the major funders of venture capital in those markets.

2. Resilience in Entrepreneurship

If you're looking for raw, honest reflections on the challenges of entrepreneurship, Noor's conversation about resilience will not disappoint. She doesn’t shy away from telling audiences about the tough realities of building a business, going beyond the glamorous success stories often portrayed in the media, with an emphasis on passion as the ultimate driver through tough times for a profound lesson in endurance and commitment.

Recalling how the COVID-19 pandemic tested businesses worldwide, Noor's insights into how companies navigated these turbulent times are both inspiring and instructive. She highlights the importance of adaptability and the need for visionary leadership during crises, helping listeners understand how successful companies pivoted and adapted in response to global shifts to offer current and aspiring entrepreneurs a blueprint for managing disruptions.

"The days that you think you cannot make it, the only thing that keeps you going is the desire to solve the problem," she said, explaining why she’d always back a passionate problem-solver over a trend-hopping wannabe entrepreneur.

3. Emerging Trends and Opportunities

Noor's enthusiasm for sectors like agritech and supply chain technologies is contagious, and her expertise shines throughout the episode as she discusses why these industries are prime for innovation and how startups can capitalize on these opportunities now. For those of you interested in where technology and investment are heading next, Noor's foresight into emerging trends is a goldmine which could very well spark the next big idea or shift in your business strategy.

"Being an entrepreneur and building from zero to a million dollars revenue in some ways harder than running a billion-dollar company. We're always looking for opportunities where the government is not just an enabler but where it can actively participate in creating a market, particularly in new and emerging technologies."

4. The Perfect Pitch

And finally, the million-dollar question — what makes the perfect pitch? Noor eloquently breaks down the essence of pitching to our listeners, emphasizing a harmonious blend of passion and precision. Whether you're a founder who thrives on data or one who is driven by a compelling story, Noor's advice on achieving balance could be the key to your next successful pitch. She tells us what investors are really looking for, and how you can articulate your vision in a way that resonates both emotionally and logically with potential backers in the fundraising arena.

"The perfect pitch looks different depending on the founder,” says Noor. "I think some founders would deliver a pitch in a way that's driven from a problem they're solving and something they really care about, while other founders deliver it much more analytically, right? And that suits the different founders just as well; it doesn't have to be one or the other. It can be both, and depending on where you lean naturally, you need to then beef up the other side."

Solid advice from a solid investor. If you want more nuggets of wisdom to support your fundraising efforts, tune into the full episode. You can get the full story, watch or listen to the podcast at LucidityInsights.com or find the Lucidity Insights Podcast on Spotify, Youtube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get stream your podcasts.

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

- Lucidity.com

- 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.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest news, special reports, videos, infobytes, and features on the region's most notable entrepreneurial ecosystems