'We're not all Steve Jobs,' says Starz Play chief Maaz Sheikh

Startups need to take a step back and recognise their mistakes, says founder of streaming service
Maaz Sheikh, founder and co-chief executive of Dubai-based online streaming service Starz Play speaking at the Arabian Business Startup Academy, with Kay Marham, Arabian Business Startup magazine editor.
By Lubna Hamdan
Wed 06 Dec 2017 11:04 AM

Startup founders are “not all Steve Jobs,” which is why they should recognise when their products are not successful, according to Maaz Sheikh, founder and co-chief executive of Dubai-based online streaming service Starz Play.

Speaking at the Arabian Business Start Up Academy, Sheikh said entrepreneurs tend to be very optimistic and self-confident in their abilities, leading them to overlook their mistakes.

“We can’t predict how the market will be, so it’s equally important to have the ability to recognise when you’re not doing something right, when something you executed isn’t going right,” he said, adding that he had two startups in the past with mixed success that didn’t do as well as Starz Play is doing.

However, the streaming service, which offers subscriptions for Arabic, English and Bollywood content for $7 a month across the Middle East, had its own share of challenges in the past two years since it launched in 2015. One such challenge is payments and use of credit cards.

“There are lots of aspects of our business that are doing much better than expected, but then there are other aspects that are far more challenging than we expected.

"We offer the service online, but the way you charge the customer is extremely important. Outside of the UAE, credit card management is an issue, and people’s confidence in using their credit card is even lower inside the market,” he said.

“We solved that problem by working with telecom operators and offering low payments. Looking back, this was an obvious point, but three, four years ago when we were getting started, it was hard to calibrate how big this would be. This is just one example of adjusting to the market and realising when you don’t get things exactly right, that you’ve made a mistake. It’s important to step back and look at how the picture has unfolded,” he added.

Starz Play has generated 700,000 subscribers since launching in the Middle East. It secured a total of $125 million since its inception, and is planning to expand in countries including Pakistan.

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