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Sun 21 Jul 2019 03:09 PM

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Entrepreneur of the Week: Sultan Al Masri, founder of Acquico

Dubai-based entrepreneur wants his platform Acquico to become the leading marketplace connecting start-ups with investors

Entrepreneur of the Week: Sultan Al Masri, founder of Acquico
Sultan Al Masri, founder of Acquico.

How did the idea for Acquico come about and why did you decide to launch it?

I always wanted to create something that added value and opportunity to the market. I’d say one of my strong suits is networking and I’ve been lucky to be in a position where I could meet investors (institutional and individual) socially and through my career.

I decided to make use of this network and started making offline connections between businesses and investors, and I quickly learnt that this was something missing and needed.

Where did the name come from?

When I started thinking about names, I knew that it had to be something that was catchy and, in a way, made sense in relation to the business. Basically, Acquico is a combination of the words ‘acquire’ and ‘company’.

What is your business model?

It’s a subscription-based model. We’re working on three plans: basic (free), three months as well as six months (both paid).

We’re focused on MENA but ultimately have no restrictions on the regions we serve

The difference between a basic and a paid account is the information that will be displayed and shared with investors. A basic plan profile is limited to the business name, overview, and how to contact the founders. Whereas a paid account will feature all the information provided by the business - this includes information considered a minimum to generate any interest from investors.

Are you bootstrapping the business? Tell us a little bit about your funding journey and the difficulties of raising funds in the UAE.

I am bootstrapping the business. We’ve been self-funded so far, running at a steady pace and overcoming any roadblock as we go along. We’re very determined, however, and look forward to what the future holds for us.

Why does the market need a platform like Acquico?

To create opportunity – we position ourselves as an investor marketplace for early stage and start-up venture opportunities.

Founders have the ability to reach X investors in X locations via one profile upload – this will get you anything from a connection, to feedback, to hopefully a deal.

What are some of your biggest challenges at the moment?

I would say our biggest challenge at this stage has to be “trust”.  It’s not easy connecting with founders as an unknown business asking them to submit sensitive information about theirs.

We get some pushback and founders are more willing to announce the fact that they're raising, rather than openly provide information.

What are your predictions for the region’s entrepreneurial industry in the coming years?

We can see firsthand the changes and adaptations to creating an entrepreneur-friendly environment by the governments in the region – investors are taking higher bets when investing and are hungry for more. Everybody wants to be an entrepreneur, it’s not an easy journey and many don’t attempt it.

On a global scale, we want to become the go-to marketplace for both businesses and investors to connect

However, the community’s support is amazing, you are encouraged to take that path; the roads are being built to make it easier for entrepreneurs to focus on the business side of things rather than waste time and effort worrying about anything else.

How is Acquico performing at the moment and since launching?

We’re growing at a steady pace, we’ve connected multiple businesses and heard about a few funded. We are slowly starting to build Acquico 2.0 to bring the best experience to our users.

How many businesses have you helped raise funds since launching?

We don’t promise funding, we’re here to help the business get a wider reach, spark interest from investors and put you on the discussion table with potential investors. Once that’s done, the founder has to close the deal.

What are your future growth and expansion plans for the business?

We’re focused on the MENA but ultimately have no restrictions on the regions we serve. When we see an opportunity, wherever it may be, we approach it and hope to bring the value that they need. We’re working on creating specific global markets with dedicated focus, making it easier for businesses to be found.

What do you see it growing into?

On a global scale, we want to become the go-to marketplace for both businesses and investors to connect.

Have you seen any negative impact on funds available for start-ups and SMEs, following and as a result of the collapse of Abraaj in Dubai?

No, I wouldn’t say and can’t see that it did. We’ve seen great investments so far this year; new Middle East-specific funds are being introduced with easier processes and much friendlier approaches to businesses. The appetite for investment is as healthy as ever and this will grow. This is a great time for start-ups.

What did you do prior to Acquico?

I worked in the financial trading industry with a London-based firm, One Financial Markets, and prior to that I was working with IG. I was a premium client manager looking after high net worth (HNW) clients in the region.

If you could go back, what would you have done differently in your career and also in the process of setting up your business Acquico?

Not a thing; everything I’ve done led me to this point – I’m happy with the way things are turning out and I’m confident in its future.

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