En­tre­pre­neur of the Week: Ma­harati CEO Greg Huck

The dig­i­tal mar­ket­place aims to meet the ne­ces­si­ties of the gig econ­omy

Arabian Business English - - CONTENTS -

A dig­i­tal mar­ket­place made to cater to the ev­ery­day re­al­i­ties of the new gig econ­omy

Why did you launch?

I started Ma­harati to meet the global changes that tech­nol­ogy is bring­ing into the em­ployee-em­ployer re­la­tion­ship. I wanted to build a dig­i­tal mar­ket­place that meets the ne­ces­sity of flex­i­ble hours and job free­dom, but that could also help ad­dress re­gional and global is­sues.

It’s cur­rently es­ti­mated that youth con­sti­tute 51 per­cent of total un­em­ploy­ment in the MENA re­gion, whilst glob­ally, 30-45 per­cent of the world’s work­ing age pop­u­la­tion are cur­rently un­em­ployed, in­ac­tive or un­der­em­ployed. Ma­harati was en­vi­sioned as a platform that would en­cour­age youth and adults to cre­ate and grow an on­line com­mu­nity work­place – the work­place of the fu­ture.

Why does the mar­ket need an­other e-comms platform? In the Mid­dle East, whilst ride hail­ing, food de­liv­ery and home ser­vices are com­mon­place as part of the

gig econ­omy, free­lance work­force mar­ket­places are in their in­fancy, so there is a huge op­por­tu­nity for Ma­harati to es­tab­lish it­self in the re­gional land­scape. With over 33 per­cent of to­day’s work­force par­tic­i­pat­ing in the on-de­mand free­lance econ­omy, it ap­pears an in­evitable out­come for the re­gion to adopt a mod­ern free­lancer mar­ket­place.

It’s also great for the re­gional com­mu­nity on both sides of the mar­ket­place. All com­pa­nies can use Ma­harati in an on-de­mand na­ture, to bridge skills gaps and scale quickly when projects are awarded. In­di­vid­u­als can ben­e­fit from the gig econ­omy; such as stu­dents look­ing to de­velop their skills, stay at home moms want­ing work flex­i­bil­ity, and employees look­ing to re­place their nine to five of­fice hours for a no­madic, dig­i­tal life­style.

What do you ex­pect Ma­harati to grow into?

We ran an in­ter­nal mindmesh and the team put for­ward some amaz­ing ideas about our vi­sions and goals. From the out­set we wanted to in­crease the re­gional work­place par­tic­i­pa­tion rate and re­duce the global un­der­util­i­sa­tion rates. Ma­harati is striv­ing to be­come the largest on­line com­mu­nity of dig­i­tal skills and we’d love to usher in the new gen­er­a­tion of work­ers and pro­duce the first Ara­bic free­lance mil­lion­aire via the platform.

Are you look­ing to raise more fund­ing and by when?

Yes. We are in the process of rais­ing our first round out­side of our cur­rent pri­vate in­vestors. It would be great to close out the round to see in our new strate­gies for 2019.

How dif­fi­cult was it for you to raise fund­ing?

In some ways, our ini­tial pri­vate fund­ing was rel­a­tively straight for­ward as most of the in­vestors were known to me, and we’d been brain­storm­ing the Ma­harati con­cept for some time. We did some mar­ket re­search which val­i­dated our own pro­jec­tions and just made it hap­pen.

What were some of the chal­lenges you faced while rais­ing fund­ing?

Our cur­rent round is at an in­ter­est­ing time in the mar­ket, so our chal­lenges are prob­a­bly the same as most re­gional star­tups. It’s find­ing fund­ing from sources that be­lieve in you as an en­tre­pre­neur, that share the vi­sion and can help you scale as quickly as your fore­cast. I have also found it’s pitch­ing a fine line be­tween be­ing “in” the re­gion and com­pet­ing or dom­i­nat­ing at a global level.

What are some so­lu­tions to the GCC’s fund­ing gap? Ul­ti­mately, there is a lot of cap­i­tal held in funds across the GCC, but right now it does feel that those funds are in­vest­ing in late rounds of es­tab­lished brands with much smaller risk pro­files. It’s a del­i­cate dance, as al­ways, on both sides of the fund­ing coin. The GCC is cre­at­ing great op­por­tu­ni­ties through ac­cel­er­a­tors and early stage hubs, and I be­lieve this men­tor­ship and guid­ance is key to not only as­sist­ing in the raise process, but also re­fin­ing star­tups from the out­set to be more in­vestible.

What are some of the big­gest chal­lenges you cur­rently face? As with any mar­ket­place, it’s cre­at­ing the net­work ef­fect. On-board­ing the right


bal­ance of Ma­harati com­mu­nity users on both the de­mand and sup­ply side to en­hance the util­ity of the net­work for all users. Once we achieve the ef­fect, it’s then about two sided in­cen­tives. How do we keep both buy­ers and sellers in the mar­ket­place? These are our big­gest chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties, and also part of the fun of run­ning a startup.

What more needs to be done in the GCC start-up space to sup­port SMEs?

For Ma­harati specif­i­cally, more ini­tia­tives in the bank­ing sec­tor re­volv­ing around cross-bor­der and mar­ket­place pay­ments would cre­ate an edge not just for us, but the re­gional e-com­merce sec­tor. Ma­harati is a bor­der­less platform but pay­out pro­cesses and tech­nolo­gies are still very tra­di­tional and fee driven. From a higher-level view point, be­ing such a young coun­try, there con­tin­ues to be fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­ni­ties for growth, ideas and ini­tia­tives. It’s go­ing to be a very ex­cit­ing land­scape in the leadup to 2020 and be­yond.

What are your fu­ture plans? We have some cool stuff in the pipe­line from a tech­nol­ogy and com­mu­nity per­spec­tive. As we are al­ready in over 130 coun­tries, it’s go­ing to be about lev­er­ag­ing what we’ve al­ready started with Machine Learn­ing and some AI to re­ally evolve into the work­place of the fu­ture.

Greg Hucker

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