Nozidees - a story of a Moroccan Startup

So @Nadia came up with this cool idea to interview each other in order to practice writing the case studies and I decided to interview @Driss (he’s going to interview me too) as he is the Engagement Manager for Morocco and as I am very much interested in having Moroccans on the platform ( I have been actively involved in helping @Alberto prepare for his mission in Casablanca/Rabat by finding key people to meet with + someone who would qualify as an Engagement Manager) I decided to do this exercise with Driss to get to know him better.

Driss El Moudni is a young Moroccan entrepreneur who established an advertising agency Nozidees in Casablanca in 2013. You can read his introduction here to learn more about his background.

After coming back to Morocco from Spain he decides to open his own communication and consulting agency as he didn’t want to work in tourism industry mostly as it has a disadvantage of not having regular days off. He rented an office in the downtown Casablanca in a prestigious district of Anfa, which he says is very important for the reputation of the agency.

Who’s involved:  Who is in the team? Roles and responsibilities? Skillsets (what are individual team members good at?) 

“There are 8 people in the team specialized in marketing, communications, project management and design. I take care of accounting(paying taxes, salaries, etc) and management of the projects coordinating with the team. Each one in the team is important and affects directly the work. As a startup we can’t afford to hire more people so everyone is working more than they should, but we all love the job.”

What your main objectives are/why you do this?

"I undertook this experience especially for the lifestyle it offers.I did not want to have a straight living environment, where I have to wake up every day at 8 am and where my days are alike.

My main goal is to achieve end to have a decent income and especially time. I think it is the greatest luxury we can afford in life."

What you enjoy about the work and what you enjoy less?

“I do this job because I am creative and I hate monotony and with this job, each project is unique. this is why I do this. What I enjoy less is the omnipresent stress that we live in everyday. Deadlines, customer whims, etc…”

What, other than money, do you think could help you in your work?

“I think what can help me more is being surrounded by good, skillful, competent and talented people, it’s the only thing that can push me to the front and make me achieve my objectives.”

What kind of help can you offer to Edgeryders community?

“I can share with the community my experience and the experience of my network, as that is what Morocco lacks. One doesn’t have an expert to talk to when starting a new project here.”

What products/services do you produce?

“Graphism & Design, Events, Writing, Web Development, Campaigns of advertising, medias, etc…”

How do you go about doing this- what steps are involved? Technologies or processes used?

“We use classic software tools for designing the products and we outsource the printing/publishing services as we do not have the equipment/printers to do it ourselves.”

What is your routine every day/week/month/year?

"The main steps of every project are as follows:

We begin by taking contact with the client, understanding his needs (which is the most difficult part), then we  think about  a  business proposal, we validate it with the client and then we have the executive part (almost the easiest). There is no specific technology is involved except the classic software for design."

Regulation or policies affecting your work?

“The law in Morocco gives the companies the right to pay you after 90 days and that’s too much for small companies and startups. We can never grow like that. Plus, we often do not have the money to start a new project as the companies always tend to pay late and we can not ask for an advance as there is a huge competition and if we ask for an advance, the client would just turn to another agency which does not require a prepayment.”

How about the concepts of Collaboration and Mutual Support?

“Not in the business. We’re in a 100 %  capitalist system with a lot of competition and I can’t think about mutual support, except for just a few cases.”

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Pre-start up questions and differences

I am a little torn. On the one hand I love brevity - it is very important for many in your potential audience. So a short and self-contained document is good from that point of view. It is not easy to write something meaningful and short but I think this was fine.

On the other hand I very often feel like the most interesting parts almost inevitably get lost. Particularly the pre-startup situation is important I think. As someone said in a call: It is not what you are doing at B, but how you got from A to B. Or why you started heading for B and not C. You did address this, but I think there are always many factors that play into this, which you have to balance. In hindsight we tend to simplify these things - but if we had talked to you one week before and important decision you would probably have all kinds of arguments for and against. Another thing I would like to see more often is how the environment was thinking about the endeavor, then and now. Were the parents supportive? To what degree? How about the friends and other family - did any get on board, or was/is there envy? Is the circle of friends today similar to what it was then? Were there any mentors (academic? business? law side?) - and how did the relationship to them begin and develop over time? Which of these factors would definitely be a show-stopper and which one only maybe? Which factors seem least significant. Is this the same for other participants? Are they involved to a similar degree or are you the lead?

Of course if you follow that direction - there is no chance to make a short interview. So that is a considerable downside. Can someone think of a solution? Perhaps split it into a “summary part” and a “rambling part”? Put the latter (linked to) in the appendix of the book? I am not at all sure what would be best.

Re differences

You wrote: Collaboration and Mutual Support? “Not in the business. We’re in a 100 %  capitalist system with a lot of competition and I can’t think about mutual support, except for just a few cases.”

Compare this with the article on silicon valley:

I am not trying to criticize! But it is important that at least their perception of themselves is quite different. But also note that customers did pay upfront, and generously. This may have more to do with how flush you are with money (locally), than what kind of economic system you run in. And as a secondary effect - the diversity of ideas. If everyone is pretty much doing the same thing, you are in direct competition. If every other project pursues a significantly different thing, there is a good chance that they’ll create a market for you or you have synergies at some point. However this means you need to be flush enough with money to be doing rather wild moonshots, otherwise you fall back into competing for the fastest ROI in the same market segment as everybody else. At least that is (some of) my take.

Also if you have the time, I strongly recommend reading the To Invent the Future, You Must Understand the Past article that is linked in the above one as well.

I think both articles hit their respective nails smack on the head. However they don’t really apply very much outside of silicon valley, for the reason they explain well.

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Thanks for your insight @trythis! I know this is short but it is still a draft and I hope @Driss will have time to update this wiki though I know he is very busy with work these days.

To address some of your questions, Driss is the founder and the leader of the team but each one works hard and contributes equally. He said his customers are mostly friends and friends of friends who get to know about his services from the word of mouth.

You are right, the approach of the company depends on the flush of money and @Driss did mention that they hardly make ends meet as lots of customers pay very late(up to 3 months) after delivery and they struggle to find money to start a new project. I did advise him to ask for a deposit but he said it would not work as the other companies do not require one, so they would lose the customer that way.

Concerning the attitude of parents/family, I’d like to mention, there is a huge gap between the new generation and the parents in Morocco, more than anywhere. Just imagine that parents can be illiterate and never traveled out of their village/town while the new generation is so much more active, they use internet, travel and have a broader view of life. So, as I see it, most of young people don’t even try to upgrade their parents and just live their lives trying to combine the traditions with modernity. What parents care most about is that their children are safe and earning money/supporting them financially, the details are not important to them.

I remember, a few years ago when my husband told his mom that I’m considering a job in a guesthouse(as a manager) and she thought I am going to be a cleaning lady!I was first offended but then my husband explained to me that this was the top of her imagination of what can one do in a riad(traditional luxury guesthouse in the old town of Marrakech).

This is not always the case, but we need to remember that Morocco has over 50% illiteracy and the ones that can only write their names are considered literate in this statistics.

While in big cities there is a lot going on, the rest of the country still struggles to have running water, electricity and schools available in every village. Females start getting higher education and having more power in the business and government, however lots of them still do not have the chance to pursue a career/education because of lack of support from family/society/governmental institutions.

Generation devide can be a good sign

Yeah the literacy / worldview divide between generations is exactly why I ask. I remember your earlier comment about literacy and it is quite a drastic change (for the good) indeed. So if we are successful, this is one of the issues we will run into on a regular basis - the young generation “progressing too fast”. You can see similar attitudes in China as well. Yet this is quite different, and sometimes going in the other direction in other places on the globe. Usually though parents are not completely “Ah whatever…” in their attitude. I can imagine the less common approaches suffer more in this respect.

This is a cool link for literacy development - but the page has all sorts of very useful basic diagrams. Almost like gapminder.

Re the money up front

I personally have emotional problems with owing money (or stuff) to people. When I got (government funded) general management training, or (corporate funded) leadership training I heard stories that I’d rather not repeat here. If I’ll just repeat “You shouldn’t be a social dreamer on a green field.”, or “Of course you wouldn’t want to hire women of that age group into positions that require some reliability” you probably get the drift…

But all this comes at a cost (of opportunity) too, as for example Shockley found out. When I started my last regular job I told my boss he was probably going to be sorry he did not pay me more.

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