MOHAMMAD DWAIKAT is a participant of the 50:50 Startups entrepreneurship program. We took some time to chat with Mohammad about his personal experiences, his vision as an aspiring entrepreneur and what it means to work in an environment that encourages diversity.
Tell me a little bit more about yourself Mohammed. Where are you from? What is your background?
I am Mohammad, and I am from Nablus, Palestine. I am a software developer. For years, this has been my profession. Technology is my passion: making programs, doing programming and developing applications that makes life easier. Besides that, I always appreciate learning about other cultures and meeting different people, regardless of any conflict that is going on. I had the chance to visit India for a few months and I enjoyed it. I had the chance to visit South Korea as well. I lived in the United States for like, three years. I had my degree in Computer Science, and my profession, as I told you, is software development, programming.
What else do you enjoy, aside from programming?
Besides doing software development and programming, I enjoy problem solving. It’s not only about writing algorithms and solving technical problems. It’s about also what’s going on in our lives: the problem solving skills we develop during our experiences—from life, work, friendships, troubles, and the news. Whatever resources we gather improves our problem solving skills and makes us appreciate life more, appreciate other people more and listen to different opinions more, even conflicting opinions. So, in addition to this as well, I like matching the culture and the technology to solve the problems and also making profit.
What were your motivations for joining 50:50 Startups?
So recently I was a software developer but a freelance one, not connected to a particular company - I've been freelancing. I’ve been freelancing for different companies around the world; however, looking at the closest neighbor to us, which is Israel, I have never went to work for them for a single day, because of the barriers we have. So, I was curious about exploring such opportunities because Israel is the high tech hub of the Middle East and in Palestine, we have a big pool of talents, including myself, so why look to freelance for other countries when you have a neighbor, who is in the same time zone? If you wanted to meet and like, maybe if you get a permit to enter Israel or vice versa, in one hour I can see my boss, for example.
Since you first joined the 50:50 program, there were a few events held to facilitate your journey in venture creation, including a roundtable discussion with experts from the industry, a design thinking workshop, and more recently, a pitch night. What has been the most memorable moment thus far, or what event stood out to you in particular?
There are plenty of them that I enjoyed. I will say something regarding the recent event we had, which was the pitch night. I didn’t imagine how hard it would be to present an idea or to present yourself in front of 30 plus people. I imagined it would be an easy task... but no, it was hard. So this was something I couldn't forget. Besides that, regarding the content maybe... the design thinking made me think more deeply about my idea and how to implement it. I thought at some point, I would need to start applying my idea, not just sharing it. So at that moment, I thought OK, I should start, just to get my hands dirty and dig into the idea and try to apply it. Another moment would be like… not from the sessions, it was actually from the interview. With the interviewer, I discussed with him about flexibility and how important it is—not to only bring up your idea but also to listen to others, and be open to adapt to their ideas as well. So this conversation was another memorable moment.
What are some personal goals or professional goals you have for the time you’ll be spending in the 50:50 program?
So first of all, my goal is... I am calling it Hire the Neighbor, which is, as I told you, [the idea of having a] high tech hub in Israel with [hired] talents [from] Palestine. Not only this idea but also the ideas I will have here during the program from the cohort as well. It’s almost every single idea, almost every single one. You can’t achieve and grow [an idea] if you don’t connect different mindsets together. If I had an idea and I only connected it and grew my team with only Palestinians, it will reach a limit. But if you, somehow, joined [mindsets] from a different culture and from a different background, it will grow infinitely. Because the way we think is different, whether we like it or not. If you are India or from Korea or America or Israel or Palestine, everyone’s lifestyle, thinking style, and professional background is different—the way we do things is different, so mixing this together will make the idea grow.
That is very interesting! Can you elaborate a little more what it means to "grow your idea," in the context of the specific region you are in?
About my ideas, I really needed them to… all of them needs a connection, and a big network of Palestinians and Israelis. Because being from Palestine, from the West Bank, if I wanted to reach a market that is outside, a bigger market, I will need to be adopted by a country who has access to this market. In Palestine, you don’t have such high tech companies. In Israel, they have high-tech companies and also big worldwide companies, or global companies, which also have offices in Israel, companies such as Google, Microsoft, Intel, HP—all of them have offices in Israel. In Palestine, zero. So, to access a bigger market, I needed a connection there, a network there, and I needed to share my idea with a bigger network. And as I told you, [we need to work with people from] different backgrounds, different cultures, all of that.
What are some other benefits of working with someone from a different culture or background?
On top of this, if you have people who work together, like in the Startup Ecosystem or in a company, it will be a good way to resolve conflicts, because it brings people together and makes them talk to each other. I’m recently working with an Israeli employer who is always checking on me and always asking me about my situation, about the checkpoints [that I've reached], so this makes me feel [that] not all people who live in a country adopt the politics of that country. They might be victims, like us as well. So this is nice—listening to them and bridging this gap between conflicting parties. So this is what I appreciate as well. It is different from any other accelerator or incubator that I can join.