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How I got to the top: Kamal Al Samarrai, co-founder, Verity

Kamal Al-Samarrai

What does your company do?

Verity is a UAE-based fintech startup on a mission to teach kids and teens how to earn, save, give and spend responsibly, while offering parents the ability to guide their money management. By integrating our family banking and financial literacy app with a personalised pre-paid debit card, we’re making learning about personal finance both fun and experiential.

In a nutshell, we are digitising what all our parents tried to do manually.

What do you look for when hiring talent?  

That’s a loaded question for me because I owned a recruitment company in my previous life, so the process of hiring is something I’ve learnt in depth. 

In terms of the key traits I look for, longevity would definitely be the front-runner. These days people tend to hop between roles, but for a startup that can be disastrous as team members usually wear more than one hat and have large amounts of responsibility. I would also say communication and energy, in terms of shared values, are equally important. If you can’t communicate in the right way, or you don’t have the right energy, then it’s a ‘No, thank you’. 

What counts for more – luck or hard work?   

You’ve got to be lucky in life, but luck only presents you with the right opportunities. Then it’s down to how much hard work you put in that determines how far those opportunities go.  

What one thing do you wish you’d done differently?   

Nothing so far. What is success without little failures?

If you could rule the world for a day, what three things would you change?   

Specifically related to our business, I would:

  1. Make open banking accessible to any fintech startup across the globe – it would create huge opportunities and encourage greater collaboration in the ecosystem. 
  2. Reduce startup costs and standardise regulation around the world to make business set-up more accessible.
  3. Remove barriers, such as nationality and citizenship rules, for setting up a business anywhere in the world – for example, think of the potential being able to do business in China would hold.  

What three factors do entrepreneurs misjudge about the Gulf market?

  1. It’s a lot easier to set up a business in the region than people think.
  2. There’s a perception that the startup ecosystem is still very new and small, but it has evolved over the last few years and has much more depth to it.
  3. The weather – it’s only unbearably hot three months out of the year, otherwise, it’s quite pleasant!

Dream mentor?

In the context of Verity, my dream mentor would be Louise Hill, who is the co-founder and chief operating officer of GoHenry, a similar concept to the platform we are building but based in the UK. It would be incredible to learn first-hand from someone who has been through the journey and established a successful business with over a million customers.