As Bidoons, Mohammed Marzouq and his family were stateless minorities in Kuwait. This meant it was difficult to find employment and access social services like healthcare and education. Mohammed tells us, “My father was stateless. My grandfather was stateless. For almost 100 years, my family has been stateless.”
Stepping into the metaverse
While they waited for a final outcome on their application for asylum, Mohammed struggled to secure a job, as asylum seekers awaiting approval face strict requirements when finding employment in the Netherlands. Thus, in the meantime, Mohammed decided to brush up on his professional skills.
As a game developer with experience in virtual reality (VR), IT, and sales, Mohammed had no shortage of business ideas.
Ultimately, he landed on an idea around the metaverse – an evolution of the internet essentially made up of 3D virtual worlds. “Right now, everyone is using the word ‘metaverse’ – even ideas that have nothing to do with it,” Mohammed explains. “Everyone has their own metaverse application ideas and I think my own version is unique and different from the other ones. I thought if I could start earlier, I could build something good.”
After searching for incubators and accelerators in the Netherlands that could help an aspiring entrepreneur like himself, Mohammed found Delitelabs and applied right away.
Learning from experienced mentors
When Mohammed reflects on his experience at Delitelabs (having recently completed the program), he cites his mentors as the biggest benefit of the program.
“The personal mentors were amazing. I got two venture capitalists (VCs) as mentors, so it was very intimidating at first because I had never sat down with a VC. I always thought they were from another universe. I’m a technical person and they are business people. But, I started to slowly understand what they are searching for and how to speak their language,” Mohammed shares.
As part of Delitelabs’ new partnership with the Dutch International Alumni Association (IAA NL) of INSEAD, every participant at Delitelabs gets access to at least one mentor who is an experienced business professional with diverse experience.
Besides his mentors, Mohammed also valued the comprehensive curriculum at Delitelabs. He says, “They went through some of the most important business topics, like creating slide decks, pitching, managing your finances, designing your brand, and building the right mindset.”
One of Mohammed’s key challenges with his business idea was how to monetize it. With help from Delitelabs as well as his mentors, he eventually landed on a subscription-based model. He also continued to evolve the game to include more interactive elements, like a “stage land” where people can give speeches, sing, or preach in a dedicated virtual space. “A lot of things started getting clearer and clearer. It’s more focused now, I think,” Mohammed says.
Fusing technical & business skills: Mohammed’s future plans
Post-Delitelabs, Mohammed clearly feels well-equipped to start his own business and continue improving his business and technical skills.
“At the beginning of the program, I was a very technical person. I had no idea about the business side of things,” Mohammed reveals. “Delitelabs gives you an introduction to the business side. I feel like I could sit down with VCs now and be more comfortable, whereas before I would be very nervous. But now, I know what they want.”
Delitelabs’ laser focus on fundamental business and entrepreneurial topics offers a new way for ambitious newcomers to integrate into Dutch society. Speaking about the newcomer aspect of the program, Mohammed shares, “It was very beneficial for me. I felt at home. I felt like I could relate to my peers – some from Turkey, some from Ukraine. We were all new to the Netherlands, so I felt like I could relate to them.”
In the future, Mohammed aims to keep working on his business idea, but his priority will be to find a job now that he has obtained Dutch residency. He is primarily looking for roles in software development and game development, preferably at an XR/metaverse startup. “One of my mentors advised me to find a job and work on my idea if I get permission from my employer,” Mohammed tells us. “But right now, priority number one is to find a job.”
Written by Sophie Poulsen - Content Creator at Delitelabs