Wednesday, April 19, 2006

KOM's Business Incubator Program

Knowledge Oasis Muscat ( is home to The Knowledge Mine (TKM) a business incubator program. We caught up with Abdullah Al Jufaili, TKM Manager - this is what he had to say how about the incubator program and the type of firms setting-up in TKM.
What's TKM all about - what's your mission and what do you do?

AJ: TKM is Oman’s first fully-fledged incubator program. Its mission is very simple - to assist start-up and early stage companies grow and prosper. What we do is to provide a top-flight facility and services to help firms succeed. We designed the facility for technology-based and knowledge-driven businesses. The facility has 29 individual offices ranging from 9 to 45 square metres. These offices can be rented individually or in blocks, depending on the space needs of a company. TKM is open 24/7 and has a sophisticated telecommunications system. Each office has multiple telephone and data points. Firms have access to meeting rooms and a board room. We have gated parking, a key-pass security system and, as is typical with incubators, low cost office space.

TKM offers business consulting services through an on-site mentor program - mentoring is provided by organizations such as KPMG, Ernst & Young, Intilaaqah and Trowers & Hamlins. In brief, our philosophy is to provide a place where firms can concentrate on their core business while we take care of the side issues that often distract start-ups - conference rooms, space planning, Internet connection, parking, etc.

Who are some of your clients, and how are they using your services?

AJ: We have seven start-ups at the moment with four more at the interview stage. Our tenants have concentrations from software development to research and development for security systems. Several firms are developing proprietary software for education and logistics. We have firms specializing in turn-key measurement and automation systems and products. We also have a firm specializing in multimedia and its applications to third generation mobile systems. Many of our tenants have science, maths and engineering backgrounds and this has influenced the type of firms they’ve set-up. Indeed, TKM tenants have run projects with some of Oman’s major blue chips and feedback has been extremely encouraging.

At what stage do people join TKM?

AJ: Because admission is competitive and requires a full business plan and profile of a firm's management structure, TKM firms have typically had a fairly solid sense of their technology, marketing and operational plans. These turn out to be more important to us than the number of people or the source of financing - although an indication of financial vitality (bearing in mind the start-up status) is important. For reference, full details on how to compile a business plan can be found on PEIE’s corporate blog:

How long do firms typically stay in TKM and at what point in a company's development do they move up and out?

AJ: We don't have a fixed graduation date. We anticipate the development time to be two to three years, but that cycle seems to be lengthening.

When interviewing potential TKM tenants, what do you look for?

AJ: We look for a number of things. For example, are they capable of being number one in that category in 10 years? Are they fundamentally changing an industry or an experience that is today broken or seriously flawed? Are they focused on demand creation or demand fulfillment and are they in a space that has defendable margins?

What strengths and weaknesses do you see in Oman’s growing technology base and what do you think is important for companies here to succeed?

AJ: In my opinion, business is increasingly less about technology and more about changing and improving traditional ways of doing business. It's about seeing the future and integrating the Internet into every facet of your business. The Internet shouldn't be an initiative in your organization, it should be a guiding principle. In that vein, TKM has the kind of creative business minds that can wrap their heads around the changes that need to happen from top to bottom in an organization.

What have you learnt over the past 12 months that you think helps make a start-up work?

AJ: Execution and focus. Great ideas only take you so far. At the end of the day, it comes down to what you're able to accomplish and how quickly you accomplish it.

How do companies qualify to locate in TKM. What's the process for getting space at TKM and where should entrepreneurs go or who should they contact for more information?

AJ: There’s an admission procedure. The first step is to complete an application form – this can be downloaded from the KOM website. Alternatively, if you want to chat over a TKM business idea, then e-mail the TKM admissions co-ordinator on: