Bader Al Kazemi
Founder, Optimize App
Future of Adtech Space
Get ready to be inspired by this episode of The Bottom Line podcast, where we sit down with Bader, the founder of Optimize App, a platform that places your ads on Snap, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Google, and YouTube, giving you complete control over growing your business using social media advertising and our very own CEO, Mohammad Shafeekh. In this episode, Bader takes us on a journey through the growth of Optimize App, sharing key performance indicators and insights that startup owners can apply to their own businesses.
Bader Al Kazemi
Get ready to be inspired by this episode of The Bottom Line podcast, where we sit down with Bader, the founder of Optimize App, a platform that places your ads on Snap, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Google, and YouTube, giving you complete control over growing your business using social media advertising and our very own CEO, Mohammad Shafeekh. In this episode, Bader takes us on a journey through the growth of Optimize App, sharing key performance indicators and insights that startup owners can apply to their own businesses. But it doesn't stop there. Bader and Mohammad also explore the importance of financial literacy for founders, and how it can be a game-changer in unlocking a business's full potential. They discuss the role of the right platform in achieving success, and how our podcast is helping businesses in the Middle East do just that. If you're a startup owner or simply looking for inspiration, this episode is for you. Get ready to be motivated and learn from the best!


I would like to give some intro about Bader, Bader is the founder of Optimize App. Optimize app is helping SMEs to create digital ads in less than 30 seconds. You have got an amazing 25,000 registered users in less than two years. Amazing growth's journey. So, I would like to listen more about the Optimize app from you Bader. What's the story of the Optimize app?

What's the problem you are trying to solve?


So, thank you so much for having me Shafeekh. First of all, I'm honored to be your guest here today and maybe before getting into the Starting of optimize telling you a little bit of background about myself. So I've been in the field of digital advertising since the summer of 2013, so almost ten years right now and starting off as an intern back when I was in college and turning the global headquarters of DHL in Germany in the marketing department, that's where I sort of started finding my passion for digital advertising, meeting some of the agencies that I've done and meeting one of my co-founders actually, who's today my co-founder I met back then while I was an intern there, and ever since I really got into digital advertising, became very passionate about its work at some of the leading US based agencies in New York and Razorfish in particular, working on Citibank account, working on Netflix, on and a few other big accounts and what I focused on is to how to help make that advertising more effective.

My role was more on data science and analytics, but as a data scientist, as an analytics person, you can see the overall picture, what's working, what doesn't work. And it gave me a very good understanding of the overall background of digital advertising. Now I stayed with them for a few years, coming back to Kuwait. There was a certain point in time that I wanted to create my own digital agency, something like Razorfish, on a much smaller scale. And when I first started, I took on one of the fintech companies as my first client. I had no office, I had no employees, I had just gotten the license. And I remember very well that this fintech firm wanted to hire me to lead their marketing, but I told them, I'll be your client. I will come and work out of your office because I don't have an office.

And while I was there, I started helping them out with their digital paid acquisition marketing campaigns, that sort of performance marketing. And I would listen to their sales associates getting 100, 200 some months, 300 calls from different small businesses asking for help, whether they know someone who can help them with their digital advertising campaigns, whether it's Instagram ads, Facebook ads in particular, it was Instagram ads. At that time, Snapchat ads were new and just coming up. So that's when I got there, basically a light bulb moment knowing that all these small businesses are using different mobile apps to handle payments, sending payment links, seeing their receivables, checking or working with different e-commerce and logistics providers to handle their website, to handle their logistics. But whenever it comes to a digital marketing piece, you still have to rely on that freelancer or that agency that would charge you too much for the size of your business.

So, I said, these small businesses, how many of them are there? I tried going to pitch manually, but then I noticed the budgets that they want to pay are very small budgets that you cannot hire people, you cannot actually offer as a managed service. It doesn't make any financial sense. So, I had to learn and I said, Why not?

We give it through an app, through an automated marketing app that will help you grow your business. And I had to learn software development, full stack development to bring that idea to life, and that's how it all started. And just following that in a few months, COVID came in. With the COVID, all the businesses were forced to go online.

Next thing realizing that when you have a website, it doesn't mean you have sales. You have to promote the website, you have to launch paid ads, you have to optimize it. And that's when I think Optimize really took off. It was March 2020 and today alhamdulillah we've been growing month over month, serving thousands of advertisers on a monthly basis.

And that's pretty much how it all started out. And to tell you a little bit about basically more of the problem that we are solving is it's not it's not just the fact that agencies, our freelancers are too expensive. Actually, to grow your business as an SME, it is very difficult. You have to manage so many sides of their business, whether it's payroll, whether it's accounting, whether it's the financials, e-commerce, design, all of these aspects and paid media, as was one big headache primarily because at the scale being a small business, you have to rely on different self-service platforms and agencies, freelancers are too expensive as I mentioned. There are many new different platforms and many new platforms coming into the ecosystem on a quarterly basis. Right now we are in a position where Facebook, snap, tik tok, Google, these are the known ones. However, you have Amazon that's become a big player in advertising and digital. You have Apple restructuring their whole entity in order to get a piece of the pie of the digital marketing pie.

You have Netflix which started with digital advertising just last month in the US and slowly expanding it on a global scale. So, there are so many different platforms, each one with different terminology, each one requires different technical experience and the ecosystem is changing, whether it's privacy changing, whether it's shifting from a cookie world to a cookie less world.

So, all of these things combined makes it very difficult for us to actually grow using paid media, and that's where we come in to solve this particular problem.

Yeah, I think it's a huge industry, right? Like even Google says that we are a small fish in a big pond. So, it's a huge undertaking. Industry is very huge. But it's as you said, it's a very fragmented industry that, you know, is not very standardised. Like where, you know, the SMEs will have the right ROI and what are the right growth channels to test it out and it’s at stake for us. You know I, being a Founder so it's very difficult for us to set up the ad accounts, to run multiple campaigns and then try to understand, you know, what, how it works. And at the end of the day, Facebook blocks you. So how do you solve like I said, Optimize app like how do you solve this problem that, you know, is getting blocked and how do you get out of this?


And also the second thing I noticed, the payments like you can only use certain credit cards and you know, maybe like I have a local debit card which i can't use, how optimize app solves this problem for users.


So a very good question. I'll answer it in a few parts. First of all, I'd like to mention the point that it's a very fragmented market. It is a huge market. The global ad spend last year was $750 billion and last year and more than 50% of that was going to digital, and each year that number is increasing more and more and it is fragmented and it will always be fragmented because these platforms, whether it's Facebook, whether it's Meta, Google, Snapchat will never come and work together.

At the end of the day, they are competitors. You'll never have them working together to build that aggregator marketplace or aggregator platform. Each one wants to promote their platform over the other sites will always be that case. And but from a business perspective, a business owner perspective, marketing perspective, I need to increase my return on ad spend.

I need to increase my brand awareness regardless of which tool is. I need to rely on all the different platforms to maximize efficiency out of all of them. So this is what makes Optimize interesting is that you can rely on all these platforms. You can you can use them all having one sort of experience that is unified across the thing, whether it's unified by the metrics of the reporting, whether it's unified by how to launch the campaigns or campaign launching experiences, unified and reading the reports and the results, you can actually see from the different sources which ad is doing better than other, whether it's Snap, whether it's the instagram, and optimizing your budget.

Now, there are many issues when it comes to this advertising and these issues have happened for a few reasons. First of all, the different platforms are really built enterprises with an enterprise-first experience. They are desktop first. If you look at them, they look very sophisticated, as if they were done in the nineties. Okay. Very sophisticated.

And it looks like these trading platforms like the Bloomberg terminal.


I need an expert at the end of the day to do it right? Like, I need to have an expert like a growth marketing expert or a media buying expert who are well familiarised with this.


Exactly like you can go and do it yourself. The chances are you'll be setting up things incorrectly and optimizing for the wrong goals, for the wrong site, certain events, and then you'll be unhappy with the results and using Optimize a lot of the setup is created in the back end for you based on your industry, based on your region with some recommendations that're already built in the system for you.

So this is one of the things that makes it special. Sometimes, w e have had some clients who tried it out with us, went to the Snapchat platform, tried to run the campaigns, they copied the exact same interests, this exact same demographics targeting sort of budget. They come back telling us, what do you guys do differently? Because whenever we run it on, you are getting better results.

All right. And to address some of the points that you had mentioned earlier, after all the effort that you put in, you can wake up one day with your ad account being banned, your account being friended for good. And this happens and it happens quite often. Happens for a few reasons attended the way you go and pay Facebook typically are paying with credit cards sometimes in a specific day Facebook would charge you for example three times in one day and your bank, whether it's in Kuwait in Dubai, wherever it is, would see three transactions from the same company at the same day.

They will take it with high risk thinking that this could be fraud. So they would block the transaction. They would say, no, don't let this go through. Problem is, Facebook had already provided the service, they are expecting to be paid. But when your bank declines it, they give you one chance. They give you two chances. When this happened, three times your ad account is suspended and go trying to talk to this support, you'll barely reach them, you know, unless you have like an account manager, which you don't get unless you're spending tens of thousands of dollars on a monthly basis, you know, so we solve these issues by providing local payment methods. So basically, when people, small businesses, I would say want to promote themselves using Optimize they pay in local payments methods.

We have credit lines, we have agreements in place with Facebook already so that these payments are actually processed and facilitated through us. These are the accounts being banned doesn't really happen and it does happen in different cases. If you are trying to sell something that is illegal or something that goes against that platform, of course you will be banned.

Okay. Okay, let's put logistics out of perspective. We have solved that issue.


Oh, yes. Yeah. So, I was like checking this. Basically, my account was blocked for no reason. We are not trying to sell something that, you know, are illegal or are against the policies, we are just selling bookkeeping. So, we used to say bring founders to manage their finances and it got blocked and we were surprised.

I think Facebook is increasingly blocking the number of users at this moment. I don't know why, but this has been a major challenge. I think Optimize will be a saviour where companies can use Optimize app in order to run their better ads much more efficiently without having much of a learning curve basically.

But how do you see that? You know, I have seen that you have had an Incredible growth journey in the last two years that, you know, you have almost onboarded 25,000 SMEs across the globe. I think Optimize is not a platform from Kuwait, which has a global presence. Right. So could you give us more ideas about this? What were your early acquisition strategies like?

How many countries are you present at this moment?


So we started off in Kuwait back in 2020, early 2020, and to be honest, we did, I would say we did some Instagram live with some marketing experts, whether it's professors from university in marketing, whether it's different people who are entertaining people. While there was lockdown, while everything was on lockdown, you are sitting at home in the evenings.

You had not much to do. So during that time we started doing these Instagram lives, doing these webinars, and that's where we started getting our initial customers and those customers who needed the product. So to promote whether they have an online store or selling on Instagram even during lockdown got incredible results and they started talking to their friends and reaching out to their family as well.

There was at a certain point and I remember this until today, there was one happy client that shared that client had spoken to me on my personal number, a client that I met. I had to one time I was out and I had to reach out to her. I reached out my personal number. She went and took my phone number, shared it with many different business owners.

And I had given her a very specific message so that I know if this message comes to me, it's coming from her. I got more than 400 business owners reaching out to me, saying that they want to get started. How do they download the app? Where can they find it? And just from one good like one customer with a good.


Brand evangelist, like a guy, Kawasaki says that you know how you have brand evangelists who are looking at your brand externally? This can be you as a founder yourself or your customer can locate your plan. I think this is one of the very, very early-stage acquisition strategies when you have to offer the right service into the market.


So we started first in Kuwait, and very quickly opened up the app for customers across the GCC. And I say open up doesn't mean we set up a new entity in each and every country. No, we just allowed these customers from the different regions to log in to create an account and to pay. So at first we were the six DCC countries until we started getting a lot of demand from Egypt, from Morocco, from Iraq, from Jordan, from Algeria, from Tunisia and northern African countries as well.

 So I had to, like we were at a point where they would download the app. They would come in to try it. They noticed that they can't sign up because we are not supporting them. They would put in bad reviews in the App Store, so I quickly had to change that. I said, we have two options. We either quickly remove it from the App Store in the region or the other option is open up access to them.

And I said, if there are so many people that want to give it a try, why not? We are not paying any sort of paid media to reach these people they have here and giving us organically. So we opened up to these additional countries and now we are around 11 countries and certain markets required more investment, required basically more attention, more care, such as Saudi.

 That's why we very quickly moved on to open up a Saudi entity. And we have the entity, the Saudi entity. We do have a London entity as well. This is more of a new project, something for the future that we are working on right now and should be bringing on our first new customers from the UK early by January 23.


Okay. What is the reason to have the company in Saudi or in the UK? So you are opening up casually in Morocco, but you are setting up an entity in Saudi and what is the logic behind it?


So a few things. First of all, we have to see the market potential and what's happening. The growth potential that is happening in the Middle East is incredible. But Saudi in particular, we see this as a window of opportunity that if it passes by and we don't go on this train, that we will not have this opportunity again one, two or three years down the line.

So it's very critical that we come here to build the trust, to increase the brand awareness, to help people out and understand the consumers more at a local level to a level that would be difficult to do when you are sitting in a different country. Second of all, the access to local talent in Kuwait being a very small country with a smaller population, it is slightly more difficult.

There are certain technical positions that you look for that you cannot find in Kuwait. So in Saudi, with a bigger population, with a bigger pool, a big startup community, it will be easier to find. It is already easier. We already have found some of these people. Now, London, on the other hand, is moreover for senior leadership roles, ones that have worked for these big startups that are able to expand across different continents, you can find that sort of talent there, and that's where it's super exciting and we also we also believe that this problem is a global problem, whether you are a tailor shop in Australia or you are an ice cream shop in London,

or you have a parlor like a barber shop in Kuwait, at the end of the day, all of you guys have something in common. You need customers and all of your customers are using their phones. And as long as smartphones are relevant, digital advertising campaigns will be very important. So London is basically us proving, proving to our investors that this is not a regional problem, this is more of a global problem.

So, we can unlock further investment and really go to the UK, go to Europe as a stepping stone before going to the US in a few years from now.


Brilliant. And also I was thinking like how do you see the future of ad tech industry that, you know, it's going to evolve and change, because I'm seeing some of the even aggregators coming now are asking to pay, you know, the fees per CAC, like you pay the CAC that is our fees, we are not no more SAAS, we are not no more charging commissions, we are just charging you for cost of acquiring a customer pay as $2, I think it's coming up in Kuwait as well as some of the food tech companies out there.

So how do you see the ad tech industry is evolving going forward in the future?


It's a very good question, to be honest. And there is no right or wrong answer. I think at the end of the day, if we talk about any of these marketplace platforms that help you acquire your customer and only charge you for the customer acquisition, at the end of the day, they can do that because they have a lot of their customers.

But the question is how are they getting their customers? They are relying on different social media platforms at the end of the day, you know, so it is still relevant. And I think that this model of competition with different food delivery and logistics sort of businesses is not directly related to ad tech. And I think what's happening with more and more and if we talk about the FNB business in particular with more and more of these these guys getting tired of the big commissions that they pay to the different food aggregators, they are in a position to switch to actually their own website or to new kinds of platform.

And when they have their own website, that's when they come to us needing to launch advertising campaigns to promote their business. Being on some of these big platforms is good because there are the customers there. However, when you shift and go on your own, you have to go and acquire customers yourself. So you need tools that will actually drive the customer towards you to acquire these customers, to retain these customers, because the marketing is also retaining the people.

It's not about trying you once, but you need to constantly remind them.


Yes, yes. I think you have recently signed a partnership with Ejadah.


Yes, correct. And it's a Ejadah. As one of the interesting Kuwaiti startups that's started slightly before us a year or two before us and in Kuwait and in Egypt. And the reason we signed the partnership is we have a lot of customers on Ejadah that are currently using us to help give them additional tools and features that are specific to their use case.

And also a lot of their customers actually needed some of the support and digital advertising. And you really don't find this aggregator, digital marketing aggregator platform out there to help support you. There are some, but they are super expensive. That will cost you a minimum of 5 to $6000 a month and a yearly contact. This is without the media fees.

This is just to pay for the tool. So, it's really enterprise focused too. So now when we focus on the majority of businesses in the world, which are SMEs, I think this is the gap that we are trying to fill. How do we help start these SMEs that can only pay a few hundred dollars to us a month, but helps them get customers to retain their existing customers on the different social media platforms.

In a world where the ecosystem is constantly changing and we are fighting hard to keep it there, to keep the experience, as they say. But of course, behind the scenes there are lots of adoption and changes that we have to make on a regular basis.


Yes. Yes. I think I think it's having a lot of customers that, you know, like I think even Facebook is like changing the whole algorithm in a way that it run ads to multiple categories without having a niche and then try to understand you know who has interest to mostly like on first party that so things are evolving but I think there is a lot more to do in terms of technology in the backend.

But about how do you see that like, you know, but I think I'm very interested about the model that Optimize is putting forward, which is democratising the whole ad tech industry and giving out the SMEs that hand, you know, to do to generate ROI or to generate to go to reach out to their customers to show about their product or services.

And without having much learning curve, which was very, you know, traditionally, very once was a bit monopolized by ad agencies. This is an interesting journey. As a Founder I just have like a few questions. You know what is the one mistake like you being two years as a Founder? I think you have been going through a lot as a founder in building Optimize.

What is the one mistake that you think that could have been avoided or If you're building it today a new start up what should have been done differently.


There're a few things I could say, but maybe to mention one specific thing, I would say scaling up too quickly when you are not ready. And this is something like if time goes back, maybe it would come a little bit down. And it's very easy to get overexcited when you have a few customers are having a very good experience and you would make decisions to roll out some of the features too quickly without educating the rest of the users, then they'd be confused not knowing basically how to use the app moving forward when they were used to something specific.

So it takes time. It takes education and scaling up in the sense that growing the team too quickly and investing too much in marketing where your operations cannot control, cannot basically cover and take care of their existing queries that are coming in, you know, so this is this is some of the things that we've gone through which we learned our lesson.

We got everything organized right now. But this is one piece of advice I would have is don't scale until you are ready to do so. And it's very easy as a founder to believe and to think that you are ready. But the truth is, you have to reach out, sit with the customers, talk with the customers, one of the most important things in the startup world and understand from them, seeing the concerns, some of which will be shy to tell you in person.

But you have to kind of find this information. And I ask Gen Z and that's the thing.


How Do you keep momentum as a founder that, you know, you have been maybe on this journey for a while and then you have no co-founders at this moment, but how do you keep what are your like productivity hacks? What's it like learning process?


To be honest, like I would say, I know this industry well. I am very passionate about it and I have dedicated everything to this. So, to keep me motivated, I do not need much. I, really, I am. I would say that the passion inside me, the vision that I have, the dreams I have, thoughts, this is what fuels me every day.

But there are days that are very tough days and there are days that are pretty good and that will basically make up for it, but that's from a motivation perspective. But, other than that, I have to share that down the tea and make sure the rest of the team is motivated because if it's only me motivated, it's going to be very helpful.

Now that is one of the things that we regularly do in our weekly meetings, updating the team as to what's happening in terms of different things that are happening with the platforms, what's happening with investors not keeping these things too secretive away from them. And I think this is what motivates a lot of the team now and productivity hacks.

I would say one of the key things I would say is really focus on your business, on certain KPIs and on certain metrics. So instead of just going and building, that's what you have in mind, focusing on three very important metrics, the most important metrics, and it depends on each business and at each stage of the business you have different metrics.

But measuring these, yeah, measuring your success and measuring how well you are doing in comparison to these metrics on a weekly basis, even when it comes to product development, feature building, when it comes to marketing, sometimes the marketing teams want to take some initiative. I tell them, How does this reflect back to our three main KPI? If the answer to that is - it doesn't, then we don't do it.

Okay, everything is tied to these three KPIs. Of course you can list 10-15 KPIs, but to be truly focused you have to find the core three KPIs. A lot of the other KPIs are actually just come as a result of these three numbers.


Yes, I think that the famous book from John Deere, he talks about Measure what matters will set up dockyards and Google which which pretty much best similar to how you set up audacious scores and how do you measure that important metrics in the loop and then how do you try to achieve that goal on weekly basis?

So I think this is a very interesting thing which even I am trying to implement at this moment in the company to see how, you know, we are having this assess key metrics to measure. This is a one of the, I think very interesting lessons as a founder and what other challenges do you generally face in managing finances like how do you see that?

You have been one of our early customers, you know, that even we didn't have the name Finanshels that time. So we started working on your project and we've been looking for fundraising.


So and I think I think any business without a proper financial plan and financial strategy, is basically in the process to commit suicide. And I think I am very glad that we brought you on board and your team at an early stage to help us set up the right financial strategy, the right financial plan, building the right financial models that the whole company is basically and basically aligned on and revolved around these financial models and these financial models and the whole strategy of the company is basically one thing. Even these three metrics that we talk about, these are the core metrics in the financial model. So I think we had certain we didn't have that much experience before you came on board. And it changed and the way we do everything ever since. So it's a moment that I don't regret.

If anything, I regret not doing that even earlier. I think knowing the numbers and knowing it on a regular basis, not too late. So when a month is done, you have to take a look at what's happening very quickly after it's not three months later so that you have enough time to actually make decisions, make changes and optimize and fine tune your business in general.

And I think that was the biggest value add that we got using financials or Tenx at the time.


Yeah, yeah. I think we are about to have just 5 minutes next, but then I'll leave it to you if you have any questions.


Actually like me and not too many questions that I had prepared. But I feel like you've seen it. You've seen the processes that we've gone through when it comes to financial planning. And I feel that some of the small businesses that we work with have this struggle. So I think that it's more of a suggestion than a question is doing more of webinars, how do we get and educate these businesses in masses to think more like a more like a CFO to put in these financial plans in place, especially for small businesses because a lot of which go bust just as a result of not having proper financial planning.

So, I would say how can we work together to help the thousands of SMEs that use our platform and how can we educate them on how we can give value? Because if they don't have proper financial planning, then even when it comes to advertising, it will come to a point that they cannot invest anymore, you know, whereas if it is part of their financial plan, those will be regular. And I think this is an interesting area to focus on and we'd be happy to help as well.


Yes, I think see, some of the founders I speak to, they are saying that, you know, we don't have understanding of the data that, you know, what is our cost of acquiring a customer, what is the LTV from them? What is the ARR from them? So, most of the founders don't have enough data to make a decision whether they should spend more, which is actually limiting their will.

 If they find there is an opportunity to grow more, they could invest more in advertisements or, you know, in getting acquisitions. So, understanding the financial data is so important. Like I have seen the best founders, like I have consulted a couple of companies and the best best founders I have seen have two skills – they are excellent at sales and they're excellent at managing finances.

So, I think any company should have this understanding of understanding the numbers in depth, which helps them to make decisions. I think we could do more webinars to improve literacy for them. And it's also the same for personal financial literacy, right? You can go bankrupt, you will not master your financial life. The same case for companies.

If you are not understanding how finance works, well then, it's hard for you to grow and understand. How do you be sustainable over a period of time? So I think yeah, of course I look forward to having more webinars and more sessions with you as well on talking about finances.


Awesome, awesome. And I think to the point that you mentioned not knowing your LTV, not knowing your CAC is super important. If you are an online business, choose the right platform. If you are an ecommerce business, you have to choose a platform that can provide you all of this data and can segment your customers that can show you proper reporting.

And even with these right platforms, you can actually do proper advertising. We can see what's the return on investment, whereas some of the platforms that are out there are two basic, are too generic that you will not be able to get the basic data that you need to make your company's financial decision. Nor will you be able to do proper marketing because it's pixels.

And this advertising technology cannot be integrated. So, make sure you're choosing the right platforms, whether it's e-commerce, whether it's differentiating, is to choose something that will support that will give you, first of all, very good dashboards that show the LTV, that show that CAC, that showed these sorts of thing and that they are fully integratable. They can be integrated with the different ad tech platforms.

It's just some important thing to know.


Awesome, awesome Bader, I look forward to having more webinars and more sessions. We can have more talks. I think we are all at the same stage of where we look at SMEs’ digital options and improve their efficiency and effectiveness so they can unlock their potential to grow massively. It's so interesting and great, great to know about Optimize and wish all the best for you and Optimize as well.


Thank you. Likewise. And it was a pleasure and looking forward to chatting further.


Awesome, Buh-bye.