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Failure is ‘still a success’: Interview with Mohamed ElDib, founder of Monkeys in Tuxedos

Have you ever heard of a company that sells ideas? Well, we’ve got one here in Egypt.

The recently launched startup, Monkeys in Tuxedos, has just entered the advertising world with a different approach. What do they actually do?

To answer this question and learn more about their journey, EgyptInnovate interviewed Mohamed El Dib, Monkeys In Tuxedos’ Master Tree Climber, or the Creative Director, as Humans know him. 

Introduce yourself. When did you wake up and decide to become an entrepreneur?

My name is Mohamed El Dib and I am 25 years old. I started being an entrepreneur since I was 3. Seriously, this is the real age. I have started small businesses since I was a baby -some were successes, some were not- I can tell you it has been a fun, but bumpy ride. 

I studied Marketing in the American University in Cairo. Throughout my life, I have only worked in 2 companies that are not my own, but I’m passionate about many many things.

Working in many fields must be exhausting. How do you manage to focus?

I am very comfortable with being uncomfortable. I like it more when things are uncertain, I love adventure and I like to try new things. The only way one can live a real life through, is to learn and try different things. Life is definitely a process of discovery, so as long as I’m discovering, and being on the edge, I’m more than fine! 

I ran a restaurant before, and I didn’t have the slightest idea how to cook. But I learned how to make creative dishes, and had scrumptious food on the menu. In media, I became a creative director by being a creator director- we learn by doing. The skills you need to solve a maths problem are the same ones you need to cook or to design, it’s always problem-solving, but the execution is different.

How did you start climbing trees and launch Monkeys in Tuxedos?

As a group, we have been already working on many jobs together, we started as freelancers. At some point, we realized that each one of us has something to offer. 

We also felt that there is a gap in the Advertising market. Most agencies either focus on creativity and miss the strategy or vice versa. We had both skills, so we decided to launch a company. But once again, we started by actually starting, if this makes any sense! 

Other than tree climbing, what is it that you do in Monkeys in Tuxedos?

We combine both the creativity and the strategy elements to create a different experience, this can be an ad, a website, a video or any other form of promotion, or it can be an idea to be executed by someone else. Sometimes we produce in-house, and sometimes we work with other production companies. Our edge is the ideas. 

Does selling ideas work well?

We only started in January 2015 as 3 partners and 1 employee, we were all freelancers before that date. We managed to exceed our targets for the first quarter. 

We are now working on a global campaign for Fair and Lovely, which includes managing their public relations and general advertising for the rest of the year. We have also been working on other campaigns for different brands, but they are still not out yet. We are working on branding many cool concepts, and we’re launching a few interesting websites as well. It’s a creative studio; we do not like being stuck on one branch of the tree we’re on!

What is the most remarkable experience you have been through at Monkeys in Tuxedos?

When you market something, you change a mindset. This is a big responsibility.

We haven’t done that much so it won’t be fair to pick something and label it as “remarkable”. Yet working with certain brand managers is more remarkable than working with others. 

Sometimes brand managers don’t really have a good understanding of their brands, and they also might be not flexible enough. Most brand managers are traditional and have rigid ideas in their heads, so they don’t accept new ideas. The name “Monkeys in Tuxedos” usually screens our partners for us. You must be adventurous and accepting in order to consciously decide to work with a bunch of monkeys. So most of the brands that approach us are looking for our banana-style, monkey-business ideas, which is a privilege. 

And now, where are you heading to?

We just started a small company, so our next step is taking the first step. We have a team and we started to explore, but we’re not there yet. It’s like we’re testing the water and now it’s time to take a dip. 

Each one of us has learning objectives. We believe we need to grow on the personal level so we can provide quality service and grow as a company.

We also hope to work with more clients and expand regionally if the market allows it. This is what I have to tell you now, but maybe as of tomorrow everything will change and these plans will change too. We are living in the uncertain jungle of entrepreneurship. This is how things are around here. 

On a personal level, I want to be more involved in the company, I want us to set benchmarks for everything we do. I want to be out there and create more content. I have supportive partners and they care about my personal development, which is my way to becoming a better professional. Oh wait, I take this back, I don’t want anyone to envy us and jinx it. 

Being selfish doesn’t work and this needs maturity. The monkeys are wearing tuxedos for a reason; they are playful and fun, yet professional and mature.

What are the main challenges that you face?

Moving from a startup to another is not that hard, the challenge is always choosing what to work on and choosing your edge, you can’t do everything. 

There is also a problem of cash flow most of the time, at first we did not have enough money to have an office. We all worked as freelancers to put money in the company. Monkeys in Tuxedos is bootstrapped to the core. We are being challenged every day, but we do it together.

How do you think your educational background affected your work?

In college we learn only theories but the real world is quite different. Rules are made to be broken, yet you can’t break the rule without knowing it to being with. It has to be broken by choice.

This Ramadan, many rules were broken, which is interesting. But many of the ads were not based on any core values. They were mostly short movies, which are interesting and shareable, but they’re not ads that have a strong insight and strong objectives, hence produce good results. 

I have always known my passion and I never thought of having the traditional career. This is my personality and I am not going against it. 

Most entrepreneurs say that they struggled with their families at first. Did you have that pressure to get a traditional job?

Parents don’t own their children. They should support them and guide them to become who they want to become. It should be normal for a son or a daughter to want something and do it if it’s not harmful. Parents are friends; they’re guides, they’re a support system for each of us to achieve what is best for us as individuals. 

I was just talking to my family about this a few days ago. I personally come from an entrepreneurial background, my father is an entrepreneur so he understands. My mother is the one with the creative side. My family has been very supportive. But of course, we discuss many of the unusual choices I make in order to have a clearer vision of the risks I am getting myself into. 

Do you have any advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?

It’s important to learn how to fall, dust yourself off and come back. Up. Sometimes we hold on to things that have to end; we have to stop the heamorrage.

One time I was a part of a company that had so many issues, some of them were ethical, money was being robbed and it was a disaster. I did not want to end it but one day I woke up and I did. I’m proud of my decision, even though I lost my baby. 

We had put so much effort, money, time that could have been invested in other things, so we got to a stage where we feel like we’re married to our ideas. Sometimes this is wrong, and it is much better to stop and end it. 

Also, I would like to add something: In order to start, you must actually start. OK, follow what everyone says and plan, do research, but you have to have faith. You get the skills as you go.

If what you did turned out as a failure, it is still a success. 

How do you manage to start over after you quit something?

It’s simple. By the time I’m actually ending something I am usually thinking about the next one. At one point in time, I actually thought that maybe I need experience, so I tried working in companies twice. I soon discovered that this is not me. It’s not easy sometimes but always remember your vision. Close your eyes and see yourself in some time; visualize where you are, who you’re with, what you’re wearing, and where you’re headed. Works wonders every time. 

If someone offered you 5 times what you make now, to start another company in a new place, will you move?

Does this place have people?

If it does have people, maybe I’ll do it in a year.

Why a year, you may ask. Because probably by then I would have done something and gave all that I could give, then I will be ready to go somewhere else. There comes a point in the life of every business when the entrepreneur has given it all he has, and it’s better to give leadership to other people for the business to benefit. I will always want to go back, and I will probably end up doing it, but sometimes there are good opportunities we must seek.



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