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Thursday, 12 September 2019

My Morning Routine: Mahamad El Tanahy, founder of Mindsalike and Bright Creations

Mahamad El Tanahy, founder and managing director of Mindsalike and Bright Creations: My Morning Routine looks each week at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Mahamad El Tanahy (LinkedIn), founder and managing director of Mindsalike and Bright Creations.

I’m Mahamad El Tanahy, founder and MD of Mindsalike and Bright Creations. I’ve been married for five years to an amazing woman, Karine Kamel, and we have two beautiful daughters, Talina and Sienna.

If I were to define myself as an individual, I’d say I’m an entrepreneur who’s always looking for new things, brainstorming new ideas and building new tech-enabled businesses.

In terms of how I spend my working days,I run two businesses, am on the board of several companies, and I’m an angel investor.

For 10 years, my focus was almost exclusively on Bright Creations, the first business I started. Bright Creations is a leading tech development house in Egypt, with a sales office in the UAE. We help companies, be they startups or multinationals, develop innovative digital products for their users. We’ve built a range of products, including an online food ordering service, a car marketplace, travel, chat and mall apps, and data visualization platforms. I take the lead in new business development, and also lead and manage a team of project managers, designers and an engineering team.

Mindsalike started as a fun concept three years ago. I felt that, as the CEO of a business, I had few chances to regularly meet with other like-minded CEOs, unless we were at a very formal event. So I created Mindsalike, a network of vetted entrepreneurs and investors, who are regularly invited to after-work events where they can discuss their ideas and challenges and have a bit of fun, in an informal setting (suits and ties discouraged). The idea has really taken off and evolved, so we now have 1,300 members in Cairo, Alexandria and Dubai. I’ve started spending a lot more time on it, as I enjoy the impact we’re having. My priority now for Mindsalike is to build an even larger and stronger community of entrepreneurs and investors, and work on our strategy and operations.

I’ve become a very early riser since having children. I’m up at 5:30-6:00am and, depending on my kids and the day’s plan, I either work for an hour while the world is sleeping, or I head for a 30-minute run. I used to be obsessed with reading the news in the morning — Enterprise, BBC, and Bloomberg — but recently found it best to leave that until lunch-time, as the very early morning is a great time to focus. My wife and I spend the next hour with our kids, often dealing with a lot of “no, no, no” from my three-year-old daughter. When we’ve finally convinced her that we’re her loving parents, who would prefer she not go to nursery barefoot wearing her pajamas, it’s time for nursery drop-off and a one-hour drive to work.

I don’t think any day is ever the same as any other. The drive to work is usually my time to catch up on calls, and I’ve also recently started listening to new podcasts to expand my knowledge in particular areas. I’m currently listening to a great podcast about Artificial Intelligence. The narrator is an absolute genius, and I have no idea how he manages to explain complex mathematical equations in a podcast. Work begins with a quick meeting to catch up with the team, and then I check my emails. We’re always working on tight deadlines, so the days usually fly by, with all hands on deck and lots of internal and external meetings.

I like reading books that challenge the status quo or offer me a new perspective. I found Sapiens a great book for reexamining history through a different lens. Right now, I’m reading The Internet of Money, which looks at the larger impact of bitcoin. It’s such a hot topic, given the fintech explosion. I get into lots of conversations about blockchain, and bitcoin often gets bad press, especially from anyone in banking or finance. But the way society is reacting today to the idea of a digital currency pretty much mirrors reactions to copper-coin money when it was first introduced, and later to bank notes. I don’t necessarily advocate cryptocurrency, but it’s clear that it will catalyze massive social change, and we’re in the thick of all that right now.

Mindsalike grew out of a regular meet-up with a friend, Con O’Donnell, during which we’d brainstorm and discuss ideas, looking at strategy, numbers and all the crazy challenges we encountered as business founders. I loved it. It was just a great informal setting, where we could bounce ideas off each other. I decided to open the meetings up to other friends who were also entrepreneurs, and make them more of an event. We thought a lot about what name to give to what we were doing, and finally my friend Peter Matta blurted out “Mindsalike,” and something just clicked.

For the first event, I invited friends who were business owners to a venue in downtown Cairo, and the feedback was great. Word spread quickly, we started seeing interest from sponsors, and things just grew from there. We originally managed the membership through a Facebook group, but have recently moved to a website, to streamline things.

Mindsalike’s niche is that we’re building a strong community of smart, hard-working, successful (or soon-to-be successful) entrepreneurs and investors, in a fun and exciting way. By vetting members before they join, we can be sure that everyone in the network can connect with one another on a personal basis, as well as through work. The advantage of this compared to a larger event that’s open to everyone is that we’re bringing people together based on their track record, their brains, and their impact.

So we’re giving members a platform to brainstorm and get advice on work,fundraise quickly or find new investments, build new relationships, and reconnect with people they might have lost touch with. We’ve also found it’s a great avenue for partners and sponsors to build ongoing relationships with members of our community. The feedback we’ve received has been exceptional and I believe that’s why we keep on growing.

I am repeatedly asked about two things: The first is why we don’t include talks and presentations at the event. We’ve thought about it, but at the moment we’re focused on keeping things informal, to allow people to get engrossed in their one-on-one conversations, and really build relationships. The second thing people ask is what’s in it for me, and the answer is I really am passionate about connecting people. I love seeing the concrete impact Mindsalike is having on this community. 45% of our members have come away from an event with at least one new agreement — an investment, a new client, vendor, or partner. Those are incredible takeaways from an informal event meetup. We’re now building new things, for members to be able to take this to the next level.

I spend most of my free time with my family, and I also like to go out and meet new people. I love kite surfing but don’t get to do it as much as I’d like. Learning about new technology is another major interest, and I spend quite a bit of time researching new industries and testing out new tech. I take courses whenever possible, online and abroad, and recently did a course at MIT on deep tech which was quite an eye-opener.

My dad gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received: The more problems you have, the more successful you are. It has got me through some tough moments.

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